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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.

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Amazon And Whole Foods: The New Terrain Ahead

Jenn Vande Zande

We all felt the ground shake recently with the news that Amazon plans to acquire Whole Foods.

Similar to an earthquake, while living through the experience is shocking, there were ways to predict that it might have been coming, and ways to prepare for it. While the after-tremors of this surprise announcement are being felt far and wide (and will be for a long time), right now is the time to take a deep breath and realize that the landscape is changing, and that you can navigate through it.

Next week we’ll offer in-depth assessments of what this means for the long and short term, but for today, it’s time for reflection and a renewing of your strength and dedication to the market and the customer.

Here are the facts as we see them:

This is a game-changer

How many times has the term “game-changer” been used with Amazon? Countless. However, Amazon has been ramping up their entry into the grocery retail market. “Amazon has been steadily breaking into grocery, the largest segment of retail, with AmazonPantry, AmazonFresh, AmazonGo, and most recently their AmazonFresh Pickup pilot. Just yesterday they released a Dash Wand that can not only be used to scan products into a shopping list or cart, but also includes Alexa for find recipes, get product recommendations, and place orders,” said Stephanie Waters, retail industry principal with SAP Hybris, “And now, today, this.”

Stephanie noted, “Some grocers haven’t been overly concerned about Amazon, saying they don’t know how to do fresh and they don’t have stores. That all changed today when they acquired one of the world’s experts in fresh and 465 stores across North America and the UK. The grocery industry will never be the same. We are on the cusp of a quickly moving environment and I think we will see the acceleration of supermarket chains innovating their business models and modernizing their organizations.”

Price wars are coming

Experts in the industry have been aware that a battle was brewing when it comes to pricing and grocery retail, but today’s announcement brings grocery retailers to the front line.

Cutting prices isn’t the answer. You need to deliver an outstanding customer experience and maximize operational efficiencies.

Data: the not-so-secret weapon

Many grocery retailers partnered with Instacart to provide fulfillment services, thereby turning over their customer data to a third-party vendor rather than retaining and using that data. Today should mark a shift in how grocers proceed with this process.

It remains to be seen what impact the Amazon acquisition will have on the Instacart and Whole Food partnership, but taking back control of both the customer experience and data derived from it will be a key element in getting through this disruption in the industry.

Fewer customers walking into stores and ordering online from the retailer equates to lower slotting fees, which means a significant crack in one of the foundations of grocery retailer bottom lines.

Online is the new frontier

It’s hard to believe that there are grocery retailers who haven’t made the leap to online, but they exist. “The news of this acquisition today only accelerates the online grocery forecast which is estimated to grab 20% of grocery by 2025,” said Waters, “retailers who are not online risk losing market share. Period. Full stop.”

Prepare to fight for your customer

Today is a day to recognize that a long battle lies ahead. You have to be prepared to fight for your customer, and you need the tools and strength to do it. It’s time to take a deep breath and assess where you are and where you need to be.

It’s been noted before, but bears repeating over and over: If you evolve your business model to include online retail but you ignore the customer experience, you have gained nothing, and could even lose customers.

What’s next?

Watch this space next week, when we’ll do some deep-dives into what all of this means. In the meantime, know that you can still thrive, and that SAP Hybris can help.

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How Mobile Apps Power Up On-Demand Startups

Granner Smith

On-demand is set to transform the mobile commerce entrepreneurial space. Whether you’re looking for taxi bookings, food orders, healthcare services, home maintenance, business info, or more, the app store has a solution for practically every service you can think of, and smartphone owners are more than willing to use these mobile apps. While innovative startups are already trying to take the market by storm, there are still countless opportunities available for people looking to make their mark. This means there’s a phenomenal growth outlook for e-commerce startups that provide unique services on-demand. On the other hand, there are equally big challenges to overcome, as the competition is daunting.

Understanding the basics of on-demand business

Many opportunities and challenges of on-demand service startups are similar to the those of conventional e-commerce businesses. The difference is how services are delivered – as the name suggests, on-demand businesses deliver services to the buyer when, how, and where they need them.

The unique selling proposition of on-demand (compared to traditional e-commerce) lies in its convenience and spontaneity. To be successful, on-demand startups are tasked with creating a unique business idea that has sustainability, scalability, and profitability over a period of time.

Before you venture into this space, it’s important to understand the on-demand service business model, which is based on the following components:

  1. Identify a pain point (demand): Identifying and solving a pain point is the basis of any business model. The more unique your idea, the better its chances of survival and success.
  1. Determine whether your service is instant or scheduled: Once you have a business idea, you have to work on how you’ll provide the service you are promising. One consideration is whether the service is instantly delivered or scheduled. For instance, food delivery is an instant service with the customer expecting a short wait time. Scheduled service could be an airline booking for a future point of time. Startups providing instant services must have adequate capacity and supply to meet excess demand as needed.
  1. Find a reliable staff supply: Meeting that latter point requires a steady and reliable source of staff and supplies. On the staffing side, startups may choose between contracted workers and freelancers. While contracted staff provide reliability, freelancers may be more cost-effective. Startups should try to strike an equilibrium. Begin with more stable contractual supply on a small scale and gradually add freelance support to scale to your growth.
  1. Strengthen the core: Once the operational side of the business is taken care of, you need to strengthen your core with the right technology, meaning the mobile app that links you with potential customers.
  1. Planning and patience: Finally, when you have all the processes in place, it’s time to streamline them. The integration between offline (operations) and online (app technology) is a complex task, an art that’s mastered with patience and precision. Be prepared to invest a good deal of effort and money to make your business a success. At the same time, be realistic in your expectations, as overnight success is unlikely.

On-demand startups must be prepared for slow-paced growth, but the results can be phenomenal if they can sustain themselves through the testing phase. Creating a sound business strategy and adhering to it is the best way to proceed.

Mobile app: the lifeline of on-demand business

The entire concept of on-demand business is woven around mobility. Its services must be available anywhere and anytime, making the mobile app an essential ingredient of the business. An app is the platform by which the business accesses the market, provides services to users, and retains loyal customers. Here are the mobile app features needed to give users a great experience and bring business to the startup:

  • Convenience: On-demand service is synonymous with convenience. Convenience is not confined to delivering the service, but encompasses the entire performance of the app. The app should load quickly and have an excellent user interface. The entire checkout process should be quick and smooth, completed with a minimum number of clicks, and have few forms. Simplicity can be a deciding factor in engaging users, converting them, and bringing them back.
  • Live tracking: Real-time tracking that sends location-based offers to customers and enables them to track their order or service ensures customer satisfaction and helps build long-term loyalty.
  • Seamless payment: Customers prefer mobile apps that enable cashless transactions through the most popular, secure, and seamless payment options.
  • Reviews and ratings: Customer ratings are a key element in an on-demand business’ growth, as potential customers are more likely to have confidence in reviews and ratings provided by actual users. Real-time customer feedback is also an effective way for a business to continuously evaluate its performance.

A mobile app is a lifeline for an on-demand startup. It matches supply with demand to enable the business to deliver the service at the right place and the right time. For startups providing services on demand, the main driving force in growth is not money or inventory, but technology in the form of mobile apps.

For more on digital selling, see Primed: Prompting Customers to Buy.

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About Granner Smith

Granner Smith is a Professional writer. His skill set is vast, his greatest expertise revolve in the worlds of interactive design, development, UX, social media, brand identity design, content creation. He works with reputed company, Orange Mantra that provide web and mobility solution. Follow us on Twitter @Orangemantraggn Facebook @OrangeMantraindia

Taking Learning Back to School

Dan Wellers

 

Denmark spends most GDP on labor market programs at 3.3%.
The U.S. spends only 0.1% of it’s GDP on adult education and workforce retraining.
The number of post-secondary vocational and training institutions in China more than doubled from 2000 to 2014.
47% of U.S. jobs are at risk for automation.

Our overarching approach to education is top down, inflexible, and front loaded in life, and does not encourage collaboration.

Smartphone apps that gamify learning or deliver lessons in small bits of free time can be effective tools for teaching. However, they don’t address the more pressing issue that the future is digital and those whose skills are outmoded will be left behind.

Many companies have a history of effective partnerships with local schools to expand their talent pool, but these efforts are not designed to change overall systems of learning.


The Question We Must Answer

What will we do when digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence eject vast numbers of people from their current jobs, and they lack the skills needed to find new ones?

Solutions could include:

  • National and multinational adult education programs
  • Greater investment in technical and vocational schools
  • Increased emphasis on apprenticeships
  • Tax incentives for initiatives proven to close skills gaps

We need a broad, systemic approach that breaks businesses, schools, governments, and other organizations that target adult learners out of their silos so they can work together. Chief learning officers (CLOs) can spearhead this approach by working together to create goals, benchmarks, and strategy.

Advancing the field of learning will help every business compete in an increasingly global economy with a tight market for skills. More than this, it will mitigate the workplace risks and challenges inherent in the digital economy, thus positively influencing the future of business itself.


Download the executive brief Taking Learning Back to School.


Read the full article The Future of Learning – Keeping up With The Digital Economy

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is the Global Lead of Digital Futures at SAP, which explores how organizations can anticipate the future impact of exponential technologies. Dan has extensive experience in technology marketing and business strategy, plus management, consulting, and sales.

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Why Millennials Quit: Understanding A New Workforce

Shelly Kramer

Millennials are like mobile devices: they’re everywhere. You can’t visit a coffee shop without encountering both in large numbers. But after all, who doesn’t like a little caffeine with their connectivity? The point is that you should be paying attention to millennials now more than ever because they have surpassed Boomers and Gen-Xers as the largest generation.

Unfortunately for the workforce, they’re also the generation most likely to quit. Let’s examine a new report that sheds some light on exactly why that is—and what you can do to keep millennial employees working for you longer.

New workforce, new values

Deloitte found that two out of three millennials are expected to leave their current jobs by 2020. The survey also found that a staggering one in four would probably move on in the next year alone.

If you’re a business owner, consider putting four of your millennial employees in a room. Take a look around—one of them will be gone next year. Besides their skills and contributions, you’ve also lost time and resources spent by onboarding and training those employees—a very costly process. According to a new report from XYZ University, turnover costs U.S. companies a whopping $30.5 billion annually.

Let’s take a step back and look at this new workforce with new priorities and values.

Everything about millennials is different, from how to market to them as consumers to how you treat them as employees. The catalyst for this shift is the difference in what they value most. Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips and are the most highly educated generation to date. Many have delayed marriage and/or parenthood in favor of pursuing their careers, which aren’t always about having a great paycheck (although that helps). Instead, it may be more that the core values of your business (like sustainability, for example) or its mission are the reasons that millennials stick around at the same job or look for opportunities elsewhere. Consider this: How invested are they in their work? Are they bored? What does their work/life balance look like? Do they have advancement opportunities?

Ping-pong tables and bringing your dog to work might be trendy, but they aren’t the solution to retaining a millennial workforce. So why exactly are they quitting? Let’s take a look at the data.

Millennials’ common reasons for quitting

In order to gain more insight into the problem of millennial turnover, XYZ University surveyed more than 500 respondents between the ages of 21 and 34 years old. There was a good mix of men and women, college grads versus high school grads, and entry-level employees versus managers. We’re all dying to know: Why did they quit? Here are the most popular reasons, some in their own words:

  • Millennials are risk-takers. XYZ University attributes this affection for risk taking with the fact that millennials essentially came of age during the recession. Surveyed millennials reported this experience made them wary of spending decades working at one company only to be potentially laid off.
  • They are focused on education. More than one-third of millennials hold college degrees. Those seeking advanced degrees can find themselves struggling to finish school while holding down a job, necessitating odd hours or more than one part-time gig. As a whole, this generation is entering the job market later, with higher degrees and higher debt.
  • They don’t want just any job—they want one that fits. In an age where both startups and seasoned companies are enjoying success, there is no shortage of job opportunities. As such, they’re often looking for one that suits their identity and their goals, not just the one that comes up first in an online search. Interestingly, job fit is often prioritized over job pay for millennials. Don’t forget, if they have to start their own company, they will—the average age for millennial entrepreneurs is 27.
  • They want skills that make them competitive. Many millennials enjoy the challenge that accompanies competition, so wearing many hats at a position is actually a good thing. One millennial journalist who used to work at Forbes reported that millennials want to learn by “being in the trenches, and doing it alongside the people who do it best.”
  • They want to do something that matters. Millennials have grown up with change, both good and bad, so they’re unafraid of making changes in their own lives to pursue careers that align with their desire to make a difference.
  • They prefer flexibility. Technology today means it’s possible to work from essentially anywhere that has an Internet connection, so many millennials expect at least some level of flexibility when it comes to their employer. Working remotely all of the time isn’t feasible for every situation, of course, but millennials expect companies to be flexible enough to allow them to occasionally dictate their own schedules. If they have no say in their workday, that’s a red flag.
  • They’ve got skills—and they want to use them. In the words of a 24-year-old designer, millennials “don’t need to print copies all day.” Many have paid (or are in the midst of paying) for their own education, and they’re ready and willing to put it to work. Most would prefer you leave the smaller tasks to the interns.
  • They got a better offer. Thirty-five percent of respondents to XYZ’s survey said they quit a previous job because they received a better opportunity. That makes sense, especially as recruiting is made simpler by technology. (Hello, LinkedIn.)
  • They seek mentors. Millennials are used to being supervised, as many were raised by what have been dubbed as “helicopter parents.” Receiving support from those in charge is the norm, not the anomaly, for this generation, and they expect that in the workplace, too.

Note that it’s not just XYZ University making this final point about the importance of mentoring. Consider Figures 1 and 2 from Deloitte, proving that millennials with worthwhile mentors report high satisfaction rates in other areas, such as personal development. As you can see, this can trickle down into employee satisfaction and ultimately result in higher retention numbers.

Millennials and Mentors
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte


Figure 2. Source: Deloitte

Failure to . . .

No, not communicate—I would say “engage.” On second thought, communication plays a role in that, too. (Who would have thought “Cool Hand Luke” would be applicable to this conversation?)

Data from a recent Gallup poll reiterates that millennials are “job-hoppers,” also pointing out that most of them—71 percent, to be exact—are either not engaged in or are actively disengaged from the workplace. That’s a striking number, but businesses aren’t without hope. That same Gallup poll found that millennials who reported they are engaged at work were 26 percent less likely than their disengaged counterparts to consider switching jobs, even with a raise of up to 20 percent. That’s huge. Furthermore, if the market improves in the next year, those engaged millennial employees are 64 percent less likely to job-hop than those who report feeling actively disengaged.

What’s next?

I’ve covered a lot in this discussion, but here’s what I hope you will take away: Millennials comprise a majority of the workforce, but they’re changing how you should look at hiring, recruiting, and retention as a whole. What matters to millennials matters to your other generations of employees, too. Mentoring, compensation, flexibility, and engagement have always been important, but thanks to the vocal millennial generation, we’re just now learning exactly how much.

What has been your experience with millennials and turnover? Are you a millennial who has recently left a job or are currently looking for a new position? If so, what are you missing from your current employer, and what are you looking for in a prospective one? Alternatively, if you’re reading this from a company perspective, how do you think your organization stacks up in the hearts and minds of your millennial employees? Do you have plans to do anything differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more insight on millennials and the workforce, see Multigenerational Workforce? Collaboration Tech Is The Key To Success.

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