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Companies have been applying game-like elements to achieve business objectives for decades. Just look at the Solitaire application that Microsoft included in its release of Windows 3.0 to familiarize users with the innovative “click-and-drag” functions of the mouse. Because many businesses are uninformed about gamification, they may believe that gamification is sim
ply about badges and points, limited to start-ups and hot new tech companies like Farmville and Foursquare but not useful for everyday marketers. This notion is falsely perceived because in actuality, gamification is the future of increasing brand visibility.
Gamification is undoubtedly changing the way business is done for more than just those kinds of companies. From earning discounts to being number one on the leaderboard, potential customers are interacting with businesses more than ever before through gamification. The companies leveraging it are taking the essence of what makes games so alluring (a shared sense of purpose, challenge, and reward), decoding the mechanics that make them work (personalization, rankings, and leaderboards), and then applying these mechanics in a multitude of imaginative initiatives.2 With a little more research, an overwhelming opportunity for the right brands to improve community relations, increase brand loyalty, and boost sales presents itself.
Better Community Relations Leads to Brand Recognition
Because of the rise of social media and content marketing, it is proven that people need social objects to fuel their interactions. Games provide another means to interact, and arguably a much more powerful one since they entertain and reward too.1 There are leaderboards, comment boxes, forums, online cheat sheets, and blogs dedicated to brainstorming methods to beat or get better at a game. If potential customers are talking about a company online, chances are that company will bring in more revenue.
For example, in 2011, Volkswagen Group challenged Chinese consumers to help the company develop new versions of the “people’s car.” Participants were given a tool to help them easily design their new vehicle, and they were able to post their designs for others to view and to pick their favorites. The designs and live voting results were tracked on leaderboards so contestants and the general public could see how the competing designs were faring. Within ten weeks, the online crowd-sourcing campaign had received more than 50,000 ideas. By the end of the campaign’s first year, at least 33 million people had visited the site, and the general public had chosen three winning concepts. One of the car designs was turned into an online video that became a hit on YouTube, heightening brand recognition for Volkswagen even further.
Additionally, the potential of games-based applications and marketing has been magnified by the coming of age of Generation Y. Generation Y has grown up in a digital world and are generally enthusiastic online gamers, driving the growth of an industry that is worth $112 billion globally in 2015.1 Because their upbringing was very much integrated with the internet’s upbringing, they are used to communication via email, text message, phone calls, and through application- based ads. They actually like to be communicated with, both when shopping and at work, via the game-like mechanisms they love. Game mechanics help penetrate the walls that consumers have erected to filter out the deluge of information that increasingly clutters their digital space.1 The point of reach extends further than Generation Y with many older adults becoming technologically savvy and they are often just as capable as the young to compete with their peers and publicize their accomplishments.
With so many ads and messages being thrown at consumers at all times, today’s consumers are more likely to ignore business marketing messages than act on them. If a trusted source serves as the messenger, such as a fellow gamer or friend, campaigns can become collaborative exercises, utilizing social networks to spread the message—and applying game mechanics to engage more and more participants.1 Consider TripAdvisor, which boasts more than 75 million reviews and opinions—contributed voluntarily by individuals who appreciate their standing as trusted source of information. All of these factors contribute to the notion that gamification can help a business reach more than just one specified group of people. Many times, marketing teams are pressured to create advertisements specific to one or two groups of people. With the implementation of gamification in a business’ marketing plan, a much larger and less isolated group of people are communicated with.
All in all, it’s important for a business to remember that successful gamification initiatives need to create a strong sense of community. Giving consumers the opportunity to communicate with others and businesses through gamification can unleash a tidal wave of interest in a company as well as increase brand visibility and recognition.
Although gamification can be attributed with creating and fostering a strong sense of community, the results of gamification in a money-making context can be equally impressive. The best example of this would be the implementation of games for USA Network’s TV Show Psych. The Psych section of USA Network’s site, dubbed Club Psych, encourages visitors to become loyal fans distinguished by achievements and rewards. The show has 1.5 million Facebook fans, and users spend an average of 22.5 minutes on the Psych site.3 Fans can watch clips of the show, play games, take polls, share their achievements, answer trivia questions, and much more. All of those things earn the user points which they can then add up to “buy” merchandise or memorabilia from the set. USA Network officials say that this reward program has already generated a 130 percent increase in page views for the Psych show and a 40 percent increase in return visits. That adds up to a decent financial payoff with a significant increase in this past season’s audience.
Another example of gamification boosting sales is through rewarding purchases. For example, Starbucks rewards card holders with a star for every coffee purchased. Users qualify for free drinks or food when they earn a certain number of stars. Another example of this kind of gamification is the HyVee Fuel Saver Program. Fuel Saver rewards participants with a certain number of cents off of the cardholder’s car gasoline bill for every purchase made of their weekly specified products. This particular method works especially well when the reward is worth a substantial amount to the consumer. If this is the case, more often than not, consumers buy more than they would have previously purchased, thus increasing revenue.
Certainly with internet usage increasing via smartphones and people inevitably seeking new ways to pass time through smartphones, now is a better time than ever for businesses to give gamification a shot. By balancing brand interaction with rewards like game currency, social gaming provides myriad value-exchange marketing options to marketers that place their brands in front of engaged consumers.2
There is no perfect place to start but there is absolutely no time to waste. Brands need to be relevant and accessible in order to compete with others in their market who are doing more to increase their brand name recognition and their profits through the use of gamification. The benefits of gamification may take time to realize, but in an increasingly interactive world, they are likely to deliver enduring competitive advantage.