Get Your Game On: Can Gamification Work For You?

By Brett Bair

September 25, 2012

We’re hearing the word gamification more when it comes to website optimization. Just watch this video of Forrester Research analyst Brian Walker for some key reasons why gamification could become an emerging trend.

And there’s a good reason for the buzz—gamification can be a great way to motivate marketing teams and realize improvements in key performance indicators (KPIs) such as conversion rate and, one of my favorites, annualized revenue.

But after watching the video, my first thought was “He’s right about the impact of gamification, but how do we get more organizations to do this? What’s the practical implementation of gamification?” I think it boils down to three key tactics.

1. Focus on Alignment and Analytics

Gamification is a great way to empower employees and make them more mindful of their jobs. For example, sharing KPIs among teams, setting organizational goals that everyone works toward, and even creating leaderboards that tally who is generating the best results can have a big impact.

But gamification isn’t always easy to implement, because it requires inspiring an entire organization to measure the actions of everyone.

The key here is to communicate to your staff that metrics don’t exist to see if someone is doing a good job or a bad job. Rather, measurement will help the company figure out whether something is worth doing. If everyone at an organization can place a specific value on their work, it can inspire the entire organization to continuously try to raise the bar.

These measurements require numbers and data, which means getting the analytics team involved. Unfortunately, analytics teams often work apart from marketers and creative teams. It’s important to make sure the analytics and marketing teams are living in the same world and communicating to each other. Empower the analytics team to dig into the data and find opportunities for improvement Then, share that information across departments so other teams can utilize that data and do the same.

2. Start With Organizational Gamification

Putting organizational gamification first has worked really well for some companies, and it’s a great first step. Create organizational goals first, then focus on smaller wins.

Here’s an example: Let’s say a company wants to raise conversion rates by 10%. The company puts that number out there and says, “This is the goal we’re all working toward this year.”

Once that goal is announced, it’s going to spread throughout the organization. One person will start saying, “I tested a change on the product detail page and I moved the needle by 2%,” while another may say, “I tried new landing page copy and improved conversions by .3%”  The key is to encourage both of them—even though they didn’t get the same result—because improvements were realized by both initiatives and moved the company closer to the big goal.

Setting those organizational goals will be an effective part of your gamification strategy, because optimization and conversion battles are won by fractional percentages and not by one massive increase.

As  I mentioned earlier, I love looking at annualized revenue. Let’s say a company changes the product detail page for one product and 10,000 people go to that product page over the course of a week. During that week, 5,000 visitors see the new treatment and 5,000 see the regular page.

Now, let’s say the new treatment has a $1,000 impact over the course of that week. If you extrapolate that out, then multiply it by 52 weeks in a year, all of a sudden it’s having a $150,000 impact on annual revenue. Then, go a step further and run that same test on 10 more product pages. It could have a very real impact on the bottom line.

Focusing on annualized value allows people to understand that little changes can make a big difference.

Historically, companies haven’t always had the ability to measure how tests like these will perform over the course of a year, but they can now. Obviously, the tool a company is using is important, because you need the ability to quickly and easily run these tests. But a testing mindset is just as important, because it opens everyone’s eyes to the compounding nature of the experiments and the results they can have.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

The truth is that taking risks is a challenge for some companies. But there’s no way to effectively implement gamification without taking some risks. An important part of gamification is letting the customer tell the company what is effective.

Gamification requires companies to be a little more aggressive. Changing the color of text from black to dark grey is something everyone at the organization might think is a big change. Most likely, however, a visitor won’t notice a change like that at all.

So take bigger risks. Try more creative wording on your product detail page. Maybe instead of using the manufacturer’s copy on the product page, try testing more editorialized text that tells a story and see if that gets results. Then go a step further and try testing product detail pages that don’t have any copy at all, and only have big product images. These may seem like risky tests, but they will uncover real learnings about visitors and allow the organization to continue to innovate and drive results.

Brett Bair is an author and ecommerce strategist with over 20 years of experience. As Monetate’s Sr. Director of Digital Marketing Insights, he helps leading ecommerce brands leverage technology to drive growth.

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