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How to utilize eCommerce gamification to boost sales

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Yu-kai Chou, a prominent name and pioneer in the field of gamification, identified eight core drives that motivate people to act. These are:

  1. Curiosity and unpredictability
  2. Relatedness and social influence
  3. Avoidance and loss
  4. Feedback and empowerment of creativity
  5. Impatience and scarcity
  6. Accomplishment and development
  7. Possession and ownership
  8. Epic meaning and calling

It was the identification of these motivational drives that led to the creation of gamification tactics. These tactics aim to trigger these core drives by influencing the player to keep playing until the end.

In terms of eCommerce, gamification is now one of the most successful types of sales methodologies with good reason. Gamification strategies can be used to make the consumer's browsing and purchasing experience more enjoyable. This is done while also enhancing their drive to explore your website and complete the sales process.

How these tactics are useful to eCommerce sales volume

How these tactics are useful to eCommerce sales volume

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash 

Esteemed professor, game researcher, and thinker Richard A. Bartle identified four types of players. 

  • Killers: these personalities know what they want. They have a goal and want to get their hands on it in a way that makes them feel like they won.
  • Explorers: less decisive than the killer, explorers like to take their time to see what options are available to them while feeling a sense of progress as they do so.
  • Achievers: they’re similar to killers in the sense of obtaining a goal. The difference is that feeling a sense of self-esteem and accomplishment is of higher importance than the acquisition of the end goal.
  • Socializers: for them, the process of communication, acceptance, and their social status are of the highest importance. Here, their goal is to get positive feedback or attention for what they have obtained.

Many prospective customers will have traits from each type, but one is usually more prominent than the others. Identifying their type allows you to determine the trigger that motivates them to play, or shop, in the first place as part of their onboarding journey.

These players can be looked at as personas in terms of sales and marketing segmentation. Identifying which of these four camps your target market falls into will allow you to choose the correct strategies and effectively utilize them in your eCommerce campaigns.

In other words, identifying the player type that engages with your brand will enable you to select the most appropriate gamification tactics. Then, you can trigger their core drives in a way that moves them closer to completing a purchase.

Gamification strategies

Gamification strategies

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash 

Trends in eCommerce are dynamic and can change rapidly. However, core motivations are far more solidified and concrete. Because of this, once you have your gamification strategies in place and tested for viability, they should provide medium to long-term success.

Scoring systems

Anyone who has played a game is aware of scoring systems. This shows progress from where we started by instilling a sense of accomplishment. It also triggers impatience. This causes the user to want to reach the end as soon as possible.  

An example of this strategy being used successfully is the reward points strategy used by Tesco in the UK. The more a person purchases, the more points they accumulate. These points translate directly into money. 

This strategy can create a sense in the customer that the points should be used or they will be wasted. At the same time, every time they buy, their points increase. This ties into a core sense of accomplishment.

Progression and feedback mechanisms

As a natural progression from the scoring system, a sense of progression is inherent. Adding a feedback mechanism to incorporate positive feedback adds another layer to this. 

Concerning the "explorer" type, experience points are exceptionally motivating when progressing toward completion. Regarding purchase completions, this can be looked at within the context of your sales funnel.

One common usage across many eCommerce stores is a progression bar in the checkout process. The same strategy can drive more engagement with your sales content. A progression bar can also be incorporated into your sales videos and can create a sense of incompletion. This influences potential customers to watch to the end where your strategically placed CTA will do its job. 

Curiosity, another core motivator can be utilized here. Wondering what information is yet to come in the video can push them to watch to the end. 

Ranking systems

A person's recognition that they have a score higher than others increases their sense of social status. This is another core motivational drive that enhances a person's engagement with your eCommerce store's brand. The accumulation of points that beats a customer's peers can instill a sense of progression and trigger the competitive spirit of the “killer” personality type.

Teams and groups

An eCommerce store can encourage loyalty to their brand and enhance word of mouth while instilling a sense of social pressure to live up to the group's expected standards. 

Being especially appealing to the “socializer,” this strategy can create customer loyalty that can also create a higher lifetime value (LTV) for each customer once they have been acquired.

Implementation can be as simple as Nike’s strategy around creating a Facebook page specifically for runners. These customers can now share their interests with each other within the context of the brand.

This can allow for natural brand advocacy for your online store and reduce costs associated with new customer acquisition. Just be prepared to scale up your inbound call center solutions for the potential growth in your customer base if this strategy proves to be a good match with your products and services.

Rewards and achievements

Lastly, a mechanism to reward users for their loyalty, profession, and purchases is one method used to trigger the core drive of possession and ownership. The feeling gained from past activities is something that can really enhance the sense that what they have previously achieved has resulted in positive gains.  

Is the product reward enough for their money? This is an important question. It involves pricing strategies, the process of building your online presence, and branding that resonates with your customers by making them feel that your products and services are right for them. Utilizing branding that is associated with the geographical location of the target audience is a powerful strategy to enhance a brand’s perception favorably.

What else can you incorporate into your game production pipeline?

  • Using a progression bar that shows a particular point that a reward will be made available to them can trigger their impatience and lead them to act faster towards getting there.
  • Making the rewards big but few also increases their perceived value through scarcity and further motivates potential customers to move toward your KPIs.
  • Starbucks uses the simple tactic of offering free food or drink in return for a customer’s progression in collecting stars through purchase behavior.
  • Experiment with giving users a free product trial for simply progressing to the point of watching one promotional video in its entirety.

Tying core drives to player types

Tying core drives to player types

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash 

Epic meaning and calling is the last motivational drive not covered by the above tactics. This is where branding and implementing personalization come into play. It’s likely that you already have a customer profiling and segmentation strategy in place. At this stage, it’s about drawing comparisons between your segments and the four personality types described earlier.

Killers: brands should be focused on a single goal and use scoring systems and rewards so that “killers” know how far off they are until completion. They know what they want and want to know how much progress they are making towards their goal. This is either a sale or a request for more information.

Explorers: incorporate experience point bars for every item they view or add to their cart. Prioritize choice, such as, for example, category pages over product pages for the first pages they view upon login. These are browsers who are looking to see what is out there and who have a sense of curiosity.

Achievers: ranking systems and progress bars that are visible and increase for every single action these users take on your eCommerce store may well be all it takes to keep them engaged for longer. This increases their potential to make a purchase because of the additional sales content they will be engaging with.

Socializers: simply offer them a place to socialize with other like-minded individuals within the context of your brand. This can lead to word-of-mouth marketing, which is the most powerful marketing tactic to acquire new customers, and costs nothing on your end.

Key takeaways

The final boss battle is the checkout process. Boss battles are always easier when a character has powered up through a sense of progression, the acquisition of knowledge, and new friends to help them along the way, even if these come from your support team. 

Then, rewarding them for their previous engagement on your eCommerce store will instill a positive association in their mind with your brand when they are ready to make that purchase and, hopefully, many more.

Published February 12, 2024