In video games and game apps, users receive rewards when they defeat end bosses, log in daily or level up. This motivates them to continue playing each time they visit. This principle is also successfully applied in e-commerce, where entertaining mini-games are used to motivate customers to adopt a certain buying behaviour and in return they benefit from additional advantages or give-aways. Gamification is becoming increasingly popular as a marketing strategy with online retailers, as it can significantly increase retention and conversion rates.

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To user experience with Gamification

The term gamification describes actions that use the game elements and mechanics learned by users in a completely different context. More generally, gamification often refers to the process of aiming for a sense of reward and success to encourage someone to perform a desired action. In an originally non-game application, in our case an online shop, game-based components are integrated to inspire customers to buy, share content or stay in the shop for a longer period of time.

By embedding gamification, conventional websites and shop structures can not only be made more interesting through (virtual) rewards, but the user experience can also be greatly enhanced. Which customer does not dream of spicing up the monotonous routine of ordering and payment processes with inspiring mini-games?

Even auction platforms such as eBay do not live solely from bargain hunting, but also attract users by competing with other bidders until the last second. With the right gameplay and strategy, e-commerce providers can benefit greatly from gamification methods and reliably solve some of the most common but also most difficult problems in e-commerce, such as low shopping cart values and lack of customer loyalty. The following 4 factors are important to consider in your gamification strategy:

1. Game elements in the right place

Unsurprisingly, gamification components can be integrated in different phases and at different touchpoints throughout the customer journey. It is very important to be aware of your own company and marketing goals and to use the gameplay elements in exactly the right place. In social networking channels, for example, gamification content can increase the interaction rate and reach potential new customers, who then subscribe to or follow the company or shop site, by other users spreading the content.

If mini-games are used in your own online shop, a well thought-out placement of these games can improve the customer experience enormously and significantly reduce the order abandonment rate and the bounce rate. Gamification also acts as a motivating factor in order to attract more users for customer surveys or reviews, for example. The point in time within a customer path can also be decisive: For example, game elements arouse the interest of the user when the page is called up and invite him to stay longer, while an entertaining order or loading process can increase the return rate.

2. The customer is not a chameleon

Study results from the University of Göttingen show that companies can consciously influence the emotions and purchasing behavior of users by using gamification, whereby these methods are said to be particularly effective for digital natives. However, since (potential) customers do not adapt to your online shop, but quickly lose interest in inappropriate content, the provider should insert gaming components that are as target-group-specific as possible.

Apart from choosing a certain game mechanic, you should first decide whether you want to motivate your users intrinsically by primarily entertaining content or extrinsically by material rewards and premiums. While the former example corresponds to leaderboards with level increases and virtual badges, the latter includes loyalty programmes such as PAYBACK or Starbucks Rewards.

Source: starbucks.com

There are numerous other gamification measures that pursue different goals from customer retention to personalization and new customer acquisition. In addition to classic and creative quiz variations, wheel of fortune models, slogan and photo competitions, individualized customer avatars and recommendation programs are also enjoying increasing popularity. Put yourself in the shoes of your shop customers and decide on game mechanics or playful elements that suit your site, products and services.

3. Keep it simple!

Another essential factor for your gamification content is simplicity and intuitive controls. To ensure that users don’t lose the fun, easy to understand operation, clear rules and a simple game principle are a must. Perceived efforts or excessive demands during gameplay are poison for successful gamification, rob users of their time, patience and nerves – and additionally drive up the bounce rate.

The target group of your online shop is also crucial in this point: Depending on the customer groups you want to address and motivate, completely different game mechanics and designs are suitable. And you don’t necessarily have to stick to a digital implementation. Candy retailer Olé Candy has redefined Gamification for itself and its main customers by combining custom packaging with colouring books for children. Both parents and their offspring benefit from the experience-oriented colouring packages and a creative leisure activity.

4. The power of curiosity

Even Albert Einstein had a peculiar explanation for his success story by stating: “I have no special talents, I am just passionately curious.” Curiosity and the need for innovation also determine online shoppers today when it comes to gamification. The reason for this is that when curiosity is successfully nurtured, the reward system of the human brain is activated. Since the user in this sense belongs to the “homo curiositas“, the curious human being, providers should not only orient themselves to the shop assortment and target group with integrated game elements, but also implement new ideas with sensitivity and creativity.

New does not necessarily arouse curiosity: Both the simple copying of common gamification patterns and the overstimulation through too much acoustic or visual input should be avoided in any case. Rather, you should make use of three of the user’s greatest qualities: the need for entertainment, reward and surprise. The online shop Helmexpress.com, for example, aimed to motivate its Facebook community to be more active and designed a competition in which fans had to stop the moving winning helmet in GIF format at the right moment with a click. With a posted screenshot in the comments, participants could then win the high-quality helmet worth around 500 euros.

Conclusion: Gamification as a clear level-up!

It is obvious that the customer journey is usually not a rational process, but is guided by emotions. Gamification measures offer customers both a defined procedure with playful signposts and steps to be achieved as well as a high entertainment factor. Even small e-commerce companies can take their marketing strategy to the next level with gamification. In particular, the combination of a personalized shopping experience with suitable game elements has great potential to optimize previous conversion and return rates. As an all-rounder, gamification can also be used effectively in other areas of the company such as corporate learning, project management or employee motivation.