What Marketers Need To Learn From Gaming

Humans have always been hardwired for the rush of a challenge and pride in beating opponents. Now marketers are discovering the “power of play” to boost customer interaction.

In April 2010, games developer Halfbrick Studios released a mobile game app called Fruit Ninja wherein players swipe their fingers, sword-like, on a touch screen to slice flying apples, oranges, and other fruit. Two years later, the mega-popular game has been downloaded over 400 million times. It’s also one of the top 10 most downloaded iPhone games ever. Every day, over 25 million people in 80 countries enjoy the colorful graphics and addictive gameplay.

If there’s any doubt about mobile gaming’s popularity, the combined versions of Rovio’s Angry Birds app hit a billion downloads in May 2012, adding a further 30 million during Christmas week alone. Want more proof? The Wall Street Journal reported that consumers spend, on average, two hours a day on apps--including games.

Considering the massive popularity of apps and specifically gaming apps, it’s clear that mobile marketers can take a page or two from the gaming industry’s playbook. It’s all about fun and increasingly that fun means gamification. Forrester defines gamification as “the insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior.” These include points accumulation and the use of social leaderboards to spur competition and interaction among gamers.

For mobile marketers, however, gamification means creating messaging that incorporates some aspect of play and fun to entertain customers or members, keeping them engaged and more likely to purchase.

The Power of Play to Keep Customers Engaged

When you think about it, gamification makes perfect sense: Playing games is a universal part of the human experience. Not only that, fun can blur the line between marketing and entertainment, creating a more compelling experience. Because humans are hardwired for the rush of a challenge and pride in beating opponents, marketers are increasingly discovering the “power of play” to boost customer interaction.

In early 2012, Verizon Wireless revamped Verizon Insider, its customer social hub, with the goal of increasing customers' time spent interacting with the brand. Users earn points and rewards for participating in contests, posting comments, and promoting the brand to others. High scorers can post their scores on Verizon’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. A few months after launch, social-login users were spending 30% more time on the site and page views had risen by 15%.

Verizon’s results show gamification works. For marketers looking to get into the game to boost brand engagement, increase sales (or both), they have to start by analyzing their mobile messaging if they want to get the most from their efforts. Whether it’s for SMS messages, mobile email, or push notifications, action analytics techniques such as A/B split testing and retargeting can help marketers seize every opportunity to maximize ROI.

Books Galore: Analytics Driving Crime Fiction Fans to Purchase
Here’s an example of how putting the above into action would work:

Books Galore, a fictional retailer, is launching a mobile email campaign to drive sales of the final volume of the hit crime trilogy Police Chase. It designs an email message with a link that takes the customer (the company is targeting buyers of either of the previous volumes) to a short quiz about those two books. Customers who score over 75% on the quiz receive a 20% discount on the final book and can post their scores to Facebook.

Books Galore decides to A/B test the email message’s call to action, deploying two different versions to significant customer samples to see which wording leads to more sales:

A. Test your knowledge of the Police Chase universe! Score 75% or above on our quiz and get 25% off on Police Chase: The End!

Call to action A had a 40% click rate and a 20% conversion rate. For every 100,000 messages sent, 8,000 led to a book sale.

B. How well do you know the Police Chase universe? Take our quiz and find out! Get 25% off on Police Chase: The End if you score above 75%!

Call to action B had a 30% click rate and a 30% conversion rate. For every 100,000 messages sent, 9,000 led to a book sale. Because it had a higher conversion rate, the email ending in Call to action B is sent to the entirety of both audience segments.

Retargteing: No Opportunity to Miss a Sale

After the first round of emails is sent out, Books Galore retargets. It re-deploys the email to customers who didn’t open the first one or who did open it but didn’t take action or convert--offering perhaps a bigger discount or using a different call to action.

Marketers’ use of gamification--a hot topic in 2012--is only going to increase, because it’s been proven to deliver results by tapping into our natural love of games and competition. However, if marketers aren’t testing their messages, they’re likely not getting the absolute most out of their campaigns.

By applying action analytics techniques to mobile messages, marketers can ensure they’re deriving maximum engagement and ROI from their customers’ enjoyment of play--because at the end of the day, this is about the bottom line, and that is no game.

Give your customers a strong message and a fun experience and they’ll keep coming back to your brand--and not just to play.

--Brendan O'Kane is the CEO of OtherLevels, a mobile analytics company.

[Image: Flickr user Yannick Garcia]

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