Simple Game Dynamics Drive Online Commerce

By Neil Glassman 

Debi Kleiman, President, MITX

This guest post is jointly presented by Tim Putnam, VP of client services at Moontoast and Debi Kleiman, president of Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) and head honcho for FutureM. Join their conversations on Twitter on @Moontoast and @drkleiman.

Online behavior has shifted over the last several years. People are spending less time browsing and more time consuming information from within social and publishing networks. Yet brands, by and large, continue to try to pull people from within these experiences to their websites in hopes of converting a sale. This brand behavior disrupts the consumer’s experience on a social or publishing network.

Brands must move from this “pull” mentality to a “push” mentality in which they take offers into the social stream to meet consumers where they are spending the majority of their time online. However, the mindset of setting up shop within a social network must change as well.

For a few years brands managers have been struggling to define ROI from the effort they put into their social presence. Consumers feel affinity for brands and invite them to become part of their network by “Liking” them on Facebook or following them on Twitter.

Tim Putnam, VP of Client Services, Moontoast

People don’t go to social networks to catalog shop. They don’t “Like” brands on Facebook to get access to their entire web store. Brands have an amazing opportunity to build affinity and reward (yes, reward) people who publicly display their affinity. Commerce is one way to reward these communities; by building in simple game dynamics, commerce can actually enhance this experience.

Great marketing has game dynamics tied to it. Offers that are successful within the social stream are using game mechanics whether intentional or not. Perhaps the psychology of game mechanics in social is summed up by SCVNGR’s “social fabrics of games” dynamic: “the idea that people like one another better after they’ve played games with them, have a higher level of trust and a great willingness to work together.”

People tend to rely on friends they trust when making purchase decisions. Think of this in a commerce context with the success of Gilt Groupe and Rue La La, where inviting friends to participate is a critical component to the success of the deals each company can offer. Gilt Groupe and Rue La La and the like reward users when their friends sign up and make a purchase by giving future discounts. Evidenced by this, game mechanics are already being used in commerce and we are excited to see these principles expand.

Using Game Dynamics on Facebook

Moontoast has developed a new campaign for the iconic shoe company Tretorn. Tretorn is running a campaign in which consumers can buy their size shoe on that day of the month for only $20. For example, size 6 was on sale the 6th, size 7 was on sale the 7th, and so on. Utilizing our “Flash Deal” functionality adds a gamification-driven fun, playful incentive to buy, and allows Tretorn to control and display the time left on a deal (in this case each deal lasts 24 hours). This store is embedded into Tretorn’s Facebook Page.

This concept helps retailers extend into distributed channels including social networks, content networks, ad networks and, in the case of Tretorn, even directly on their Facebook news feed. The result? Retailers are opening new revenue streams and can transact where until now they have been able to only chat with customers. Tretorn is rewarding loyal fans of the brand right on the channel where they are engaging with the company. The goal is to turn customers to brand ambassadors.

Let’s look at a few other easy techniques:

  • Group Buying — A “Communal Discovery” technique where a deal is not tipped until a certain number of people commit to buying. These deals are often extremely viral as everyone who participates is rewarded with a significant discount.
  • Regular Rewards — An “Interval Reward Schedule” technique in which a brand teaches a community to expect an offer on a regular basis. This could be monthly, weekly, or any other interval. Example: Tuesday at 10 a.m. save 20 percent on this week’s featured item.
  • Satisfaction — By being part of a social community that is “rewarded” with offers exclusive to that community, the “Pride” game dynamic washes over a user. “I belong to this community and have access to special deals created for me.”

This is simple gaming motivation. Two out of the three deals can be executed today with no special technology to make them work. They are philosophical game dynamics that can be applied right now. The point being, introducing game mechanics in a commerce-reward scenario is easy.

In truth, many techniques simply require creativity and willingness to reward social communities, but also recognition that these communities have power and they require meaningful connection points.