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.