The science behind addiction & me-commerce
Gamification is the science that explains how game developers manage to get people ‘addicted’ to their games. How do they make sure that people will play their mini games hours at a time, carry out all types of repetitive actions and then continue to return to their platform? And can these mechanisms be duplicated in other sectors, so that people for example will enjoy their work more, or feel more attached to a certain brand? There is an abundance of books, and even college degrees in the U.S., that look into this topic. Clearly, deeper insight into the subject simply cannot be summarized in just a few pages. However, all of those tips and tricks come down to 8 simple principles apply to every human. Use these 8 intrinsic motivators to keep anyone intrigued, motivated, and focused. All of them combined create a truely addictive experience.
1. Epic meaning
Storytelling is an important part of any solid sales process. Make your customers feel like they are part of a story that transcends them, because your company is really changing the world for the better. Apple is a prime example of a company that adapted this principle and used it as the root of their marketing. They made Microsoft, with its boring image, into a mutual enemy of anyone who was hip and creative. The result: Apple fans genuinely feel like the brand has become a part of their identity. They most certainly would not want to be seen with a similar product from a different brand. That is the power of ‘epic meaning’. Is it impossible for smaller companies to achieve this, with only a fraction of Apple’s budget? Definitely not! And even in other sectors, the same principle of wanting to be part of a bigger story still applies. Fans of Anderlecht will literally fight supporters of other clubs that are essentially doing exactly the same. Charities will generally get the average person to donate some money. Plant a tree for every purchase you make, support a similar company somewhere else in the world, build an orphanage in Nepal… Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Use this.
2. Accomplishment & development
Rankings, points, and progress bars demonstrate how much progress you are making, how well you are doing compared to others, and when you can claim your reward. These kinds of transparent, frequent, and very doable goals will keep you going and really keep you motivated. The next shot of endorphins is always within close reach, and you can basically predict when you will be getting it. That is how any solid loyalty programme is constructed. The experience can be even more immersive, if you promote the customer to ‘co-creator’ while they make their purchase. A product configurator or a room planner can be a great tool for this, especially if the product you are offering contains many different variables. For example, give a customer the chance to decide on the material, the table legs and the composition of their multimedia cabinet, and compliment the customer on the final result. This is a win-win situation: the customer will feel connected to the product they have co-designed, and your sales team will be cut some slack. Hi there, extra revenue!
3. Empowerment, creativity & feedback
People like to feel like they are making their own choices, and they also like to receive positive feedback. Once again, using a product configurator or a room planner could be a smart move here, and it can simplify your sales process. The 3D demonstration of your product visualizes how every choice the customer makes, will bring them one step closer to buying the product of their dreams. Thanks to augmented reality technologies, they can even test the final result in their own home, take pictures of it and perhaps share it with friends. They will get an instant confirmation by others that the design they already love fits into their home perfectly. Now the excitement, which will remain high all the way up until the actual delivery of the product, can begin.
According to gamification theory, there are 4 types of people that all respond to different strategies:
- Achievers: they play by the rules, and all they want is to score, score, score (they don’t quit when you go bowling and they always go for a strike). These people are incredibly result-oriented when it comes to their purchases. If the product offers a solution to something they truly need, the deal is done. The technical specs are what really counts for them – as are any arguments that underline the fact that the product simply matches their needs.
- Explorers: they want to constantly be surprised and they are big on challenges, characters, explorations (they are the ones looking at the animation videos when you go bowling). They want to be inspired, and they want to see products they are familiar with being used in new and different ways. They are addicted to the annual IKEA catalogue, for example.
- Socializers: they want to interact with others and get to know new people (they are the ones doing all the talking, and they will only get up and bowl if an achiever encourages them). They like to receive feedback about planned purchases and they really take other people’s opinions into account.
- Killers: they love to keep others from winning or finding ways to cheat (trying to beat or distract the achievers when they go bowling). You can get them with amazing deals and unexpected promotions and offers. This will make them feel like they beat the ‘system’.
4. Ownership & possession
Imagine that you are drinking a Bloody Mary or some other unappealing drink at a bar. You don’t like the drink at all and you just leave it be on the table. Suddenly, a stranger drinks half of your Bloody Mary – you don’t like this feeling. That’s the power behind this principle. You didn’t want the drink in the first place, but it’s yours, so others have to respect that. Use this feeling to amplify the connection that people feel with your product. If you can make people feel like your product is already theirs, the deal is almost done already. That’s how test drives came to be. Augmented reality is another way of creating this feeling. If you can picture that coffee machine, TV, etc. in your own home, or imagine that swimming pool in your back yard, you are so close to having that dream product in your possession.
5. Social influence & relatedness
Social proof has become an important aspect of any sales process. People often read online reviews, and they will take to Facebook and Twitter to ask others for advice about their purchases. On the other hand, they also like to show off the new, hard-to-come-by products that they were among the first to buy. Furthermore, companies are investing in content marketing campaigns and ‘random acts of kindness’ that will make their product or brand go viral. If you are lacking in this department, your competition will beat you before you know it. So build ‘social’ mechanisms into your sales tools, so that it’s incredibly easy for the customer to share pictures of your product. Sharing is caring… but people are naturally lazy. Make it as easy and intuitive as possible for them.
6. Scarcity & impatience
People often assume that money and discounts are the most important factors for customers to take into account, when making a purchase. However, this is not the case at all. These are short-term rewards that will fail to build any kind of emotional connection between the customer and the brand. In reality, there are 4 ways to reward customers:
- Stuff: gifts, discounts, points, …
- Access: access to things that are not available to everyone; sneak peaks, tickets to events, group purchases, being allowed to post reviews, being able to follow tutorials,…
- Status: having a clearly visible ranking that indicates the connection between you and the brand. As a gold member, certain airlines will give you upgrades, access to the business lounge,… At Foursquare, mayors of certain retail stores are given parking privileges.
- Power: certain rankings come with certain privileges – you get to coach a newbie, review tutorials or blog posts, or help make a decision about a magazine cover
These mechanisms can all be combined with scarcity: they are only temporarily available, there are different pricing waves (e.g. early bird tickets), etc. But they can be combined with patience as well: you can allow customers to pay a lower price if they refer other members, write a certain number of social media posts, etc. It’s important to establish the right communication channels to communicate with your customers. Email marketing, for example, is losing its relevance. Notifications on mobile apps will still activate your customers, however. Use this wisely.
7. Unpredictability & curiosity
Any game, experience, programme or job will remain fun as long as it stays unpredictable. However, it isn’t hard to plan these unpredictable actions. One (slightly boring) example is to have a certain menu of the day. But a new project, a reward, an unexpected challenge, a new co-worker, a quick win – these can all break through the day-to-day affairs and give anyone a new boost of energy. On a company level, if you use this in combination with ‘epic meaning’, you can achieve some great results: identify your main competition and make them into the enemy of the company. Plan an escape game with several different teams, or let people take turns to try and finish a task as quickly as possible. Make it fun!
8. Loss & avoidance
As soon as someone has spent time and/or money, they will try not to lose what they have gained. Not by quitting the game, nor by letting someone else get ahead of them in the rankings. That’s why you might also encounter ecommerce platforms using timers that will reset your shopping cart. Or temporary promotions with strict deadlines. So what are you waiting for?