When you are a child, you play games daily. This serves to build your skills for adulthood and is just plain fun. When you become an adult though, this desire to have fun doesn’t go away. It simply comes in another form. We enjoyed playing games as children because we found that certain behaviors and accomplishments gave us rewards, whether that reward was winning a round or the game itself.
Website creators have found this idea works equally well with adults and have employed a strategy called gamification in order to engage their customers. In a sense, they take the regular tasks people must do to interact with their site and reward them for that behavior. Basically, they make a game out of it.
Reward Select Behaviors
You have probably been involved in the most basic type of gamification which includes getting a reward every time you make a purchase. Based on recent psychological studies though, businesses are finding it more beneficial to reward a variety of behaviors as well as the purchase. This makes being a customer a lot more fun for visitors.
Reward the Visit
Some sites actually reward potential customers for their visit. They do this by keeping track of each visit with a unique user ID. Then, once the potential customer visits a specified number of times, they may receive a discount towards a future purchase. This discount may compel viewers to become customers. At any rate, it tends to keep them coming back in order to reach that coveted discount goal. Much like being rewarded for passing a certain level of a video game, the player receives a reward which helps them move on to the next level.
Reward the Purchase
Of course, since the purchase is the ultimate goal of the company, they want it to become the ultimate goal of a potential customer too. This is why they will reward the purchase and probably more so, multiple purchases. You are likely to see a discount after your 5th or maybe 10th purchase, much like a Subway or coffee punch card. This will encourage them to come back again in order to use their discount. Of course, on that return trip, they’ll also be racking up more visit points for yet another discount.
Although your customer may not be performing the same way they would in a strategy game or a game of luck, they still accomplish certain tasks that you can attach a performance rating too. By making them feel that they are doing well at whatever it is they are doing, you can encourage them to keep doing it. This psychological conditioning has actually proven to be so effective, that businesses spent $100 million in overhauling their websites to carry out this strategy in 2010 alone.
Rate Visit Frequency
By showing visitors a bar that fills just a bit each time they visit the site, it gives them a visual cue that they are somehow making progress. If you want them to visit daily, you can give them a full bar or 4 star rating for being a daily visitor. If they come once a week instead, perhaps they would get only 2 stars. Of course, it’s also a good idea to let them know how their rating compares to other visitors. This instills a sense of competition in them, because they want to have the highest rating.
Rate Information Gained
If your site needs to get a lot of traffic and you need to spread the traffic around to various pages in order to receive affiliate marketing money, you may want to rate how many pages your viewers check out. Your goal of course, is to get them to see every page, so you may want to use a bar that shows the percentage of the website they have seen. You can also increase their status as they achieve certain levels of viewership. By letting them know they have taken in 25% of the information on the website, you could call them a freshman and obviously, upon reaching 100% they could become a well-educated graduate. Whatever label you give it, you’ll want to make sure they can see their performance and how it stands up to the other visitors.
Highlight User Reputation
Once viewers achieve a particular desirable status, they would probably appreciate being recognized for that achievement. While receiving a personal reward is always good, receiving that award in front of others is even better. Many sites capitalize on this by showing the name of the person at the top spot or by posting a ranking list with the top ten or twenty-five names, so that others have something to strive for. Even if no physical reward or discount is involved, you’d be surprised how well this strategy works.
One way you could highlight particular user involvement is to show off their level of association with the site. A visitor of the site might come around every now and then for instance, while a friend of the site might be connected via a social network. Someone who comments on the site could be named a contributor, while someone who has visited every page might be called a pro. Once visitors have achieved various levels and labels, they may accumulate points to get on the leader board or announced the ultimate fan. They may get even more points and a higher ranking for sharing their activities on your page with their social network friends, which would give them all the more reason to do some marketing for you.
You may even decide to highlight the amount of spending each customer is doing. If the products and services offered on your page aren’t of the embarrassing type, like adult diapers or condoms, then most customers would probably get in the competitive mood over spending for a high ranking too. If you sell luxury items, this will be even more likely, as they will feel proud to show off how much they can afford. If people enjoy going from first-time customers to big spenders by making a few extra purchases, then you have done more than enough towards engaging the online customer and keeping them involved with your website for the long-term.