Gamification in eCommerce

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

After introducing Gamification to some of my colleagues who didn't hear about it before or have just
heared the buzzword somewhere, we obviosely started a conversation and one of my friends who owns an
eCommerce site asked me how can gamification come in handy, particularly in eCommerce website?

Let's start by looking at existing applications and products that use gamification in eCommerce sites:
One of the most known sites is eBay who is using the bidding system for selling items.
The bidding itself generates a gaming state of mind, where I feel I am competing with others to get this item I want, and once I am in - I want to get it, and many times I lose my reasoning trying to win, when bidders pull each other - reaching higher in the bidding price, and if I win I get rewarded with the product by paying a low price for it.
The bidding involves strategy (I will bid once to enter the race and I will wait until it's quiet to "attack").
Some other sites will charge a certain fee  for each bid (around 50 cents) generating a need to defend an "investment" they have done, as silly as it is, it works, and while most bidders will waste their money - covering the product price sometimes a few hundred percents more than it's winning price, one lucky bidder will win the product for a low price.

Allegory of a real situation in life to a more familiar field can also increase engagement and sales in eCommerce sites.
I have seen a forex trading site that presented a match between two currencies for example USD($)  vs GBP(£) (Sterling), and the people had to put their money on who will have a greater change compared to the other.
"eToro provides a simple, transparent and enjoyable way to invest and trade in currencies, commodities and indices online".

Visualize products - let's have a look at a racing game - I am about to chose my car, see how it turns so I can see it from all angles in addition to it's specs - why not show your product in your eCommerce site like this instead or in addition to a simple photo ?

Have it turning around so clients can see it from different angles, maybe notice a property which will make a "maybe" to a "yes".

Demonstration - The Sims, Farmvile and others have a SPATIAL (special too maybe...) view in the game, meaning an object in an environment which it belongs to. If you are selling for example a couch, why not present a spacial ilustration of a room where the selected couch is accompanied with complemetary products to increase sale or to reduce product-returns when the buyer finds out the couch doesn't fit to his wall tapets or other furniture.
The idea here is to make the user have as little decisions as possible and help him imagine and illustrate your product in his environment, where he will use it.
Perhaps than he will add more items to his cart.

Loyalty programs - take a close look into your wallet and count the number of loyalty cards you have... now think about it for a second, these cards are intended to eventually bring you back to the same store who issued the loyalty card, in return you get a discount or some sort of a reward.
Today, with gamification entering the commerce field we can see a change from loyalty to engagement.
Apps like Foursquare, gowalla, Shopkick and others hands out geo-location based coupons, have nothing to do with one particular business or a certain type of customers - they address you according to where you are NOW.

Like the idea of the drive-through which was pioneered in the 1930s where you are already in the car sitting comfortable, and drive next to a cabin to buy food, today everybody's comfort is in their mobile devices or other form of computers, so the shift today has to be towards social media.
The engagement comprehension is crucial these days where a large portion of people use social media. They are already there, on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, twitter, whatever... the goal is to engage your users in these areas where they feel comfortable and use on a daily basis, make an integral use of your engagement and their behavior.

Tasti-D-light will grant you a point on every social share (no loyalty card, instead - engagement).

Process line/level progress - Another useful Technic is presenting the phases along the way to achieve the final task - purchasing.
Pay a careful attention to this process where users might abandon the purchase if they need to work hard or it's not very intuitive.
If I am going through a long process, but I see the stage I am in at the moment within the WHOLE process it will have a significant effect on my decision to complete the process and not abandon it.
By showing the clients the process and their current situation within the process, you increase the completion rate for purchasing.

I will rap up with a touch on badges, which are to my opinion the most common use of gamification at the moment, can be applied in eCommerce too by rewarding a returning client with a status badge (Exp: Valuable Customer) providing him a discount  or some other form of actual value to his badge-status.

Eat your own dog food

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Here is a short story to get you into the idea:

I looooove cacks!
Actually I have just prepared a delicious chocolate cake, can I offer you a piece?
Sure, thanks
What about you? You are not having a portion?
Ohh, no…, I don’t like eating it, I just like baking it.
I see… hmmm, you know what… I don’t feel like it anymore …

This guy is right – if I don’t eat my own baked cake why should he???

What I am talking about here is called in the professional slang “eat your own dog food”. Put simple it means – use the product you develop.
Recently it has been in the headlines that Google’s senior management are not eating their dog food when it comes to Google+.
Some might say that not every product is intended to be used by the people who develop it and that they might just be outside the target audience – True, but in this specific example where in today’s technology reality all senior holding positions are sharing and being followed on social media, it just hurts them.
Think of the implications, the developers feel the senior management does not think it is good enough to use and once this came out to the technology news, it hurt the attempt to raise the user base.

I believe in every product manager lies an entrepreneur, otherwise where would new ideas come from?  
I remember myself that every feature I suggested or any new idea for the “next BIG thing”  had one common thing. Irrelevant the technology which was to be used, no matter who had to implement, regardless of the current client profile. It all summed up to one intention, something I see as mandatory … something that I WILL USE.

Let’s take a second to think what is this approach good for?
By relying on the product you develop, you encourage yourself and those involved to maximize quality and improve the user experience.
Creative thinking comes when you run into a missing functionality in the product where instead of contacting the support or account management in the company who developed it, you end up raising this in a team meeting or your very own project manager, and it is all because it bothers you PERSONALLY and you feel this change will make the product better.
The general message a company sends out by doing so is that it considers its product to be the best in the market.

A great example of a company which eats its own dog food is Microsoft where the whole company uses Windows OS. In addition, as far as I know, all of Microsoft new products are developed through Visual Studio.
Another, closer example to most people is Facebook, where CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook CTO Bret Taylor (Which I am subscribed to follow)  use facebook for everyday social activities, it’s very common to read Bret comment on the latest UCLA game, and it seems that their new features and ideas come from them using facebook.

Intoduction to Gamification - future concept for applications

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Continuing the last post about being a Technology Junkie, I would like to introduce to who is not familiar with a rising trend called gamification.
As I mentioned in Technology Junkie post, the product manager must be up to date with technology innovations and trends, however gamification is not a technology but rather a design concept.
Gamification means you take your product or service and bring it to a point where it gets fun using it like a game (from here it gets the name...) by applying game technic and thinking.
KPCB (Kleiner Perkins Caufild & Byers): "Ultimate way to engage a new generation of audiences"
Gartner: "50% of Innovation will be Gamified by 2015" - what do you call a trend if not this?!

Check out this graph to get an idea of the rising interest in gamification:

According to Brian Burke, an analyst at Gartner, “Enterprise architects, CIOs and IT planners must be aware of, and lead, the business trend of gamification, educate their business counterparts and collaborate in the evaluation of opportunities within the organization.”

How is gamification implemented :
"Enterprise architects must be ready to contribute to gamification strategy formulation and should try at least one gaming exercise as part of their enterprise context planning efforts this year".
Badges - A virtual sign for accomplishing something, for example a gold/silver/bronze medal for forum users according to their participation and quality of answers. users will put more effort if they know they are close to earning a badge. (Yahoo! research)
Momentum - keep your users do what they have been doing so far and not less by being an effective motivator.
Bonuses - rewards for doing something right after it has been done.
Encourage productivity - the game convinces the player he is enjoying the game and wants to continue playing over doing something else.
Cascade exposure - expose the user to small segments of information to have him adjusted to them and only then continue, like game levels.
Community collaboration - All users involved in achieving a common goal by each contributing something until it adds up to the final goal. for example answering a question in a forum.
Countdown - think of car racing games where you have a lap-time you need to beat. you are focused on the time target and focused on not exiting the track in the tight curves to finish the lap successfully.
Discovery - Everyone loves to explore and have new things revealed to them, any element of surprise will leave a certain impact on the end user, take for example a productive "hallway-talk" in your office corridor - you didn't see that conversation coming until it happened and BAM you managed to close a long-open issue in a matter of 2-3 minutes.
Free Lunch - Get something thanks to someone elses work. Groupon will enable a discount deal if at least 100 people will sign up for it.
Renewed content - same general idea with new content. a survey which keeps changing questions.

Gamification has more concepts and the above just shows the beginning.

Examples of gamification in applications around the world :
Groupon: Free Lunch,  Renewed content, Cascade exposure
StackOverflow: Badges, Community collaboration
StumbleUpon: Momentum, Community collaboration, Free Lunch
TurboTax: A tax refund program that walks the user through the boring process of tax refund like a GPS - step by step at every turn, uses badges, cascade exposure, momentum.
WeightWatchers: The program uses points, virtual rewards, goals with milestones, leader board, etc.

By using gamification, the organization can benefit from larger engagement rates, higher working performance, accelerated cycles of product flows like question solving and feedback, lower bounce rate, grouping people to achieve a common or organizational goal, increase adaptation etc.

If you are still skeptic about gamification (how can that be possible ?!!?!?) here is a study done at the University of Maryland about "The Facebook app economy". It describes the effect of Facebook and Facebook applications on US economy, where companies go toward gamification to engage their customers.

There are lots of aspects to consider in gamification ,hence, I promise to write more about this in the upcoming posts.

Technology Junkie

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two days ago I met with an old friend for dinner.
He used to be a bit chubbi, wearing XML size shirts, but it's not right for a guy named JSON, so he went on a diet, and started training in martial arts at the nearby DOJO. Now he is really lightweight.
We set down at our table ready to order
Waiter: Allow me to recommend our special dish for tonight, LAMP ribs, it comes with everything and will satisfy you for sure.
Me: you know what, I'll actually go for the HTML5 boilerplate, looks to me as a simple dish, I don't like complication in food I am not familiar with.
Waiter: what would you like to drink ?
Me: I will drink CSS Sprites.
Everything was great except the Silverlight were a bit heavy, I would prefer a minification version of them :)
At the end I was like WOFF... I am so full, it makes no adsense - I ate so little...
On our way out I noticed the nice decorations, canvas for HTML5 covered with CLOUD images.

Two posts ago I noted the key reasons I see in being a PM. One of them was technical consultant.

A PM must be technical even if not all the way down to the bits and bytes but he must have the drive to discover and understand how stuff works, how things can be done - implemented.

I agree some of the technologies are to be decided by the engineers but it comes to raise the question - will you know what they are talking about if it comes up ? if a technology issue will hold your product back - can you find your way through ?

Keep up to date with the latest innovations and new technologies by following blogs, visiting conventions, webinars, talk to your colleagues.

Many technology professionals don't like to dive into a new version before the 2nd release comes out - I on the other hand am not afraid to dive into a new technology adventure, as long as it's done wisely with a good understanding of what is at risk and obviousness after you have tested it in you development and QA environments.

Bottom line - if you want your engineers to respect you and to raise a great product with the right technology and easiest implementation, you must be at the technology frontier since technology is your tool.

Think out of the box

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I love innovation, and that's what new features, in a way, are.
But how can I make these new features lead me to the next best THING ?
It seems it is all in the state of mind of the PM.

My field of interest is mainly technology but we can cast almost every example on different fields, so let's take the following case just to simplify things and not get into technical corners:

Market need   : Reducing car accidents which involve company cars.
The product    : A vehicle sensor which monitors the driving habits of drivers of the car and report to the transport officer in the company.
Requirements  : Monitor speed, acceleration, sudden breaks , etc.
Brain storming : a straight forward thinking would suggest attaching this device to the car wheels axis with attachment to break system and other car-intrusive connections.
A more creative way might be to design an independent unit with an acceleratot meter calculating speed and also detects sudden breaks.
Ohh WAIT! don't all the drivers in the company have 3G cell phones with them in the car ? don't they all have a Gyroscope ? Well... let's use that!

Wikipedia on Gyroscope : "Currently Gyroscopes are also being used in Apples' ipad & iphone. In sync with accelerometer it provides 6-axis motion sensing. It allows the iPad to measure in which direction device is being moved/rotated in space (roll, pitch and yaw), how much and how fast."

This is a creative thinking idea, which is easy to implement, provides the solution for the requirements and is user friendly.

It's the product managers' job to think like the user and in the same time think different to improve the experience and functionality and get new ideas and new breakthroughs.
I believe a good PM will take educated thought of every new feature and MUST try to take one step back and think creatively and out of the box.

Why be a product manager?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

This is a very important question to ask yourself in the beginning of the way to becoming a PM.
You might see this position as a perfect, glowing, and awarding job with very little disadvantages.

Imagin... :
Highly compensated
Millions of users use your product
Engineering supports every decision you make
Promoted to VP in the future
You are poping new ideas faster than they can be implemented
Satisfied customers

Pufff... let's blow that bubble and take a look at the other side of the coin... :
Engineers are working on other products
Product is "sales-driven"
Authority ?! remove that from your vocabulary
Buggy product
Need to supply answers to the board of managers
Less and less users are using the product
No time to meet friends

My point here is you must know what your are getting into.

Finally, each one has its own reasons but they generally overlap and sum up to:

  • Passion - you must live the product domain to make it good  - I'll get a better Facebook app managed by a Social Networks junkie rather than a Mainframe programmer who never uses open environments.
  • Promotion - you get to manage a wide range of talents and report to the high ranks.
  • Make a change - products in your domain probably exist - make a difference, leave a mark.
  • Technical consultant, less spending time on bugs over bits and bytes - Still... being technical IS your business.
  • Responsibility - if the product sucks and clients are not satisfied, it doesn't matter how good you are.
  • Influence - you decide if it's right or left, blue or pink, night or day.
  • Learn - by now you probably took on specific responsibility positions - now you overlook the whole cycle.
  • Initiate - raise your own ideas, push and bring them to implementation.
  • Satisfaction - you can say "this is mine".

The first post - Introduction

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hello dear readers, my name is Ted and this blog is going to follow me along the hard way of becoming a Product Manager.
"Is this guy for real? ..." - yes I am. It's said that "Nothing stands in the way of your will" and I got will - to become a PM.
I address this blog to all the professionals out there who look up to become product managers one day but still get stuck in the initial phase - getting your first job as a PM.

As this is my first post I would like to join many others professionals who want to advance to PM and share my experience.
--B.Sc. in Computer Science 
--8 years of working experience in hi-tech industry
--DBA Oracle
--Application Securityt team leader
--DBA Oracle and Sql Server team leader

For the next post I am asking you to thing and try to figure out - why?
Why do I want to be a Product Manager ?