Sections

Level-Up Your Customer Experience: Lessons From The Gaming Industry

Mark de Bruijn

From the first teaser trailer to the final level, the gaming industry demonstrates that it knows exactly how to engage and cultivate the interest (and loyalty) of its customers. And, it’s a goldmine: there are an estimated 1.5 billion gamers, and this year revenue from the global games industry will be around $100 billion.

So, what can other industries learn from this example? Developers and game designers are under huge pressure to create a new experience each time, one that gamers are willing to pay for. Competition in the ceaselessly growing industry is enormous. For every hit, there are countless games no one plays. This constant “survival of the fittest” has a major advantage – many games offer a customer experience that has been perfected down to the finest detail.

Here are five ways gaming takes customer engagement to the next level.

1. Promotion

Popular franchises like Pokémon, Grand Theft Auto, and Battlefield are constantly preoccupied with building a relationship with their customers. Real fans know well in advance that they want to buy a game. They are teased with new features, sneak peeks, trailers, artwork, events, and promotional campaigns. Early birds get discounts and unique content, like new levels and rare weapons.

Games companies understand that customer retention is an ongoing process. And they know that it’s easier and cheaper to sell something to an existing customer than to a new one. Franchises are strong brands with recognizable characters that appeal to the gamer. It’s only a matter of galvanizing the fans into action at the right moment – for example, for the holiday season.

Foster your existing customers, whet their appetites with news of your new products or services, and reward the early birds. And just keep on building a strong brand!

2. First impressions

New mobile games appear daily and can often be downloaded for free. However, research has shown that around a quarter of the apps are opened only once. For that reason, making a good impression is very important for game developers. After all, you don’t get a second chance. That’s why a game is tested exhaustively before it’s launched.

A messy or un-intuitive interface, the lack of a tutorial, long loading times, poor performance, irritating advertising, and intrusive in-app selling can motivate people to delete a game instantly. But factors outside the game also play a role, like the description of its features, general evaluations, and the amount of space needed for installation.

Developing games is a question of testing, optimizing, and testing again. And that’s how companies should also approach their customer experience: only perfect is good enough.

3. Immersion

What actually makes a game good? Tastes differ, just as with films or music. But whether it’s a futuristic shooter, a strategic RPG, on an online word game with friends, a game has to be compelling or “immersive.” There’s no magic wand for creating an immersive experience. But there are certainly elements which contribute to it:

  • Gameplay
    • Good gameplay is crucial. Some games feature deep gameplay mechanics or have a high difficulty level, others opt for addictive elements like puzzles, and still others put the emphasis on the competitive factor (who’s the best?). Whatever they do, the game’s mechanisms must entertain the player.
    • Gameplay elements enrich the customer experience. There are countless examples of gamification. For example, at Starbucks you can earn stars with purchases. The Spanish bank BBVA lets customers perform tasks to promote the use of Internet banking. And the running app Nike+ Run Club challenges sports enthusiasts to measure themselves against others.
  • Graphics and sound
    • A brilliant-looking game that’s enhanced with varied musical and sound effects creates a credible world that gamers want to plunge into. If you constantly encounter visual errors and strange animations, or you’re irritated by poor voice actors and repetitive music, it detracts from the immersion.
    • High visual production values are also a unique selling point for companies, and not only in terms of their products and services. So, for instance, a slow or ugly (mobile) website can upset the customer journey and can motivate potential customers to head to a competitor.
  • Story
    • A huge attraction in many games is the story. Interesting characters, exciting developments, and humorous dialogues ensure that the gamer feels emotionally involved and is curious to discover what will happen. The choices you make, along with the way of playing, leads to a personal experience.
    • Marketing is increasingly concerned with emotion. You persuade the modern consumer not with superlatives, but with storytelling: a good story, which he or she would like to be part of. The interaction between customer and brand is one and the same. Buying stems from that.

Immersion is also very important for the customer experience. The process from orientation to buying and use doesn’t only have to be smooth. It must also be absorbing, personal, and even fun.

4. Customer behavior

Game developers are extremely proficient at analyzing customer behavior. The free-to-play model with in-app purchases has accorded this a completely new dimension. How long does the average gamer play? What type of content and what offers open wallets? What notifications are effective to get you to play again?

Research has shown that just 0.19 percent of mobile gamers account for half of all revenues. They are referred to jokingly as “whales.” Games companies pull out all the stops to land these meaty fish. Sometimes digital items are even developed specially for one whale. You might wonder whether this is ethical, but that gamer is certainly given the royal treatment.

Analyzing customer behavior offers valuable insights with which you can improve the customer experience. And it helps each company determine which customers are really worthwhile.

5. Feedback

Certainly with mobile games, it’s entirely normal to ask the gamer for feedback. This has all sorts of benefits. A positive review can be just enough to persuade people to try an app. But bad reviews with complaints and criticism can also be very valuable. A developer can then see immediately what he has to change.

Even better is if the feedback arrives during the development. That’s why players of previous games are often invited to beta-test a new title – an excellent way to bind gamers at an early stage and get focused feedback from the target group. It’s also an economical way to spot bugs.

Every company benefits from feedback. Take every sign from customers seriously, both positive and negative. And let them test new products, for instance in exchange for a discount.

Business can learn lots from the games industry, but the customer experience is not a game. The biggest difference? Unfortunately your company doesn’t have an endless number of lives. Once your customers walk away, it really is game over.

Here’s another industry to model: Improving The Customer Experience: It’s Time To Look To Fintech.

Comments

What Are The New Rules For Engaging An Online Community?

Scott Steinberg

Marketing and public relations’ role within professional organizations has shifted drastically with the advent of the online community. Now there’s a greater emphasis placed on storytelling. Traditionally, organizations would simply broadcast news or channel it through the media – observe the reaction, then respond on a flexible timetable. Today, branding isn’t simply about beaming out a message. It’s about building trust with end users, telling a compelling story, and creating two-way social streams of dialogue.

While the media matrix and consumption patterns have irrevocably shifted, the value of powerful communication strategies has only become more vital. In an online community and multitasking world, companies must first find ways to connect with increasingly fragmented audiences and build empathy and awareness. They must create channels for customers and influencers to help organizations engage with brands and products in exciting new ways.

Customer impressions carry increasing weight, with brand impressions now traveling greater distances in less time. Users increasingly look to their personal networks for expertise and validation as opposed to traditional media channels.

Traditional marketing and public relations principles now play an increased role. Practitioners can excel in the modern world – provided they adapt to changing markets and best practices.

The book Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World offers several tips as you nurture positive conversation in an online community.

Establish a social media policy

Make it clear to employees what is okay to share online, how and when to do so, and the most appropriate manner in which to conduct outreach efforts. With every employee serving as a brand ambassador, training should begin the first day on the job to reinforce the importance of these organizational values. Detail formal rules of engagement with the online community and explain what’s expected from hires.

Develop an internal program to teach social media literacy and aptitude, provide continued education efforts, and reward employees for successfully practicing these skills. You may wish to consider regular skills refreshes, training sessions, certifications, and gamification-based programs to reinforce these maxims.

Be specific about what’s expected in terms of tone, attitude, end results, and output from your social media pros, and regularly monitor and assess how well they align with and meet these goals. Providing running feedback and commentary to help them grow and improve is vital to bolster performance in these areas. To this extent, you may wish to have team leaders provide sample tweets, posts, or updates to provide a sense of how to better shape these communications efforts.

For sake of clarity and assurance of appropriate conduct, post formal guidelines for communication within your own blogs, communities, and online venues, public-facing or otherwise. Having guidelines in place sets expectations upfront and helps you address any issues that may arise, such as having to ban argumentative users or remove inappropriate posts.

Set clear guidelines for interacting with the online community

Social media’s immediacy allows you to interact with customers without filters. However, policy and protocols set in place beforehand ensure professional and productive interactions. Understanding that some room must be given to operate between formal guidelines, make it clear to employees the appropriate rules of conduct when speaking directly to end users or customers, whether exchanges are B2B or B2C in nature.

Provide ongoing development and training to your team regarding these policies, especially for employees who manage social media efforts, outreach, and campaigns. Pass on learning and knowledge gained from direct frontline interactions with customers and promote positive transfer and enhance best practices.

Marketing campaigns and branding efforts should adhere to consistent guidelines. This ensures the right messages are sent and that your company is portrayed with the image and professionalism you desire. Outside of formal guidelines, practice basic rules of politeness, professionalism, and business etiquette online just as you would when engaging with customers face-to-face.

Identify which influencers to reach out to, and brief employees on the best methods for doing so. Through social media, you will likely also interact not just with individual customers, but also entire communities. As in real life, virtual group dynamics can differ greatly from one-on-one interactions.

Express your brand’s online personality

Be less formal, but adhere to your company’s rules and guidelines about your brand, message, and tone of voice, thus creating value for your online community. When people visit social media sites, they expect exchanges to be more personal, immediate, and engaging.

Be cognizant of post quality, taking care to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors. Note that kindness, courtesy, positivity, and empathy should be reflected in every post. Casual and fun doesn’t equate to flippant, glib, or self-centered. Think about how you or your brand may be perceived, and present yourself as affably and respectfully as possible.

Humor is appropriate to use, depending on context. Consider using only the same sort of humor that is appropriate for use in an office or business casual setting. Unless it is part of your brand’s marketing strategy, proceed with caution when using risqué or controversial statements.

Every employee is a brand ambassador in today’s socially driven world. Learn How to Weave Social Media Into the Fabric of the Business.

Comments

How To Master Social Media Marketing In 2017

Michael Brenner

Social media is a constantly evolving medium, from which sites are trending within your industry to the latest Facebook features and Instagram influencers – let alone the development of completely new social media platforms every time you turn on your laptop. How can modern marketers expect to keep up?

The secret is to embrace the change. After all, it is the rapid advancements and constant stream of innovations that have provided digital marketers with so much to work with in the first place. So, no, your social media marketing campaigns this year are not going to look the same as the ones you used in 2016—at least, not if you want to generate more leads and stand a chance against your competitors.

If you want to make an impact with your social media efforts, it is time to give your strategy a refresh. Here is what you need to know to master your social media marketing and to stay ahead of the trends in 2017.

Customize your use of major and niche social media sites

Facebook is still number one, and that isn’t going to change in 2017. In fact, Facebook itself is a world in itself to keep up to date with – in this year alone, it is predicted that Facebook Live will be monetized and that the Call to Action buttons for local business pages will be updated.

Currently the top five social media sites in terms of reach and impact are:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. Twitter
  4. Pinterest
  5. Tumblr

While these networks are important, there is also value in niche networks for many businesses. For example, DeviantArt is geared towards illustrators, designers, and other artists, as well as art enthusiasts – and has a huge network of 26,000,000. While this site might be useless for, say, an insurance brokerage, it would be incredibly powerful for a photography school. Other examples include eToro for finance professionals, Wayn for travel and tourism, 43 Things for health and wellness brands—and the list goes on as more networks are created and gain active users.

This year, instead of trying to have your brand on every major site and spreading your resources too thin, create a strategy that makes sense for your industry – and your business.

Start with the biggest. With 1.79 billion monthly active users, Facebook is a wise choice.

Next, choose one or two other major networks. Visual industries like clothing and apparel, food, and travel are well-suited to sites like Pinterest and Instagram, while service-oriented industries may gain more leads from LinkedIn and Twitter.

Finally, consider a niche social media network. Many have several million active users and may offer a unique way for you to reach out to leads and to build brand awareness.

Make your video more sophisticated

pixabay

Throughout 2016, the use of video on social media grew, but its impact exploded. A recent survey by Wyzowl found that 84% of consumers said they have been convinced to make a purchase choice after viewing a brand’s video – and 91% claimed to have watched a video to learn about a product or service they were interested in. Now consider that only 63% of businesses taking advantage of video right now.

Videos that engage with viewers tend to be very effective. While customer testimonials and demonstration videos will always have their place, add challenges, puzzles, games, and surveys to your video content, along with informational videos, to keep people interested and talking on social media. Buzzfeed’s Tasty does an excellent job of this.

For some businesses, live streaming can make a strong impact. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all being used by social media savvy brands to engage with consumers in real-time with interviews, Q&A sessions, and brand events.

If you haven’t already branched into video, 2017 is the year. If you are already using promotional videos on your social media channels, then this is the year to make them better. The use of video for social media marketing is no longer new. This year, it’s about coming up with creative, fresh ideas that will capture your audience and inspire leads.

Focus on the influencers

A business could run eleven different social media accounts, with Twitter updates every two hours, Facebook postings twice a day, vibrant Pinterest boards, and an active presence on LinkedIn. But they still would not make the same impact that a couple of mentions by one major social media influencer would create. The big influencers have legions of followers who often look to their voice as a sort of industry guiding force.

While in the past, consistent regular posting was the way to go, make sure you aren’t overextending your marketing efforts with too many platforms – and too many posts. You may not just be draining your resources, but these resources may be better spent with a more concentrated focal point, like an industry influencer.

Furious Pete (TV, food, and fitness) has more than 5 million YouTube followers. Kristina Bazan (fashion) has more than 2.4 million Instagram followers. Jake Paul (millennials) has more than 17 million social media followers. A social media mention from an influencer, or better yet, a video post that mentions your product or service is going to reach a profoundly broad and engaged audience.

Many major companies are now partnering – and paying – the big influencers to promote their product. If you want to master social media, pay attention to who the influencers are in your market.

They don’t have to be the biggest names around, but with a few hundred thousand followers you can make an impact if you can get these people to share, like, tweet, or feature your content in some way. Use resources like BuzzSumo and find the top blogs in your industry to get a better idea of who the influencers are that you may want to connect with.

Examine your social media ads – a lot

Ads continue to be a popular social media marketing tool as they offer marketers a cost-effective way not just to build brand awareness, but also to test their products and messaging and to get important feedback for building future campaigns.

Facebook ads still offer the best ROI by far – 95.8%, compared to 63.5% on Twitter and 2.1% on Snapchat. However, these numbers can shift quickly, especially as the newer networks like Snapchat and Instagram blossom in 2017.

Managing director of Traktek Partners Cyril Lemaire warns that Twitter will see a double-digit decline in active users this year. While this may or may not come to pass, it is important to be agile and to switch gears midstream if your ads aren’t working.

Make sure you are consistently measuring the results of your advertising campaigns, and track changes over time. This will help your team make smart decisions when it comes to social media advertising.

Take a fresh approach to your social media marketing efforts in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are available right now. No longer does it make sense to just chug away with your accounts and follow general trends. Your marketing efforts should be both more sophisticated and much more creative. The brands that can master these qualities will leap ahead in 2017.

For more insight on social media strategies, see How To Weave Social Media Into The Fabric Of The Business.

Image: pixabay

Comments

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.

How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization

Christopher Koch


Do you feel me?

Just as once-novel voice recognition technology is now a ubiquitous part of human–machine relationships, so too could mood recognition technology (aka “affective computing”) soon pervade digital interactions.

Through the application of machine learning, Big Data inputs, image recognition, sensors, and in some cases robotics, artificially intelligent systems hunt for affective clues: widened eyes, quickened speech, and crossed arms, as well as heart rate or skin changes.




Emotions are big business

The global affective computing market is estimated to grow from just over US$9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020.

Source: “Affective Computing Market 2015 – Technology, Software, Hardware, Vertical, & Regional Forecasts to 2020 for the $42 Billion Industry” (Research and Markets, 2015)

Customer experience is the sweet spot

Forrester found that emotion was the number-one factor in determining customer loyalty in 17 out of the 18 industries it surveyed – far more important than the ease or effectiveness of customers’ interactions with a company.


Source: “You Can’t Afford to Overlook Your Customers’ Emotional Experience” (Forrester, 2015)


Humana gets an emotional clue

Source: “Artificial Intelligence Helps Humana Avoid Call Center Meltdowns” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2016)

Insurer Humana uses artificial intelligence software that can detect conversational cues to guide call-center workers through difficult customer calls. The system recognizes that a steady rise in the pitch of a customer’s voice or instances of agent and customer talking over one another are causes for concern.

The system has led to hard results: Humana says it has seen an 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, a 63% improvement in agent engagement, and a 6% improvement in first-contact resolution.


Spread happiness across the organization

Source: “Happiness and Productivity” (University of Warwick, February 10, 2014)

Employers could monitor employee moods to make organizational adjustments that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Happy employees are around 12% more productive.




Walking on emotional eggshells

Whether customers and employees will be comfortable having their emotions logged and broadcast by companies is an open question. Customers may find some uses of affective computing creepy or, worse, predatory. Be sure to get their permission.


Other limiting factors

The availability of the data required to infer a person’s emotional state is still limited. Further, it can be difficult to capture all the physical cues that may be relevant to an interaction, such as facial expression, tone of voice, or posture.



Get a head start


Discover the data

Companies should determine what inferences about mental states they want the system to make and how accurately those inferences can be made using the inputs available.


Work with IT

Involve IT and engineering groups to figure out the challenges of integrating with existing systems for collecting, assimilating, and analyzing large volumes of emotional data.


Consider the complexity

Some emotions may be more difficult to discern or respond to. Context is also key. An emotionally aware machine would need to respond differently to frustration in a user in an educational setting than to frustration in a user in a vehicle.

 


 

download arrowTo learn more about how affective computing can help your organization, read the feature story Empathy: The Killer App for Artificial Intelligence.


Comments

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing. Share your thoughts with Chris on Twitter @Ckochster.

Tags:

In An Agile Environment, Revenue Models Are Flexible Too

Todd Wasserman

In 2012, Dollar Shave Club burst on the scene with a cheeky viral video that won praise for its creativity and marketing acumen. Less heralded at the time was the startup’s pricing model, which swapped traditional retail for subscriptions.

For as low as $1 a month (for five two-bladed cartridges), consumers got a package in the mail that saved them a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store. Dollar Shave Club received the ultimate vindication for the idea in 2016 when Unilever purchased the company for $1 billion.

As that example shows, new technology creates the possibility for new pricing models that can disrupt existing industries. The same phenomenon has occurred in software, in which the cloud and Web-based interfaces have ushered in Software as a Service (SaaS), which charges users on a monthly basis, like a utility, instead of the typical purchase-and-later-upgrade model.

Pricing, in other words, is a variable that can be used to disrupt industries. Other options include usage-based pricing and freemium.

Products as services, services as products

There are basically two ways that businesses can use pricing to disrupt the status quo: Turn products into services and turn services into products. Dollar Shave Club and SaaS are two examples of turning products into services.

Others include Amazon’s Dash, a bare-bones Internet of Things device that lets consumers reorder items ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Play-Doh. Another example is Rent the Runway, which rents high-end fashion items for a weekend rather than selling the items. Trunk Club offers a twist on this by sending items picked out by a stylist to users every month. Users pay for what they want and send back the rest.

The other option is productizing a service. Restaurant franchising is based on this model. While the restaurant offers food service to consumers, for entrepreneurs the franchise offers guidance and brand equity that can be condensed into a product format. For instance, a global HR firm called Littler has productized its offerings with Littler CaseSmart-Charges, which is designed for in-house attorneys and features software, project management tools, and access to flextime attorneys.

As that example shows, technology offers opportunities to try new revenue models. Another example is APIs, which have become a large source of revenue for companies. The monetization of APIs is often viewed as a side business that encompasses a wholly different pricing model that’s often engineered to create huge user bases with volume discounts.

Not a new idea

Though technology has opened up new vistas for businesses seeking alternate pricing models, Rajkumar Venkatesan, a marketing professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, points out that this isn’t necessarily a new idea. For instance, King Gillette made his fortune in the early part of the 20th Century by realizing that a cheap shaving device would pave the way for a recurring revenue stream via replacement razor blades.

“The new variation was the Keurig,” said Venkatesan, referring to the coffee machine that relies on replaceable cartridges. “It has started becoming more prevalent in the last 10 years, but the fundamental model has been there.” For businesses, this can be an attractive model not only for the recurring revenue but also for the ability to cross-sell new goods to existing customers, Venkatesan said.

Another benefit to a subscription model is that it can also supply first-party data that companies can use to better understand and market to their customers. Some believe that Dollar Shave Club’s close relationship with its young male user base was one reason for Unilever’s purchase, for instance. In such a cut-throat market, such relationships can fetch a high price.

To learn more about how you can monetize disruption, watch this video overview of the new SAP Hybris Revenue Cloud.

Comments