Play Hard, Shop Harder: How Gamification is Driving E-commerce Sales

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E-commerce companies are always trying to find ways to retain customers and add more through numerous promotions and gimmicks that are designed to keep customers coming back.

An excellent product lineup and above-par customer services will always make the foundation for success for almost all e-commerce companies. But nowadays, there is an emerging need for e-commerce companies to offer more, as customers become more selective and more discerning of which platform or marketplace they would spend their hard-earned money on.

Customers’ attention span is also shrinking, perhaps because the number of e-commerce platforms and online retailers continues to increase and choices for customers has become considerably wide. Thus customers have learned to “jump” from one marketplace to another while spending as little time as possible.

Enter: gamification

One way of making sure that an e-commerce company continues to get customers’ attention is gamification. From the word, gamification simply means using and applying common concepts in gaming (video games, card games, even sports, etc.) to e-commerce or even physical stores.

Interestingly, almost everyone who’s gone online to shop, or just browse might have encountered these gaming concepts. 

So how does it work? “Gamifying” or emulating how a game works in an e-commerce platform has become a sure-fire way to attract customers. The goal is to simply make a customer’s visit more interesting by making a game out of it. By “game,” there is the element of a “challenge” and “reward” system. Aside from this reward system, gamification also provides a form of entertainment to consumers.

As mentioned, customer attention is shrinking, and visiting the same e-commerce marketplace or online retailer tends to become a chore, particularly if you do it every day.

However, if an e-commerce company can somehow infuse something special or novel into the browsing or shopping experience, customers tend to stay longer and remain “engaged.” 

The caveat for e-commerce companies is that the game should be interesting and that there should be incentives if a customer “wins.”

Here’s an interesting finding: according to the industry group Digital Marketing Forum, 60 percent of consumers said they would buy more from a brand or an online store if they are offered some sort of appealing game. 

If we can simplify and cite video gaming as an example, an interesting game will make sure a player plays for hours and hours. Players play because they strategize, apply these strategies, and get something (a reward) if they are successful.

Even better, players/consumers tend to challenge themselves and try new “levels” and obtain a psychological reward by leveling up. 

On top of these psychological rewards, e-commerce companies give real benefits to customers should they choose to play and gain “achievements.”

Basic mechanics of e-commerce gamification

Gaming has basic mechanics that are generally applied to all games. These mechanics apply to e-commerce as well. Gamification as a business strategy also follows these basic guides. 

In e-commerce, the primary challenge is how to retain customers through gamification. This can be achieved by integrating the following into a gamification strategy:

Selecting a game

An e-commerce business should be able to decide what type of game is most applicable to its products. Marketplaces can deploy many types of games, but for specialized online stores with limited brands to promote and sell, the challenge might be a bit harder. Marketplaces can use almost all types of games, from the traditional to the more current games. Rules must ideally be simple enough, and the learning curve for the game should not be very steep.

Since marketplaces have numerous brands, the choices of games are much wider. But more on the games later.

Motivation and trigger

An e-commerce company should be able to have a grasp of what games to present, and the corresponding prizes. As an e-commerce platform, do you want customers to browse certain brands? Do you want them to stay on the platform and continue browsing? Once you’ve decided, you can now give a “motivation” for customers to play in the form of rewards, discounts, instant prizes, etc. 

The reward

It is important to have an idea of the reward that should be given to customers who may need to spend considerable time playing. This is tricky, as an e-commerce company needs to give an incentive that will match the customer’s time. “Time” in this sense, is the customer’s “investment,” and the reward is the “profit.” It is all about finding the balance: the last thing an e-commerce company would want is a disgruntled consumer/player who might have spent hours playing a game and getting so little in return. E-commerce companies should be able to “incentivize” the customer’s time spent in the game.

Examples of gamification in e-commerce

Now that we have an idea of how gamification can spark the interest of online customers, let’s take a look at some of the more common forms of games currently being used by e-commerce firms and marketplaces.

First, we take a look at games or schemes that can now be considered “classic.”

Point system for club members

This one is truly a classic. The premise is quite simple. Join a club and instantly earn points. Shop and you will earn more. Do other activities, such as browsing products, and earn more. The gamification comes in as customers are often requested to do other tasks (for example, browse four products and earn 2 points, etc.) These points can then be used as digital “credits” that the consumer can use to shop. In some marketplaces, credits are often replaced by “coins.”

Refer and win awards

This is also an old-school gamification scheme that is enjoying a resurgence of sorts. It is said that customers are now more open to referring somebody to earn points. This referral system is quite popular because it is fairly easy to invite someone to visit an online retailer, say, and earn a reward. Bringing a friend to an online store earns you points, and there are also corresponding rewards if your friend leaves a comment, a review, etc.

Scratch and win and roulette

These are also popular, and the appeal is that they are almost effortless and take very little time on the part of the consumer. Digital scratch coupons and roulette wheels offer prizes that might be in the form of a discount, coins, freebies, etc. These promos encourage buying because the more you buy the more chances you get to spin the wheel or get more scratch coupons.

Let’s now take a look at games that can be a bit more challenging to consumers and are fairly recent.

The egg hunt

Some marketplaces and online retailers often use digital egg hunts within the website or marketplace. Consumers would need to find clues and would need to spend a bit more time on the website or social media page. Often, the consumer would need to post the answer to the puzzle on social media platforms. Time is of the essence, and it is not enough that the consumer knows the answer, he or she would also need to be the first to post. This can be an enjoyable experience for more competitive consumers, as they are encouraged to visit an e-commerce website regularly. However, the downside is that now all consumers have the time or the patience to “complete” the puzzles.

The Q&A

We can argue that the question-and-answer format is not new. But nowadays, the classic Q&A quiz-type game has undergone a major facelift and may include different “answers” including photos, videos, or sharing a message mentioning the brand sponsor for the contest. This appeals to social media savvy consumers who are into posting social media content.

In-house game — This is by far the most complicated game of all, and would involve the e-commerce company having to build a gaming app. You can have a board game type competition, a shooting game, a strategy game, etc. that rewards consumers should they be able to “score” or reach a certain level.

Advantages of gamification

There are quite a few advantages when it comes to the gamification of e-commerce. We already mentioned that customer engagement is one of the most important. Here we list a few more advantages:

Brand awareness and promotion

Gamification is likely to increase awareness of the brand, or several brands that an e-commerce marketplace has. Since most games now have a social media component, the brand can thus be promoted across platforms.

Encourage loyalty

Offering rewards after playing a game often results in customer loyalty. Customers are more likely to return to the e-commerce marketplace or online retailer if he or they had an enjoyable experience playing the online game.

Enhanced customer data

Through gaming, getting customer data becomes less of a hassle. It is also less intrusive if, say, a customer is asked to verify his or her identity before engaging in a game. 

Product promotion

Gaming is also a way to introduce and promote new products to customers. Depending on the game, online retailers can promote said products by making sure that customers visit the particular product description or click on the product page. 

Improve conversion rate

A satisfied customer is more likely to purchase if the game is convincing and engaging enough. Thus, sales conversion rates can improve, translating to more checkouts. Customers are also more likely to return (repeat customers) if the gaming experience or reward system is satisfying.

Grab new customers and increase visibility. Interesting games can also attract younger customers and audiences that didn’t previously know a particular brand that an e-commerce company is pushing. Games are also shared more on social networks, thus resulting in more promotion and improved visibility.

Game changer

The gamification of e-commerce is, well, becoming a game-changer when it comes to online selling. Gamification can have a huge impact on customer loyalty, product promotion, brand awareness, and increasing your customer base.

As e-commerce becomes more competitive, and e-commerce companies scramble to retain customers and gain more, gamification is proving to be a valuable tool.

Gamification appeals to the human instinct of competition and “play.” Thus, e-commerce companies need to harness these tendencies to be able to remain competitive, and one way of achieving this is through gamification.

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