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Friday, July 1, 2011

Gamification: The new mantra of acquiring and engaging customers

Read this great article about 'Gamification'. We all have seen the concepts being applied in the online but virtual world. This article highlights it coming of age and it's impact on user experience on the internet.

Former EA executive, KPCB sFund lead and all around inspiring person Bing Gordon led a talk today at the sFund Gamification Summit. In his talk Gordon broke down platitudes like “gamification is important” into key actionable takeaways on how succeed with gamification, takeaways that could be reformatted and applied to any company.

When asked why he went through the trouble of putting his guide to how to successfully gamify together for entrepreneurs, Bing told me, “Every startup CEO should understand gamification, because the gaming is the new normal,” referring to the fact that every one who had a Nintendo at 16 also has a brain that works in a way that’s more receptive to game elements. “We are overdeveloping the visual cortex of our customers,” he said.

[The cerebral cortex is the most highly developed part of the human brain and is responsible for thinking, perceiving, producing and understanding language. The visual cortex is that part of the cerebral cortex responsible for processing visual information.]

The best way to acquire customers was to eliminate bounce, by creating a pleasant experience at first entry way, being said. “If you create cognitive dissonance in the first 5 seconds they bounce,” he said. Designers should aim for creating a “touchable box” or something that people want to touch. He then referred to the game’s interface as being an engine, saying that a great UX/UI guy could save a company from having to throw out thousands of lines of code and could replace five engineers.

In terms of user engagement, Gordon advised CEOs that first impressions matter, “Your job is to create a “Wow” within the first session … The value of gamification is the mechanics second and the mind of gamers first.”

Things like virtual goods, showing numbers and giving badges are ways to positively reinforce users for playing your game. Letting them own part of the game by generating and submitting their own content was another way to solidify this emotional bond between creator and user.

Bing also emphasized the value of avatars in games, “Any kind of avatar that people buy into can dramatically change engagement.” It makes sense, people love things that give them a sense of identity. If a game, service or anything really can give them that, then they’re hooked.

Constraints, pre-announcements, and engendering social obligations to play a game were other things Gordon touched on that can contribute to customer retention. He said that the number one question on a game designer’s mind regarding a user should be “Will she come back?” and then “When?”

“We’re in an era where we can have billion dollar audiences,” he closed out the talk saying. There’s no harm in using a few tried and true devices to keep people coming back.

Notes about gamification:

Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications (also known as "funware"), particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans' psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, or reading web sites.

Early examples of gamification are based on rewarding points to people who share experiences on location-based platforms such as Facebook's "Place" feature, Foursquare (social network), and Gowalla. Some of the techniques include:
  • achievement "badges"
  • achievement levels
  • a task a company is trying to encourage, such as completing a social networking
  • profile or earning a frequent shopper loyalty award.
  • virtual currency
  • systems for awarding, redeeming, trading, gifting, and otherwise exchanging points
Gamification is used by marketers and website product managers as a tool for customer engagement, and encouraging desirable website usage behavior. Gamification is readily applicable to increasing engagement on sites built on social network services. One site, DevHub, increased the number of users who completed their online tasks from 10% to 80% after adding gamification elements.

You may be interested in other E-Commerce article: Social validation and E-Commerce

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