Why use gamification for bridging the gap between online & offline engagement?

Interface, Mobile, Social

Gamification is the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts in order to engage users and solve problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness, and learning. Wikipedia

AOL has conducted a very interesting research recently with BBDO regarding the hidden motivations of mobile users. The paper reveals seven main motivations for mobile usage which we can all relate to:

Motivations of Mobile Users

Motivations of Mobile Users

The interesting take on the paper is that out of all motivations, ‘Me Time’ is by far the biggest Mobile Moment with 46% of all moments (second motivation is ‘socialize’ with only 19%). Understanding why and how people use their smart phones and apps are the first tasks of any app developer. There are many apps that focus on cool design, content and usability but the successful ones that also serve ‘me-time’ motivation have all three qualities in common: Entertaining, engaging and fun.

It’s not that consumers have short attention spans. It’s that we give them so little of interest to look at. Lee Clow

Gamification is obviously not just about being fun, but it is mainly about how you can change user behavior with fun and entertaining game mechanics. Adding a simple and effective game elements to your design is much more complex than said, but if done properly the rewards are significant, for the user and for the brands, especially considering how much time people spend with their smart phones during me-time and it is one of the best ways to bridge the gap between online and offline engagements.

Lego is one of the pioneers in this arena, and has built many interactive iPhone app that involves playing with real Lego bricks. Lego recently launched interactive mobile movie maker app that enables users to create their own stop animation movies using Lego blocks and mini figures. Another app was launched again by Lego, an iPhone app that challenges users to quickly build small models using real bricks and then take pictures of them using the device’s camera so that you can get a score based on the completeness of your work and also how quickly you finish it. All these activities help users interact with Lego’s physical products while sharing the digital images and games with their friends online. Another app that enables users to transform their favorite images into LEGO form by choosing a photo from an existing gallery or pointing the camera to snap a new photo, Lego Photo, attracted over 2 million unique downloads and ranked as the 32nd most downloaded app in the U.S in last January.

How Lego app works


Create experiences not ads to reach out to your customers

Advertising, Mobile, Social

Marketing has changed. Brands that are still trying to create ads, hype, offers and deals around average products face significant challenges, just because playing safe. Sure, they are still selling here and there but not for long.

As Dan Pappalardo wrote recently:

“Disruptive messaging is not as effective – or tolerated – as it once was. So instead of asserting a one-way brand message, marketers are now creating relevant experiences to organically align brands with consumers. These experiences themselves are becoming brand platforms; an energy drink is a lifestyle and a computer company is a content provider. Today, brands represent much more than their product or service.”

So how do the brands get the attention of the customers without ads then?

Create remarkable experiences.

Reach the consumer when she is in control and provide her a remarkable experience that she will enjoy and share with friends and beyond. Giving the user every bit of opportunity to communicate and engage with the brand is also the other key.

Image by Hugh Mcleod

Here is the take by Seth Godin on remarkable:

Merely pushing an idea via relentless ad spend is no longer sufficient. The alternative: remarkable products and services, where ‘remarkable’ means something that someone is making a remark about. When someone remarks on what you’re doing, the word spreads, replacing the predictable and expensive Mad-Men strategy of advertising with the unpredictable but potentially magical effect of significant word of mouth–ideas that spread win.

When speaking about the every bit of opportunity, we cannot miss the mobile experiences anymore. Jonathan Gardner talks about the exponential growth of mobile on his blog posting regarding the 4 Best Practices for Digital Marketers in 2013 on mashable.

I’m looking forward to seeing how brands leverage location technology and social-media data to amp up their marketing, especially as mobile commerce generates more attention. In 2013, we just have to put the consumer first, which means engagement on their number-one (probably mobile) device, contextual relevance and need anticipation. Chances are you’ve got the data; now use it.

Why not start building a remarkable experience today?

QR Codes, In or Out?

Advertising, Mobile, Product, Promotion
There is no question that QR (quick response) codes are much more visible now in every part of our lives. Thanks to Toyota, we can now attach virtually any kind of data to physical products with the help of QR codes.

But the question still remains on how effective they are used and how much value they add to users (User Experience is the new King now and content is just part of it)! QR Codes, the most common of the mobile barcode formats, have not fulfilled their promise and connected with large audiences, according to a new eMarketer report, “QR Codes: Marketers Keep Hitting ‘Go,’ but Consumer Adoption Still Slow.

One reason of not fulfilling the promise is simple: Users expectation (discount codes, offers) does not match with brand’s offerings (more information about the products) with QR codes.
The other problem is simply the design issues: Ugly QR codes that do not clearly explain the benefits, QR code leading to a complicated desktop site, QR code on the underground (where we cannot get signal), QR code eight feet up on an out-of-home installation and the best, a QR code on the side of a bus where you cannot (better not) scan anything while driving.

So, before actually answering on how we can increase the adoption and find solutions to the above problems (which are easy fixes), first elaborate if we really need the QR codes in the first place? The underlying idea is to connect a physical object with digital content (either a coupon, information, mobile site, you name it). What other options do we have?

Barcodes are cheap like QR codes and everyone knows what they are, but they cannot store much data. However, still some companies like Amazon makes good use of it. Augmented Reality: hot technology with many dimensional data presentation capabilities, however, very few apps are ready to use it and very few people know what they are. Displays or simply the sales representatives are the most visible ones of course but the most costly at the same time as well. Tags and NFC are also great individual custom made solutions if you design properly. When you look at the Interactivity Gap chart, QR codes have many advantages over many other medium, but the value provided by brands today will determine its longevity in the market place. Once creative ideas pop up and the awareness increases, Augmented Reality is ready to take over the buzz…

Best practices:

1. Have a remarkable value proposition.
Whether the proposed value is create a buzz at certain locations (e.g. Guinness), increase awareness of your product (and ingredients, e.g. Taco Bell), or offer something special, make sure that it is something users want.

2. Make sure you have a simple but effective design to explain the benefit and show your brand.
Every QR code is an opportunity to add value to your brand and everyone likes to know what’s in it for them immediately. You don’t have to use the regular QR codes, there are more alternatives now like Snaptag – see below…

3. Explain how to see the content of the QR code.
Chances are they might not know what a QR code is, tell them what they need and how to do it. Don’t do the one on the left!!

4. Show the QR code on a visible and easy place to scan.
Don’t put it on a moving object please. No kidding, there are many QR codes on buses, please don’t do that. Make sure users will have a signal at the place. Put the code at the eye level for best performance.

5. Make sure the QR code will work.
Use a short URL. The shorter the URL the simpler the QR, the simpler the QR the quicker it will scan (the scan will activate). Use dark colors as the contrast helps scan quicker. Test on as many devices.

6. Track all the activity and optimize the QR code campaign based on results.
Use Google Analytics or another tracking service. Track your conversions and attribute conversions to your QR code. Don’t forget, you are only successful at what you measure.

Bonus: See how Snap Tag works (create cool QR codes)

Happy coding now…

Trends in location based services

Local, Mobile, Social

Location based services (LBS) are nothing new on the web. But what’s new is that there are now very interesting devices that can integrate with these services and provide great value for the user even while people are on the go – which makes the location based applications more valuable. Basically by giving the places and things we interact with the capability to understand who is interacting with them, and in what manner, we can enable a whole new generation of real-world user experiences.

There are many technologies how to connect physical objects with digital data/content, like RFID, NFC, even sound and light. But rather than the technology, what fascinate me are the applications/things that you can do with these connections:

  • Product + Software: This is one of the most exciting areas. So many great experiences are being designed by adding the location based services on top of existing products. Nike + iPod is one of the pioneers in designing a hardware + software application that can track your running cycles and compare with others with a simple device attached to your shoes. Now Nike has expanded the Nike+ concept to many of his shoes with Fuelband. Siri now offers location based reminders on iPhones. It is sometimes not a bad idea to remind yourself to turn off your cell phone when you get home – and an app can do that now. Google has recently introduced Google Now. Google Now claims to get you just the right information at just the right time (and at the right location) – sounds cool.
  • Gadgets: The difference between the gadgets and the products are that the gadgets are only designed to provide you a specific digital experience for the user. Google glass now will carry all the digital experience along with you – you will be able to broadcast your life real-time – or you will be able to get digital content or information while looking at the physical products and places. However they are not alone in this arena, Apple and Olympus have some plans to. How about contact lens idea that could act as part of a wearable display which is already in the works…
  • Augmented Reality: AR is one of the best tools, technologies to bridge the gap between online and offline experience. Starbucks had a great campaign during the last holiday season. But Starbucks is not the only one with great AR campaigns. However still the power of the AR is not used properly (for many reasons that I will address on my later posts) but I predict it to be really big with many other applications in retail stores soon.
  • Mobile Payments: NFCs are penetrating quickly into the smart phones and the physical wallets are doomed to disappear… So many things are already written about it, and there is still much more to it (a topic for one of my next posts).
  • Check-in applications: They are hot and plenty. Location based advertising and offers at the retail stores are becoming mainstream thanks to Foursquare and many other clever apps. They are the next big leap forward for the retail stores to finally bridge the gap between online and offline world.
  • Mobile Content: Content is still the king! Now, it is available everywhere. Best Buy is experimenting with mobile content at physical locations.

These services, products and applications are just a small part of what is going on at the LBS world. However, the idea is simple: connect physical place, things with the digital content and information to create a great social experience for the user.

Hero or villain?

Local, Mobile, Promotion, Social

Whether e-commerce is a hero or a villain to brick and mortar retailers is a long debate. When you consider and compare the trends in publishing industry, the brick and mortars don’t look like in a very favorable position. However, these are two very different players with different business models and physical retailers have one very significant advantage over the other: social interaction.

E-commerce has grown in double digits in the last decade – and it will continue growing in the next one. As bricks and mortars, it is extremely hard (if not possible) to win by price or convenience against the online retailers. Online retailers are more efficient, because they lack physical locations, and so can offer better prices. Shopping online is also more convenient. Over the web, consumers can shop anywhere they are, read reviews, compare products, get friend feedback and make intelligent decisions, day or night. Basically the user experience online is far better than the one in-store at the moment. But it won’t be the case for long.

People still visit the stores maybe even more than ever. One of the main drivers is to get the feeling of the product, to touch, to play and/or wear it – which shows that the sensory appeal is still such a strong motivator. But as important as the product we buy and the desire to explore new things, the environment and the social interaction we have during shopping is also another strong driver of foot traffic to bricks and mortars – which is lacking in e-commerce retailers including amazon.

Apple showed us all that if you design a great retail experience inside a store (not just a product, but a display, space, customer service, even a great check out system where you can hang out and ask questions, learn something during shopping), you will attract a significant foot traffic no matter how the economy is. But still even Apple would not be totally immune from the digital channels if they allowed different pricing on different channels. So, pricing is still a major factor of the success of any brand and distribution channel.

Social ExperienceHowever if you take the best features of online and offline experience and design a great social experience – social interaction with a great user experience – in-store with the same convenience as online browsing, then you have a chance to overcome the pricing aspect of the 4Ps. The best medium to bridge the gap between online and offline experience is simply your cell phone. You are always on the go, connected and informed with your cell phone while you are in-store. So, why not design an experience that can attract the mighty six senses to your brick and mortar stores to succeed in this digitally connected world?