Understanding the “enjoy ethos” is key to gamification success

Every day we are seeing new approaches being developed in ecommerce – the relatively dated theory of Social Commerce is dominating the buzz. The current interpretation of Social Commerce seems to be ‘tell your friends via Facebook/Twitter’ – or rather ‘send this offer to a friend via Facebook/Twitter’. Surely that’s just called ‘a referral’, not a new theory?

My point is that whilst all new themes are important, some are old themes re-visited. Likewise, some stand the test of time. Some don’t. The ones that persist do so because they have permanence, an underlying narrative that has resilience and strength despite the fast pace of the digital sphere.

One such theme that found its zenith recently is ‘gamification’. To the uninitiated, this refers to the use of gaming techniques, language or approach to improve an online experience.

For me, gamification or the ‘game layer’ has true meaning and power in one key aspect: the inherent reason why gamers worldwide spend “3 billion hours a week playing online games”… They fundamentally enjoy the experience.

And it is this user enjoyment, not just user journey that is the key and is relevant to ecommerce. Amidst the ever-evolving, transient world of online, the fundamental emotion of enjoyment has permanence. It resonates cross-gender or age as we have grown with it through the medium of play. It delves deep into the very constructs of our cognitive development.

The ‘game layer’ helps us enjoy the experience through its particular language of success and non-failure. The world of ecommerce (and further into the digital space as a whole) – can learn from the theory of gaming. We can build an ethos from this.

It is an ethos that centres on user satisfaction (not just experience) and customer enjoyment (not just service) whilst on site. It’s not just the psychology of incentives and motivation. Let your customers enjoy the whole experience, improve it through intuitive aesthetics, removing any unnecessary mundanity and reward them in the right places (using appropriate awards).

But don’t let them fail, most of all, don’t let them fail as, if they are dissatisfied, the hailstorm that is amplified in a socially-connected theatre will be fierce and severely damaging to your brand.

Enjoyment is hardly a new and innovative online concept, but rarely is it built into the foundations of an online site (that isn’t inherently a game). It should be. By placing the consumer or user’s enjoyment at the core of the approach it is fundamentally founded on the pleasure of the very audience that defines its success. It will adapt and succeed accordingly.

In short, making people enjoy something more – no matter how mundane – will ensure they invest more time and thus more money into it. They’ll re-visit and re-buy. It’ll also ensure true advocacy with genuine referrals based on trust and sharing, rather than for personal reward or disingenuous incentivisation.

For me enjoyment is the spirit of ‘gamification’. But it’s not new; it’s pretty old and pretty permanent. The ethos in 4 stages:

1. Engage: Engage your user base in the most relevant context. Not just through any touchpoint because it is available (and because you can). This way you can ensure cohesive brand authenticity as you are operating through the most appropriate channel.

2. Enhance: Broaden the brand and its message via innovation, insight & creativity. Enhance the user experience beyond expectation, but never forget to keep it relevant. Reward your users in the right places with the right type of awards. Money-off or discounts should not be option 1.

3. Expand: Expand the network through participation and enjoyment. Extend the brand reach through true user advocacy. Let them do the talking, don’t shout or interrupt them. Listen and learn.

4. Enjoy: Do it right and you’ll all enjoy once. Then keep enjoying.

Alex Blaney is Creative Director at Session Digital. He is responsible for producing creatively excellent and technically complex ecommerce sites. Alex has over 13 years of experience, working with global brands to deliver expert ecommerce solutions that achieve high-quality results. At Session Digital he currently oversees work with high profile brands such as Warner Music, Kookai, Interflora, The Football League and Planet Organic.