The popularity of gaming is of no doubt; in 2016 the industry is worth a massive $99.6 billion!
While games have always been popular, the rise of mobile gaming has strengthened the industry, and changed it at the same time.
Here at ITT we don’t review games though; we bring you the best in internet marketing knowledge, so why the heck am I talking about games?
According to Wikipedia, gamification is:
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the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity
The idea then is to use game systems and the theories behind games to improve other things, such as online marketing.
Because so many people play games, it makes sense to pull across some of the elements to try to get people invested and engaged in areas other than just play.
Marketers want, maybe even need, more engagement with visitors to their sites. Engagement helps improve brand recognition, increases time spent on site and can potentially increase the likelihood of a sale or conversion.
With that in mind, it makes sense to review your site and niche to see if applying gamification techniques is viable and worthwhile.
Types of Games
These types of games are usually image based such as finding something in an image or a spot the difference game.
They require much less work and money to create and can still generate a lot of buzz.
This sort of game provides more engagement and allows for more direct marketing while still being cost effective to build.
These types of games are more in depth and complicated and so will require a larger budget.
There are numerous ways that an online marketer can use game theory to help improve their site. Here’s a few of them:
Give Lots of Free Content
This might seem like a no brainer to experienced marketers, but it also lies in parallel to most mobile games.
The average game on your phone will often give away the entire game for free in order to get more users. Long gone are the days of demos being the norm, and that’s how you should consider your content too. Don’t give people just a demo of your knowledge, give them the whole hog!
Pay to Win/In-app Purchases
Mobile games use these techniques to bring in revenue, and they are slightly different.
In-app purchases are where you will buy additional elements to speed up or improve the game such as extra coins or equipment or a boost through some levels.
Pay to Win is often seen as a negative by most gamers as it basically means that in order to complete the game you need to invest real money (and usually lots of it). Without paying you will simply never get anywhere with it.
Online marketers already make use of one type of “in-app purchase”, which is the membership site.
By paying you get access to extra features that regular visitors don’t.
Could this be taken a step closer to online games where smaller parts of the site are activated for smaller amounts of money – a kind of modular system?
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I haven’t seen a system like this being implemented, but I could see it working on sites where you have sub sectiuons of visitors interested in slightly different things. For example, if your site sells board games, you could open up sections for those interested in co-op games versus those interested in a more player versus player style game.
Forums have long rewarded users with badges and ranks that are awarded for completing various tasks.
Internet marketers can easily capitalize on peoples desire for recognition by implementing rewards.
You could reward people with badges, points & ranks, membership levels, custom avatars and more.
The cost of implementing such a system is usually negligible and there’s really nothing to incur costs as people gain their virtual badges.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that you can’t reward them further. If your users get to rank 5 they could gain access to special content. Or if a user gets virtual currency, they could “buy” a 30 minute consultation with you.
Users could gain their rewards in a variety of ways:
- Registering on your site
- Sharing content on social media
- Being up-voted by other users
- Purchasing your products
- Being a member for X time
- Submitting ideas or user generated content
By rewarding people for taking certain actions they become involved and engrained into the surrounding community which in turn helps your community stay fresh.
Not all marketing is about direct selling. Sometimes it’s worth providing content simply to get your business name out there and improve brand recognition.
M & M’s did this very successfully with a simple non interactive game: Find the Pretzel.
Can you find the pretzel?
This game was posted on Facebook and it garnered over 6,000 shares, 26,000 likes and over 11,000 comments!
Not bad for a very simple game!
Leading up to a CTA
The best way to explain this is with an example.
Imagine that your site promotes greenhouse plans, you could build a small game that allows the user to take different elements like wood and glass and build a fantasy greenhouse.
Once they are done, a pop up could appear asking them if they’d like to learn how to build a real greenhouse instead, alongside your Call to Action.
Discounts and Special Offers
Simple games can be used to give people who interact bonuses and discounts on your products or services.
For example you could use a spot the difference game and ask people to tweet their findings with a special link. Anyone who gets it right gets direct message a discount code.
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Interactive games could be used so that on completion the code is automatically displayed.
This sort of gamification provides more meaning to discounts and special offers, it takes a bit more willingness and work to obtain it, and will therefore stay in peoples minds for longer than just copying and pasting a code they found online.
Just don’t make the games too difficult, as the last thing you wan to do is to frustrate your audience.
Most marketers know that we should be providing users with value and what better value than to teach someone something.
Games are making headway into the educational arena and there’s nothing to stop you from creating a game that can effectively teach a certain point in respect to your niche.
If your niche is about hydroponics, your game could teach people how different plants respond to different levels of pH, nutrients and light.
The game could lead people on to further content via a CTA or simply be there to add value in its own right.
Your Audience and Niche Matters
Not every site or niche is suitable for gamification, so you really need to consider your audience and subject matter before diving headlong into adding games to your site.
For instance if your site is about depression, gamification becomes quite difficult (possible but difficult) to implement without alienating your audience.
Another consideration is the actual audience: if your target audience is of the older generation then games and gamification techniques might not work as well with them. It should be tested of course, but resist going full on before you know if the audience is receptive or not.
The Bottom Line
Games are here to stay, and as a result so is gamification.
Gamifying your sites can help increase engagement and build brand identity if done well, so why not give it a try on your own sites?