Sorry for the delay in publishing this post. I've been pickpocketed while traveling Barcelona and lost my smartphone with tones of data in it. It's a horrible experience losing your phone; and in this digital age, it strangely feels worse then losing your wallet. I wish there is a way to gamify citizen crime watch to stop the theft problem in Barcelona. It's a pity because it's such a beautiful city. It would've been much more pleasant if visitors can enjoy it without constantly worrying about pickpockets, scams, robberies as well as other crimes.
Alright, on to the next tenet for success gamification. We’ve covered a lot of details so far with the first 5 tenets of a successful gamification program. Here are the first 5 for your reference:
In the previous tenant, we learned the formula for creating a level-up ladder to keep your players (or users, customer, audience, etc.) engaged over the long term. The secret is to take baby steps. Although this is the general idea, how it’s done in practice requires some finesse and subtlety. Surprisingly it’s not about making every step as easy as possible. Many practitioners still do not realize that making every step too easy may actually harm your strategy.
Using baby steps is about finding the perfect balance between too easy and too hard—that fine line of flow between certainty and uncertainty. If you are interested, here is a more detailed post about designing the precise leveling criteria. This is not a trivial task considering that it has to work for anyone and be able to adapt to everyone’s level of skills. This is also why we were awarded a patent at Lithium for our gamified community platform based on this principle.
Participation Inequality—the Power Law Distribution
Using immediate feedback ensures your gamification will engage the largest audience. However, not everyone will be equally engaged. The participation level of any voluntary activities usually follows a power law distribution. That is, few of your players will quickly level up to elite status, while many others remain fairly stagnant on the ranking ladder.
No matter how fun and engaging your game is, there will always be people who don’t play and don’t want to engage at all. That is just the nature of the fact that we are unique, and every one of us is different. This gives rise to the universal power-law distribution. (If you are interested in a deeper post about why the power law is such a universal description of human behavior, then we need to devote another blog to address this question. Just let me know in the comments section below).
For example, the “elite” members of most airline or hotel loyalty programs are typically a small fraction of the brand’s customer base—these are the MVPs. However, a substantial portion of the customers are occasional travelers, and their status remains fairly stagnant, and it would take them a long time to move up to the next rung of the ladder. If it takes someone years to move to the next level of status, then it’s doubtful that he cares about the loyalty program at all. He is merely collecting the loyalty points (a.k.a. reward points) because it’s convenient and doesn’t cost anything extra, but these slowly accumulating points contribute little to his loyalty to the brand.
Building the right level-up ladder to engage at scale is not just about engaging the widest possible audience; it also means moving more players toward deeper engagement with your gamification. But how can we achieve this with players who are not even engaging with our simplest game (i.e. the first rung of the level up ladder—collecting points)?
Guide Your Players through Missions and Behavior Coupling
There are many ways one can drive deeper engagement with the ladder you build, here are three of them:
1. Simply design more rungs to fill the ladder more densely.
This leads to more frequent feedback, and thus guides your players more closely to the path of success. This approach works well for casual players who are engaged, but will not motivate an audience with little engagement (e.g. the infrequent travelers). How can you help these infrequent travelers earn points and status faster?
2. Link your loyalty points with some other actions that these players can take frequently.
A common mechanism that has been implemented in the industry is by coupling the reward points with dollars spent on one’s credit card. That means your players can now earn rewards points simply by using their credit card, and this can happen much more frequently than taking a flight or staying at a hotel.
Consequently, players earn points faster. If your players can see how quickly they are accumulating points towards a flight or a hotel stay, they will be more inclined to contribute to it. As the players invest more towards the reward, they’ll be much more likely to make use of it when they’ve earned that level of reward. And the more frequently the players can make use of the reward, the more they will realize the ongoing benefits and continue to contribute. This creates a positive feedback that drives much stronger loyalty.
Clearly, this requires hotels and airlines to partner with credit cards. But it doesn’t have to start big. The frequent actions that are linked to the loyalty points can be literally anything, as long as you can measure it accurately. Furthermore, there can be more than one frequent action (e.g. retweet us, watch a video from us, share your story with us on social media, etc.) This will provide the players with different ways to earn reward points and many ways to win, so that everyone can play and play often.
3. Use missions to target a specific group of users who are stalling at a specific stage of the level-up ladder.
Through the 2nd tenet, we should have an abundance of behavior data to help us understand why certain groups of users are not moving up the ladder fast enough. With this understanding, we can either change the leveling criterion or we can make use of missions. We basically design specific missions to change the behaviors that are preventing the target group from moving up the ladder.
For example, one of the requirements to gain platinum status with an innovative loyalty program (with an airline, a hotel, or any loyalty programs) may be to share your experience on social media. However, the behavior data could show that many people are not getting the platinum status because they are relatively inactive on social media. Then you can create a mission(s) for the target group (i.e. those who are just short of platinum status) that awards an attractive amount of rewards points to those who shared their experience on social media under some time constraint (e.g. share a video of our hotel in the next 3 month to get 1000 points).
It’s not unusual to deploy several missions to help a target group meet the requirements of the next level status. This effectively guides the target group up the next rung of the ladder, so they learn what’s required to achieve the next status while completing the mission.
Stay tuned. Up next: Knowing your players.
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