Will is the director of an e-commerce store. He is fully conversant with the more important concepts of the area, he understands logistics, he has a good team and he knows who are the personas in his business. However, for all his efforts to optimize his virtual store and attract customers with marketing exercises, levels of customer loyalty remain low.

This is a common problem for entrepreneurs who venture into online sales, as it is for Will. However, there is an efficient strategy which, if applied correctly and to different types of e-commerce, such as B2B and B2C, can improve things. We are talking about gamification.

What is gamification?

It is the application of game mechanisms and functions in virtual and physical corporate environments. It includes offering points, bonuses, prizes, badges and other similar incentives.

The purpose is to stimulate customers to interact more with the company, to purchase more products and to increase their engagement. It also helps promote customer loyalty and satisfaction.

The concept was first introduced in 2003 by Nick Pelling, and studies by Gartner indicate that the gamification market should reach something in the region of 18 billion dollars by 2018.

How can it be applied in different ways to ensure higher levels of customer loyalty?

Will is always looking for more functions and tools to enhance his e-commerce business, trying out different strategies to attract the public and encourage people to spend more time browsing on his website. But this has become difficult, even with the investments he has made in obtaining leads. Maybe the problem lies in the lack of attractions on his e-commerce site.

When you propose to use gamification, you can apply it to a range of different strategies, as this gives better results and can actually improve sales in the long term, thanks to customer loyalty. Here are some different ways of applying the fundamentals and elements of gamification:

  • offering rewards for internet surfers who complete certain activities on the site. They can be buttons, discounts, points, miles, levels, gift cards, membership of VIP groups, free delivery etc.
  • using elements to make things more realistic, such as digital currency (generally used in online games, including on social networks), or more fun, such as virtual assistants.
  • including illustrations to improve the experience and give internet surfers a feeling of achievement. For example, progress bars giving a clear image of the beginning, the middle and the finish. These serve to encourage internet surfers to complete purchases, searches or other actions.

How do you apply a gamification strategy to an e-commerce business?

There are a few steps that you can follow if you want to apply the above elements of gamification to your online store. These are:

  • transforming the look of your website from impersonal to something more attractive by adding elements of games. This is necessary to attract the attention of the users. One possibility is to create a virtual mascot, to help generate empathy and increase interest in the items. Or you can make browsing simpler and provide useful information;
  • including competitions between customers through games which allow them to obtain points, rewards, levels or coins on your e-commerce platform or that of a partner. This gets people to participate more and reinforces the brand name with users;
  • mapping each stage of a purchase and exhibiting the map, so that the customer knows how the entire process will be, from registration to completion. For this you need an intuitive, simple and speedy design.

What strategies have proved efficient in achieving customer loyalty?

In addition to the above suggestions, there are other strategies allied to different types of gamification which are effective in different media. We have listed 10 of these below:

1. Application (app)

It is important to use apps to support gamification in your e-commerce store, and to use apps and resources that offer more access to games and competitions.

2. Mobile phones

Smartphones and other smart portable devices are now regularly used by the majority of people. Thus it is essential to introduce gamification strategies which they too can use.

Starbucks created a process which could be widely enjoyed on mobile devices. Whenever consumers bought something from the company they earned stars. With a certain number of stars they could exchange them for Starbucks products, such as extra coffees or even customized items.

Customers were also elevated to higher levels of loyalty to the company, depending on the number of times they visited one of the shops.

3. Desktops

Gamification strategies for desktop computers are also important, as a lot of customers use them for online purchases. So it is necessary to have a design that uses elements of games and that is easy to load.

An example of a company that introduced gaming elements in an e-commerce business is Sneakpeeq, a social purchases company.

It developed a game with different initial actions, with users required to access different pages in search of emblems. This contributed to more pages being accessed by customers, and to their staying for much longer.

4. Videos

Wine, a store specializing in wines, celebrated its 7th anniversary by launching a strategy providing a guru, Wineyama, to offer assistance, and with activities to be undertaken during the days of the commemoration.

On these days videos were shown, one in the morning period and one in the evening. In the first video the guru set a riddle about one of the company’s wines, and encouraged users to reply in the comments section. In the second video, the item was revealed with a discount lasting for 24 hours.

The focus was engagement and interaction with the public, as well as having the opportunity for shares and spontaneous marketing.

5. Website game

In 2011, Nike launched a virtual game in which players could help athletes warm up during their training outdoors, in the cold. This was part of a campaign to promote the company’s winter clothing range. Three famous athletes took part in the game, and the players could control their avatars.

Participants could gain points by completing different challenges, and their scores were collected and entered in a classification table. The people who gained most points between December 9 and 15 were entered in a draw for a trip, with a companion, to meet one of the athletes in the Nike game.

This way the company enabled players to get to know the items of clothing which the athletes wore and to buy them.

6. Online games platforms

Zynga is a games developer which at the end of 2009 had more than 230 million active players. Of these, some 71 million were Facebook users playing CityVille (a game for constructing cities). It entered into partnership with Best Buy, a virtual retailer, and in the second half of 2011 players were able to place one of this company’s stores in their virtual cities.

The players could collect various bonuses from the establishment in the form of extra points, payments etc. There were also five items which, if collected, entitled the player to free decoration for the store.

7. Social networks

Aldo, a brand of perfume, wagered on gamification with the help of social networks. It created 5 special fragrances, 3 for women and 2 for men, and combined them with colors representing personalities.

It then invited users to go into Facebook and combine their moods in a game. On Facebook they were shown Instagram pictures describing their personalities.

After 9 pictures, each user received a sort of virtual plaque/picture with a description of their personality to post on their timelines or share on other networks. Each mood was combined with its own fragrance and a link through which it could be purchased.

8. Social media integrated with e-commerce

Bonobos, an up-market men’s clothing company, joined up with the design network NotCot.org and, using a hashtag on Twitter, launched a campaign in which images of models wearing the company’s clothes were hidden in various places on the NotCot and NotCouture websites.

Users could search the websites to find the images. Each of the first 50 people to click on them each day was awarded a U$25 credit plus free delivery There was also a larger prize, of U$100, for a special image.

9. Virtual VIP areas

Gilt Groupe, an exclusive membership-based site for purchases of clothing and accessories, offers items for sale for a limited time which can only be viewed by members.

At the end of 2009, it introduced a special category for the most loyal customers, who were classified by the length of time they had been members and the total value of their purchases.

Each of them received a membership card and a perfumed candle, and was also able to see sales not available to other people.

They were also given access in advance to clothing available for everyone, and so were able to create strategies for purchasing the best ones as soon as they were released for sale. In this case, the benefit was more one of exclusivity of viewing in relation to other people.

10. Comments on social networks

Teleflora has a social loyalty system which rewards customers who post comments, reply to other comments or get involved in positive discussions about the brand on social networks.

The program also includes levels of status awarded to consumers who acquire the greatest number of points. There is also a classification table showing the best results.

It is important to understand that gamification takes advantage of people’s desire for entertainment, competition, achievement and status. This is all to help Will and you achieve your goals in the virtual world.