Why retailers may want to gamify the consumer payment process
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Everyone who has ever been given a repetitive and laborious chore knows the value of gamification. Though increasing or modifying the challenges and rewards of a plain activity, we can make it far more palatable to our easily-bored minds, improving our ability to focus on it and follow it through to completion.
And when a generation of kids hooked on Super Mario and Zelda grew into adults, turning video gaming from a niche hobby to an enormous and lucrative industry, the understanding and enjoyment of electronic gaming elements became fixtures in popular culture. These days, you'll find it hard to locate an adult who hasn't at least played some kind of Facebook game.
So if your payment process isn't firing on all cylinders, can you draw inspiration from games to make it more engaging and compelling for the average user?
Well, yes. You can. And should, in fact. Here's an introduction to some of the things you can do to boost the performance of your payment system using gaming elements.
Make progress clear and linear
We innately gain a great deal of satisfaction from pursuing goals, however tough they are to reach, but only if we know how to make meaningful progress and how to track how far we've come. Games do this masterfully; they provide contextual clues about where to go, and offer things like checkpoints and achievement lists to keep players aware of where they've been.
As your customers make it through the various steps of a payment process (reviewing the contents of their carts, going to the checkout, confirming details, selecting payment options, and finalizing their payments), it needs to be incredibly easy for them to tell, at any given point, what they need to do next, and what they've accomplished up to that point.
If you can manage that, it will make them far less likely to become frustrated or change their mind about the course of action they're taking.
Incentivize completion with rewards
If you've ever found yourself playing a game long past the point at which you intended to get some sleep, feeling compelled to carry on to beat just one more level, or reach just one more checkpoint, then you know how tough it is to step away from a steady feed of rewards.
It doesn't take a lot to hit that craving. It can even be something as basic as a simple animation, or a pleasing chime, or a message of commendation and encouragement. It only needs to serve as a response to their actions that confirms they're doing what they should be doing.
By distributing these rewards throughout your process, you can make it a smoother and more rhythmic experience for your users, making them more likely to want to do it all over again.
For even greater effect, you can also use rewards such as discounts or free gifts, either at partially-randomized intervals or as fixed responses to specific controllable conditions (such as placing ten prior orders, or spending a certain amount of money, or reaching a particular level of a loyalty program).
In the case of the former, you'll establish in the minds of your customers that shopping with you over time will yield some additional benefits. And in the case of the latter, you'll give your customers a way to compete, both with themselves and with others, for greater value.
Use the fear of missing out
Every online sales process will have its sticking points; the places where its persuasive powers ebb and prospective customers drop out. It's at these points that you can make particularly effective use of the fear of missing out.
If you've ever seen a message saying something like "complete your order within 3 hours to receive it tomorrow!" or "act quickly — only 2 left in stock!,"you'll know how it works.
This also goes for messages like "14 other people are looking at this," which both reinforce that you're not alone in being interested in the item and suggest that you might get left behind if you don't make a purchase very promptly.
Whether it's fear of missing out on an item, a trend, or social acceptance, it's a powerful feeling indeed, and a hugely effective e-commerce tool.
Give customers meaningful choices
Sometimes, restricting choices in retail is the best course of action. This is certainly the case for cheap or basic products, as customers simply want to buy them and get on with their lives as efficiently as possible.
But it isn't the case when it comes to more expensive items. Provided you keep them clear and easy to understand, you should absolutely provide options for configuration, because we like being given the freedom to make meaningful choices about our purchases.
Video games often rely heavily upon non-interactive cut scenes, and it can be incredibly infuriating to be forced to sit through a dramatic ten-minute scene with no ability to do anything. Giving us some control but then taking it away from us is a great way of killing our investment in a game. The same goes for shopping.
So what choices can you offer? Consider things like quantity, color, style, material, size, and gift-wrapping. Regardless of the product, there will inevitably be something you can let the user choose in order to raise their level of engagement.
When they've placed an order, they'll feel a small sense of accomplishment that they were able to make it their order. And that will drive them to buy again.
These are just four tactics we can glean from the finely-honed mechanics of video games; there is much more that can be learned about keeping users engaged and satisfied with their online shopping activities.
Why not take a close look at your payment process to see how it could benefit from gamification? Think carefully about how you could reframe the steps to make them more interesting. It could prove very lucrative.