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Neuro Mechanics and the power of Experience Engagement

Choosing, implementing & designing the right mechanisms is the key to successful NeuroCX and experience design. There are a whole heap of ways of doing it and as previously discussed, it’s the nexus of these events that create real behavioral change and sticky engagements. Let’s take a look through some of the theory and mechanisms here in this article.

MAJOR INCLUSION: You can now download and use my Mechanics Mapping tool (in excel, sorry!) by clicking here. The framework will allow you to look at the ‘ZEN‘ of your mechanisms. What you’re punching for is a nice even spread of functions and features around the entire circle. You can also use the framework to benchmark against a competitor. Simply add in a ‘1’ against a feature in the columns to start visualising the balance of what you have. The second tab is a glossary of the functions for you to use offline.

I mentioned ‘Zen‘ as a term because zen teaches us about simplicity and balance. Sometimes in order to grow we must subtract.

  • When using the framework above ask yourself are there any Features that don’t add to the experience? Would the experience benefit from removing it or replacing it?
  • When you add New Features do you take into account balance to insure the experience remains fun?

Introduction

The growing buzz about NeuroCX can be confusing at best and downright dizzying at worst. For marketers, it takes some effort to wade through the hype and figure out how to extract what really matters. The right strategy will take you beyond badges and leaderboards to dozens of alternative little mechanics that reward attention rather than demand it. These can be combined in different ways to create powerful new experiences that tap into basic motivations.

It’s the little things that give everything meaning. Life is an accumulation of puzzle pieces that make a spectacular picture, or the collection of letters to make words to make sentences to fill pages to complete a story. Ultimately, a thousand little things make something big — and what’s more, small beings united to make something immense often lend a certain grandeur to themselves — all the more for not having done so through any intention.

So imagine the completed puzzle – a stunning picture. Imagine being awed and mesmerized by its image, and then imagine if you were able to elicit such an appreciation of every piece along the way – how much fuller and more magnificent the completion of it becomes. This is the philosophy behind NeuroCX and behind the NeuroScience of Experience Design. It’s all about learning to love the little things to create new behaviors and habits.

While we’re creating a service or product we should really ask ourselves, the team and the client some of the following questions continually throughout the process of the experience design. Keep in mind, these questions will not apply to every situation and should be taken in context to what we’re trying to achieve.

  1. What is the main reason for pimping a product / service?
  2. What are the goals?
  3. What are the main benefits we expect to achieve?

Your reason for adding neuro mechanics into your product / service has a huge affect on how you should go about designing it. If you just want people to spend more time on your website, major distractions from your core product might be fine. If not, you may want to tone down some aspects to ensure it doesn’t take away from the pre-existing experience of your more standard features. Don’t pimp a shopping experience, it’s just shopping! Nobody wants to master mine-fields when they’re buying bras.

First, actions and rewards are fundamental to engagement. The simplest form of rewards are points. The very first thing you need to do is figure out what all activities you want to reward users for and what is most important to you. You need to do Value Weighting planning to determine what is most important so it’s rewarded accordingly and in comparison to each other appropriately.

Next, you need to think of what rules your service may need to ensure you are getting the behavior you want. You may set time limits and other rules to limit users from repetitively doing something over and over when you only want to reward for it once, etc. You really need to take cheating into account to ensure the experience is fair for all users.

You also need to see things from your audiences point of view.

  1. How does it benefit the user?
  2. Do they enjoy it?

There are a lot of ways to engage and pimp elements of your experience to trigger those happiness inducing dopamine bombs to drop. Here’s an A-Z of the possible things you might want consider;

Achievements

Achievements are a great reward if implemented correctly that collectors or perfectionist type users will really love and keep them engaged as long as new Achievements are created.

  • Do you give Achievements often?
  • How long would it take for a user to get every Achievement?
  • Do you have Achievements a user would be proud of or share?
  • Do you allow them and others to see the coolness of the Achievement? Rarity?
  • Have you implemented a place for user’s to collect and show their Achievements on a profile other users can see?
  • Do you have a way for users to show off their favorite Achievements?
  • Do you have an Achievement Map to show you the Achievements you have, ones you could earn and when available info on how you can earn them?
  • Have you implemented Achievement Tiers such as the common ones like “Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane and Unknown?”
  • Do you use clever names and graphics on your Achievements to add Character? How about humor or wit not only in the names or graphics but also in how you obtain the Achievements?
  • Have you kept your users in mind and created Achievement styles that are catered towards them?
  • Do your names for Unknown Achievements (Achievements that you don’t know how you earn them) inspire curiosity/envy in users without prematurely revealing how the user earned it?
  • Do you have Achievements with real depth that require a combo of actions / variables to Unlock?

Example: a badge, a level, a reward, points, really anything defined as a reward can be rewarding.

Altruism

With great power comes great responsibility.

Online Experiences can be used for good, bad and many shades of gray. Product owners should take a moment to consider the health of their users as well as ways to use NeuroCX for Social Good.

  • Do you have methods to show the users how long they have been engaging?
  • Do you warn them when they’ve been engaging too long?
  • Do you give them substantial reasons to take a break such as a maximum on points per day, or a bonus for returning after a certain period of time?
  • Have you thought of ways to leverage your influence to have users do good in the real world through donations or other creative means?

Analysis

Constant Analysis of performance and user behavior has become the norm in the Iterative Design Process.

  • Do you have the right analytics tools and goals set in place to gauge your progress?
  • Do you know where users drop out of your experience? Where they lose interest?
  • Do you know when and where users are having the most fun?
  • How can you use the data you’ve gathered to optimize your Gamified Experience?
  • Are there new Features you can add or non-performing ones you can remove?

Anticipation

Anticipation is a strong psychological motivator that when used properly in your product can get users excited and allow them to endure longer play time at a higher level of enjoyment.

  • How can you use anticipation to motivate your users?
  • Do you “dangle a carrot” so users know what they are working towards?
  • Do users know the result of their next level, achievement, status title etc.?
  • Can you use chance to have users anticipate some random event or reward that might happen?
  • Can you use time to build anticipation?

Appointment Dynamic

A dynamic in which to succeed, one must return at a predefined time to take some action. Appointment dynamics are often deeply related to interval based reward schedules or avoidance dyanmics.

Example: Cafe World and Farmville where if you return at a set time to do something you get something good, and if you don’t something bad happens.

Avoidance

The act of inducing player behavior not by giving a reward, but by not instituting a punishment. Produces consistent level of activity, timed around the schedule.

Example: Press a lever every 30 seconds to not get shocked.

Balance

Balance is important to any good product to insure the experience is fun, has longevity and is fair.

  • How frequent are your rewards?
  • Will users get bored because your rewards are too easy to obtain?
  • How fast do users max out(max level, etc.)?
  • Will users obtain some benefit from being max that will be enough for them to continue to participate?
  • Is there a way to allow a user to “restart” while keeping what they earned? For example, users in WoW have multiple Level 70 Characters.

Behavioral Contrast

The theory defining how behavior can shift greatly based on changed expectations.

Example: A monkey presses a lever and is given lettuce. The monkey is happy and continues to press the lever. Then it gets a grape one time. The monkey is delighted. The next time it presses the lever it gets lettuce again. Rather than being happy, as it was before, it goes ballistic throwing the lettuce at the experimenter. (In some experiments, a second monkey is placed in the cage, but tied to a rope so it can’t access the lettuce or lever. After the grape reward is removed, the first monkey beats up the second monkey even though it obviously had nothing to do with the removal. The anger is truly irrational.)

Behavioral Momentum

The tendency of players to keep doing what they have been doing.

Example: From Jesse Schell’s awesome Dice talk: “I have spent ten hours engaging in Farmville. I am a smart person and wouldn’t spend 10 hours on something unless it was useful. Therefore this must be useful, so I can keep doing it.”

Blissful Productivity

The idea that engaging in a experience makes you happier working hard, than you would be relaxing. Essentially, we’re optimized as human beings by working hard, and doing meaningful and rewarding work.

Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk wherein she discusses how World of Warcraft players play on average 22 hours / week (a part time job), often after a full days work. They’re willing to work hard, perhaps harder than in real life, because of their blissful productivity in the online world.

Cascading Information Theory

The theory that information should be released in the minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during the narrative.

Example: showing basic actions first, unlocking more as you progress through levels. Making building on success a simple but staged process to avoid information overload.

Chain Schedules

Definition: the practice of linking a reward to a series of contingencies. Players tend to treat these as simply the individual contingencies. Unlocking one step in the contingency is often viewed as an individual reward by the player.

Example: Kill 10 orcs to get into the dragons cave, every 30 minutes the dragon appears.

Challenge

Challenge is fundamental to creating engagement.

  • What are the challenges in your experience?
  • Do they require skill or luck? or both?
  • Is there enough variety and depth in the challenges that users will stay engaged?
  • Do you have multiple types of challenges throughout?

Chance

Lotteries are popular for a reason, everyones loves chance, the unknown. Treasure Chests in games like World of Warcraft are a great example of chance on multiple levels because you have a chance to get a treasure chest when you kill a monster, then there is a chance of how rare of a chest you will get, then when you open it there is randomness on what item you will get.

  • How might you use the anticipation of a chance to increase fun and the engagement duration?
  • How can you implement multiple levels of chance such as the example with Treasure Chests?
  • Do you show users the likelihood of a chance happen or keep it a mystery?
  • Are chance %’s set in stone or variable based on actions or some other variable?
  • Do you have insanely rare, unique or personal rewards that can be won by chance?

Character

The reward avatar in Nike Fuel a classic example of using humor in an experience to build Character. Having unique and weird quirks can cause users to talk about your Experience. Digital enables some interesting possibilities to build Character that people will remember. In most current iterations of experience design this concept has been entirely ignored.

  • Does your company’s pre-existing brand and attitude shine through in the Gamified Experience?
  • Have you aligned your brand’s character with the User Experience to insure consistency?
  • Can you use humor, satire, etc. to build character?
  • Have you created customized content such as Achievements, Avatars, Virtual Goods etc. to match your brand that users will remember?
  • Do you use feedback or other interactions to build character?
  • Have you created content unique to your brand that users will be surprised by, such as Easter Eggs?
  • Have you implemented any features or created content that is so outlandish or unique that users will talk about and want to share?

Cheating

Cheating goes hand and hand with this stuff if you don’t properly design against it. Before and during the design process you must try to fathom how users could possibly cheat or exploit some flaw in your design. Like anything tho, if your anti-cheating measures are overdone you can hurt the User Experience. users may employ many methods to cheat such as Bots, Multiple Accounts, their own personal time and in extreme situations where real cash or valuable real world rewards are at stake they may hire people for low wages.

  • Are there repetitive tasks that are rewarded with no restrictions that users might try to exploit?
  • If so, might you limit the task with per hour, per day maximums? Perhaps you could require a combination of activity before the user gets rewarded again to create an environment that bots couldn’t exploit.
  • Have you thoroughly thought about your experience design from a cheater’s perspective to see possible exploits they would see?
  • Do you have tools and analytics in place to possibly detect unusual behavior?
  • Have you taken into account how excessive anti-cheating efforts might hurt your User Experience such as excessive captcha usage etc.?
  • Could you require users to use facebook or some other name verification method to verify their identity in the hopes that users wont cheat if people know who they really are?
  • Can you make user activity public so that users might worry others will notice unusual activity?
  • Can you enable the use of Web Reputation Systems and promote users to flag users who have unusual activity?
  • Can you create a system to reward users with points/badges etc. for catching a cheater? Do they lose a little bit of points if they’re wrong to discourage excessive flagging?
  • Do you have legal protection in place to allow you to delete user’s accounts or remove rewards if they have cheated?
  • Do you have social systems in place to reduce points dramatically if an activity was obviously done just for points without caring about quality? Such as if a user left a comment just for points and other users voted it down the user could receive no points or actually lose points.

Choices

Choices empower users, make them feel engaged and ownership over their choices.

  • Do you give users meaningful choices? Would you benefit from making them more or less frequent?
  • Do users get feedback on their choices? Do they see the effects of their choices?
  • Would your users benefit from more or less options when making choices?

Collector

Collectors will work persistently to collect everything in your experience. If you give Collectors rare achievements and items to collect they will keep on until they have them all regardless of how difficult. Not everyone is such an extreme Collector, but most people still enjoy collecting to some degree.

  • Do you have a wide variety of things for users to collect?
  • Can you create collectible content that is very difficult that will take the users a long time to collect in order to increase longevity of engagement?
  • Do you have “sets” such as item sets, achievement sets etc.?
  • Do you visibly show the user their progress in collecting? Perhaps what % they have completed of the set etc.?
  • Can you create limited edition items or other things that Collectors would go crazy for?

Community

Creating a strong bond between users, a Community is critical to long term success, virality and more.

  • Are you doing enough to promote community?
  • Do you use social network integration to leverage existing social graphs?
  • How can you give your users more ways to contact or interact with one another?
  • Have you properly implemented competition and/or cooperation so users have a need to band together and discuss?
  • Do users have a need to form groups to help each other on specific tasks or large quests, contests etc.?

Communal Discovery

The dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to solve a riddle, a problem or a challenge. Immensely viral and very fun.

Example: DARPA balloon challenge, the cottage industries that appear around McDonalds monopoly to find “Boardwalk”

Competition

Competition is the basis for most of humanity’s progress and evolution. With that being said, different personality types have different feelings about competition and sometimes competition overdone can make users shy away or hurt cooperation.

  • Do your users want competition?
  • Is there a way you can allow users different options so if they don’t want to compete, they don’t have to?
  • Have you taken into account the balance between competition and cooperation?
  • Are there opportunities where users can be competitive and cooperative at the same time?
  • Do you have multiple ways for competitive users to compete, with both others and themselves?

Control

We all want to be in control of what we do. It makes us feel important, safe and most importantly free.

  • Can you give your users more control over their experience?
  • Are there things you currently dictate to your users that could be opened for them to control or vote on?
  • Can you give users more control or power as part of a reward or status?

Cooperation

Cooperation is paramount to building a strong community. Do you have Features enabled that will allow users to collaborate?

  • Do you have various methods of collaboration, both big and small?
  • Can users collaborate with both close friends and strangers?

Countdown

The dynamic in which players are only given a certain amount of time to do something. This will create an activity graph that causes increased initial activity increasing frenetically until time runs out, which is a forced extinction.

Example: Bejeweled Blitz with 30 seconds to get as many points as you can. Bonus rounds. Timed levels

Cross Situational Leader-boards

This occurs when one ranking mechanism is applied across multiple (unequal and isolated) gaming scenarios. Players often perceive that these ranking scenarios are unfair as not all players were presented with an “equal” opportunity to win.

Example: Players are arbitrarily sent into one of three paths. The winner is determined by the top scorer overall (i.e. across the paths). Since the players can only do one path (and can’t pick), they will perceive inequity in the scenario and get upset.

Curiosity

Curiosity is one of the basic human emotions that should be heavily considered in the Experience Design Process.

  • Are your users curious about anything that might be mysterious to them?
  • Are there any ways you could increase or create curiosity with mysterious locked items, treasure chests, or other Mechanics or Features?

Data

Data is king. In experience design users can become addicted to pouring over data about the engagement and their actions, achievements etc. users love stats.

  • Are there stats you are invisibly collecting now that users would benefit from seeing?
  • Have you given users methods to see stats from the entire experience, their personal stats and those of other users or groups?

Dazzle

It is important to Dazzle your users, take them on an experience and insure it’s visually pleasant. Beauty and wowing a user keeps them engaged and makes them remember you.

  • Have you spent enough time on your User Interface and insuring users really enjoy the graphical elements of the Gamification?
  • Are there ways you could visually make things more exciting or interesting to increase engagement?

Discovery

People inherently love to explore. Consider giving more opportunities in your experience for users to discover something new.

  • Do users currently benefit from exploring your experience or content? Do they get bonuses for finding content for the first time, personally, globally or in their group?
  • Are there things users are already discovering for the first time and you’re just not telling them?
  • Could you create new content just for the purpose of users “finding it”?
  • Can you create challenges, quests etc. that use discovery as an element?
  • Can you enable users to compete or collaborate on exploring?
  • Can you provide special recognition for a user to be the first who found something?
  • Do you take advantage of data to show a user how much they have discovered and what’s still out there and undiscovered?

Economy

Economy in your Gamified Experience can add immense loyalty as users begin to care about their Virtual Currency. Just like in real life, your Economy can be difficult to balance. You must plan carefully and take many things into consideration or it will become worthless.

  • Do users value their virtual currency or goods?
  • If not, how can you make it feel more valuable?
  • Do you allow users to trade any non-merit based goods such as money, items etc.?
  • Do you have tools and analytics in place to watch for inflation and other problems in your economy?
  • Could you benefit from implementing a Dual Virtual Currency?
  • Have you created enough Sinks to help curb inflation? Such as, paying for a right to do X, or to take a risk that net sum results in the loss of currency or items.

Endless Scenarios

Experiences that do not have an explicit end. Most applicable to casual experiences that can refresh their content or experiences where a static (but positive) state is a reward of its own.

Example: Farmville (static state is its own victory), SCVNGR (challenges constantly are being built by the community to refresh content)

Engagement Curve

Engagement is one of the most important Gamification Benefits. You can expect Engagement to spike or fall off at different parts of the experience and the life of the user.

  • Do you monitor engagement so that you know the parts of your Gamified Experience that users enjoy the most?
  • If users are dropping off at a certain spot in the experience, can you remove, replace or tweak that part of the experience?
  • If users get bored after X months, can you add content at that time to re-engage them?

Envy

Envy is not always bad. users may aspire to do better due to envy of another user’s status, possessions etc and other users might try harder because they want users to envy them.

  • How do you currently use envy to motivate users?
  • Do users have easy access to see information about other users?
  • What creative ways can you devise to leverage envy without making users dislike each other?
  • Have you taken into consideration the social implications of making users too envious of one another?
  • Do you give users something special or unique that would motivate other users to earn or find it?
  • Do you give users an easy way to compare themselves to others?
  • Do you have various depths of visible status, such as shallow at a glance(not much data) and in depth if you want to see?

Epic Meaning

Users will be highly motivated if they believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, something bigger than themselves.

Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk where she discusses Warcraft’s ongoing story line and “epic meaning” that involves each individual has motivated players to participate outside the experience and create the second largest wiki in the world to help them achieve their individual quests and collectively their epic meanings.

Extinction

Extinction is the term used to refer to the action of stopping providing a reward. This tends to create anger in players as they feel betrayed by no longer receiving the reward they have come to expect. It generally induces negative behavioral momentum.

Example: killing 10 orcs no longer gets you a level up

Fairness

Fairness is important to the long term viability of your experience. If users feel things aren’t fair they will feel cheated and it could result in negative results instead of positive results. Designers should plan accordingly to create fairness and monitor user sentiment.

  • Do you have feedback mechanisms to see if your users feel treated fairly?
  • In competitions that require skill, can you insure users are matched or judged based on users with similar skill?
  • Do you try to sale any virtual goods that users might consider an unfair advantage such as XP Boosts, Special Items etc.?

Feedback

Feedback is your communication to a user of what they should do, what they did etc. Without proper feedback a user could feel lost and un-engaged.

  • Do users understand the experience and it’s rules?
  • Do they clearly know what to do next or if open ended understand the possibilities?
  • Do you properly communicate to users when they’ve accomplished something?
  • Do users see visible feedback on all of their actions that earn rewards?

Fun

Everyone likes to have fun, some say it’s the reason we live. While not always required in Gamification ( see section on Invisibility ), fun is a critical aspect of Gamification Design and should be one of your metrics for success.

  • What might your users find fun?
  • Are you overlooking something simple? Simple can be fun sometimes.
  • Could you create more mini experiences, chances or moments of skill to increase fun?

This part has less questions because it’s so open ended, we just know it’s something you should focus on. Get creative!

Fixed Interval Reward Schedules

Fixed interval schedules provide a reward after a fixed amount of time, say 30 minutes. This tends to create a low engagement after a reward, and then gradually increasing activity until a reward is given, followed by another lull in engagement.

Example: Farmville, wait 30 minutes, crops have appeared

Fixed Ratio Reward Schedule

A fixed ratio schedule provides rewards after a fixed number of actions. This creates cyclical nadirs of engagement (because the first action will not create any reward so incentive is low) and then bursts of activity as the reward gets closer and closer.

Example: kill 20 ships, get a level up, visit five locations, get a badge

Free Lunch

A dynamic in which a player feels that they are getting something for free due to someone else having done work. It’s critical that work is perceived to have been done (just not by the player in question) to avoid breaching trust in the scenario. The player must feel that they’ve “lucked” into something.

Example: Groupon. By virtue of 100 other people having bought the deal, you get it for cheap. There is no sketchiness b/c you recognize work has been done (100 people are spending money) but you yourself didn’t have to do it.

Fun Once, Fun Always

The concept that an action in enjoyable to repeat all the time. Generally this has to do with simple actions. There is often also a limitation to the total level of enjoyment of the action.

Example: the theory behind the check-in everywhere and the check-in and the default challenges on SCVNGR.

Global

The world is a big place. Gamification in many ways is a connector. Connecting the real and the digital, the local and global. Designers should take into consideration their audience and potentially untapped audience.

  • Is your content suitable for a global audience? If not, could some minor tweaks change that?
  • Do your rewards take into consideration global tastes?
  • Can you create personalized experiences for different countries while still keeping them connected at the global level?
  • Can you use Patriotism at a local or global level to inspire competition and collaboration?

Goals

Goals are fundamental to good experience design. Goals provide a reason to play and way to feel progression and accomplishment.

  • Do users understand the goal of the product and the purpose of it’s existence?
  • Can you allow users the ability to set their own goals? Can you suggest goals to them to motivate them to excel?
  • Can you use goals at a global level that everyone can help work towards to inspire collaboration? Such as how some websites have raised money for charity by showing their goal to everyone and how close they are to reaching their goal.
  • Can you use goals to promote competition?

Grinding

Grinding, or doing a repetitive task to progress in experience, is fundamental to most behavioral change models and if done with the right frequency of intensity with needed breaks from Grinding, can result in dramatic increase in time spent. But Grinding if too difficult can cause users to leave.

  • Are there repetitive tasks that might be appropriate for your Gamified Experience to encourage Grinding, such as viewing of content or other tasks?
  • Do you give something fun and rewarding to break the monotony of grinding?
  • Is this change induced based on time, chance or accomplishment? If only one way could you implement other ways?
  • Can users easily see their progress, short term objectives and long term objectives/progress?

Influence

Influence over actions is a major benefit of Gamification. Most of the time you want to do this subtly and carefully as not to be too pushy with users. Give them goals or challenges that require them to do something that is important to you or reward them more points for doing something that at that moment is of the most importance to you.

  • Can you influence actions of users through the use of Neuro Mechanics without it ruining the experience?
  • Can you tweak your User Interface to influence users?
  • Can you set rules to get users to do what you want?
  • Can you set goals to get users to do what you want?
  • Are there other creative means to influence users without them feeling you are controlling and interfering with their experience?

Imagination

Imagination captives and spires. We want to stimulate our user’s imagination but also Designers will be able to use their imagination to create creative solutions to problems.

  • Are there ways you can stimulate your user’s imagination?
  • Have you created unique and imaginative content that users will remember?
  • Does your Gamified Experience have toy like attributes that inspire child like joy and curiosity?

Instantaneous

We live in the age of instant, on demand and A.D.D. Assuming you have the technology , it’s a powerful tool in your experience design arsenal.

  • Are there aspects of your experience now that are delayed but could be more exciting if they were real-time?
  • Has your UI/UX taken into consideration the power of instant?
  • Could you create content in real-time that users would be surprised and engaged by?

Invisibility

Sometimes you’ve got to be Invisible. The beauty of Gamification is it can be weaved into every part of our lives. Some people will want to see every detail of the experience while others will not want to be bothered and they just want to see the results and rewards.

  • Are there some aspects of your Gamification Design that could benefit from being less visible or entirely invisible?
  • Can you give users options to make things visible or invisible through settings or more temporarily and situational with modes so if I want no feedback today for a specific reason, I can switch modes?

Leveling Curve

Levels are an important method in experience design to show progress and status. When designing you should take into account how fast users will level, will they reach max level and when and does the difficulty change per level?

  • Have you researched the various types of level curves such as wave, straight, progressive etc. and found the one that works best?
  • Are there rewards for levels you could give that would make the level meaningful?
  • Do you foreshadow to show users what they can earn the next level or future levels?
  • Can you create “Tiers” or milestones so that for example every 10 levels could have some major importance with a new status title, power or some other reward?

Longevity

Creating experiences that have Longevity and long term appeal takes skill and persistence.

  • Do you have a plan to continue generating interesting content and rewards so users stay interested?
  • Have you made users feel ownership over their achievements and possessions so that they will not want to lose them if they left?
  • Do you have mini experiences and meta experiences outside the main goal that will keep users busy?
  • Do you have some rewards that are insanely hard to obtain that can take a tremendous amount of time and effort?
  • Have you gave collectors content to keep them busy?
  • Are you properly monitoring how fast users progress so you will know when users need new content?

Lottery

A dynamic in which the winner is determined solely by chance. This creates a high level of anticipation. The fairness is often suspect, however winners will generally continue to play indefinitely while losers will quickly abandon the experience, despite the random nature of the distinction between the two.

Example: many forms of gambling, scratch tickets.

Mini Experiences

Mini Experiences are a great way to add character to design and give a change of pace to break monotony. The classic Nintendo game Zelda is famous for having mini games including fishing, racing and more. Mini Experiences can be obvious or sometimes are entirely hidden almost like an Easter Egg.

  • How might you create a simple mini experience that adds value to your Experience?
  • Do you closely integrate the mini experience into the main experience or just have it be a stand alone way to earn more points etc.?
  • Can you use mini experiences to increase social interaction or virality?
  • Are mini experiences constantly available, time limited or unlockable?
  • Are there creative ways you could use your mini experiences such as “Events” , Competitions etc.?

Meta Experiences

Meta Experiences are experiences played above the “experience”. Meta Experiences can be a great way to make data interesting, to show progress and much more.

  • Do you have meta experiences that give the user an extra reason to participate in the main experience?
  • Can you create a meta experience that requires no extra effort but visually is an interesting way to see your progress?
  • Can users Unlock Meta Experiences?

Meta Experiences require a lot of imagination. The possibilities are wide open to how you can use all this Product Data and Life Data in interesting and possibly fun ways.

Micro-Transactions

Micro-Transactions have opened a lot of untapped potential in experience design by helping to support Freemium Business Models and allowing users to pay for uniqueness, status, boosts and more. Micro-Transactions like many things can be implemented poorly with harmful results. If over used or implemented too early or pushed too hard, users might become unhappy and feel the game is unfair or all about money.

  • Have you created a clear set of goals to monitor the engagement etc. of your users to insure they already care about their points, status and other rewards before implementing micro-transactions?
  • Is there a way you can gradually roll out micro-transactions to ease users into it and monitor results closely?
  • Are there things that users have expressed a desire for that you could possibly charge for?

Modifiers

An item that when used affects other actions. Generally modifiers are earned after having completed a series of challenges or core functions.

Example: A X2 modifier that doubles the points on the next action you take.

Playtesting

Playtesting in traditional gaming happens very early in the design process and is important not only for finding bugs, but for determining what is fun, if experiences inspire the feelings you thought they would etc. Playtesting is different in the context of Gamification , tho still very important.

  • Are you testing your Gamified Experience privately before your release to the public?
  • Could you perhaps release to a limited set of top users to get feedback from your most trusted fans?
  • Do you play with potential new features privately before rolling them out to the public?

Progression

Progression drives engagement. Users want that next level, reward and to see how far they’ve come.

  • Do you constantly give users feedback on their progress via stats, progress bars or other means?
  • Is there more data you could surface to show users their progress for multiple things, in multiple views?
  • Could you use progress data in creative ways to entertain the user such as using the data to power a meta-experience?

Punishment

Punishment has always been used in game design to keep users from doing something you don’t want them to. In traditional gaming if you make a mistake, you might die. In Experience Design, you should use punishment carefully as it could turn off some users.

  • Are you currently punishing your users for actions you don’t want them to do?
  • Do the users feel it’s fair?
  • Can you use decay in your experience so that users must return or they begin to lose something?
  • Are you currently using any form of punishment that is excessive and users generally dislike that you could remove?

Quests

Quests lead users on a journey. In many experiences this really ends up being just a list of tasks you should complete, ordered or not, to receive X reward.

  • Can you create unique quests that help build character?
  • Can you create many quests of varying levels of difficult and time length requirements so that you have some that take only minutes and others that take months to complete?
  • Do you give difficult appropriate rewards for the completion of Quests or perhaps a unique reward for the most difficult ones?
  • If users have completed parts of a quest they don’t know about, are they informed?
  • Can you create Quests that create competition and/or collaboration?

Rewards

Rewards are fundamental to good Experience Design. Having the right Rewards is key to making sure users feel their is value to their actions. Keep in mind rewards are not necessarily physical or even things like points, sometimes acknowledgment and status are the most important rewards.

  • Do users care about your rewards?
  • Do you have unique rewards that users will cherish?
  • Do your rewards seem to be appropriate for the level of difficulty it takes to acquire them?
  • Can you possibly give users a choice in what kind of rewards they get?

Real-time v. Delayed Mechanics

Realtime information flow is uninhibited by delay. Delayed information is only released after a certain interval.

Example: Realtime scores cause instant reaction (gratification or demotivation). Delayed causes ambiguity which can incent more action due to the lack of certainty of ranking.

Risk

Risk stimulates our instincts and can make things seem more exciting when something is on the line.

  • Can you create more opportunities for users to take a risk?
  • Can you make the risks optional so they have meaning and users can chose to participate or not?
  • Can you use risk to simultaneously increase engagement and fun while also providing a Sink to help balance your Virtual Economy?
  • Do you have limits to risk set to protect against users losing too much and burning out?
  • Does risk add to your Gamified Experience or does it create a sense of unfairness to users if elements of chance are involved?

Rolling Physical Goods

A physical good (one with real value) that can be won by anyone on an ongoing basis as long as they meet some characteristic. However, that characteristic rolls from player to player.

Example: top scorer deals, mayor deals

Rules

Rules make experience engagement possible. As with many things, rules must be carefully planned to insure balanced and fun engagement.

  • Do users clearly understand the rules of the product?
  • Do you have some rules that are community policed?

Self-Expression

Self-Expression if properly done leads to a feeling of accomplishment and ownership which can result in loyalty.

  • How do you enable and encourage self-expression?
  • Do you allow users to make meaningful choices which might allow self expression?
  • Do your users have the ability to use a picture of themselves or character as an avatar?
  • If so, can they customize the avatar?

Skill / Chance Balance

Skill is the core of most engaging experiences. An “Experience” requiring no skill will eventually become boring. users love to feel they’ve became better or mastered a scenario. Some users love chance whereas others despise it and want everything to be based off of skill. The vast majority are perfectly fine with a nice balance of both.

  • How might you add more skill to your experience?
  • Is Skill optional?
  • Do you accommodate beginners while still providing a deep challenge to experts?

It is critical to balance skill/chance in your Experience. You may decide to have only one or the other but typically it’s best to have both. The balance really depends on your product Target and your goals.

Status

Status is of immense importance in experience design. It separates “them” from “us” and gives loyal users a feeling of belonging.

  • In your “Experience” how can you empower users with meaningful status?
  • Does status give them anything of reward?
  • Do other users know this?
  • How do you show the change of status? Do you show it just to the user or to others?
  • How can you give a user the chance to indirectly flaunt their status?
  • Have you taken advantage of multiple forms of visible status, such as status titles, levels, tiers, rank?
  • Can you find a way to give users status not just globally but locally based on friends, geography or some other creative way?

Social Interactions

Social Interaction is important to build a community, increase virality and encourage competition and collaboration.

  • Is your Experience enabling Social Interaction?
  • Are users rewarded for interacting with their friends?
  • Do you give users ways to compete or collaborate with one another?
  • Do users know how to contact each other and have open communication channels?
  • Do you have social interactions that take into account multiple “friend spheres” such as facebook, twitter, local users etc.?
  • Do you enable users to do light social interactions or “ping” one another through some action in the experience? If so, is there some substance to how you enable this and various ways to achieve it?

Story

Story is one of the most important aspects of Experience Design. While typically not so important in digital design, there are opportunities to have story elements in the new Experience economy.

  • Can you produce episodic content that is unveiled as the user advances?
  • Can you generate a story based on the Achievements and Facts about a user?
  • Can a meta experience be created that uses the data from the original experience to create a new experience that has a story-arc?
  • Can users create their own story content and share with others?

Surprise

Surprise seems simple, but it’s very important. People love to be surprised with something they didn’t expect and surprises are known to have an emotional impact on us that we remember.

  • What can you do to surprise users in a positive way?

Get creative, surprise is one of those areas that is so broad that you’ve really got to open your imagination.

Time

Time is our friend and enemy, a relentless and inevitable force.

  • How do you use time to your advantage?
  • Do you use scarcity of time to your advantage?
  • Do you use features such as countdowns, timers etc. to maximum effect?
  • Do you use cool downs so users will come back again and again when an ability, action or event is available again?
  • Do you use decay over time to insure users return?
  • Do you give bonuses based on time spent engaged or in any other creative way?
  • Experiences where your time is the score?

Unlockables

Unlockables are a great way to show progress in a cool way. users can unlock areas, specials, levels, status, achievements etc.

  • How might you implement locked content and unlockables to make users excited when they’ve unlocked something?
  • How can you create artificial scarcity with locked content in order to enable unlocking?

Urgent Optimism

Extreme self motivation. The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.

Example: From Jane McGonical’s TED talk. The idea that in proper experiences an “epic win” or just “win” is possible and therefore always worth acting for.

User Experience

User Experience has become an art form and just like with other technology is very important to insure users have a pleasant experience. When pimping a non-experience you must keep in mind the original user experience and how Neuro Mechanics will affect that experience in a negative or positive way.

  • Does your design hurt or help the original Experience?
  • Do users clearly understand the Experience, it’s purpose, Rules and how to participate?
  • Can you empower users to change how they use certain features?
  • Are you properly using your UI to influence users to take the actions you want them to?
  • Is any part of the experience painful for a user and reducing fun?

Vanity

Mirror, mirror… Many users love recognition and love to hear about themselves.

  • What features can you create to feed user’s vanity?
  • Can you create a “Customer of the Week” or similar concept so users will want the chance to be recognized for their efforts?
  • Can you do something to make users most important Achievements known to their friends, or everyone?
  • Is there a way you can more personalize feedback and communications to target the specific user so they feel special?

Virality

Virality is important to growth of user base which if done right should enrich an experience.

  • How can you increase virality?
  • How might you encourage users to “recruit” new users willingly?
  • Are your viral mechanics fun and natural or do they interfere with the flow and experience?

Virtual Goods

Virtual Goods help to build community, economy and a sense of ownership.

  • Have you created virtual goods that users care about?
  • Could you create virtual goods that actually serve some function?
  • Can you use the power of “Vanity” to make items seem more special?
  • Can you create scarcity to drive demand for items?
  • Can virtual goods be traded, gifted etc. to help build a community?
  • Do you allow users to customize their virtual goods?

Conclusion

It’s a wondrous thing the new world of Digital Engagement and your options are limitless. Just stop and have a think about some of the above before you crack on design things… you might find once you’ve launched you get a bit more engagement  and a bit less attrition.

(Based on an original article at Badgeville)

[MARKETING MAGAZINE] : #SXSW14 Neuromarketing is the next step in engagement

SOURCE: Marketing Magazine, 13th March 2014

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Pete Trainor, associate director, UX, part of Sapient Nitro

Successful brands today are manipulating consumers’ minds to better their sales in new and developed ways, claims Pete Trainor, associate director, UX, part of SapientNitro. Here he walks us through his SXSW talk, “Is there a neurological recipe for success?”

Even before the age of Mad Men, marketers were trying to tap into the human subconscious to influence consumers to buy their products. You could argue that we, in the marketing industry, are in the habit-forming business – we build products meant to persuade people to do what we want them to do.Since advertising began, the mass public has been influenced by the images they walk past, see in the press and have beamed into their eyes through their TVs.

Smirnoff as an example used a technique called ZMET – Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique – in their advertising throughout the 2000s. Images were manipulated in the shape of the Smirnoff bottle to make the passer-by stop and study the shot.

The essence of ZMET reduces to exploring the human unconscious with specially selected sets of images that cause a positive emotional response and activate hidden images, metaphors stimulating the purchase.The major thinking part of human activity (over 90%), including emotion, takes place in the subconscious area that is below the levels of controlled awareness. In today’s new technological landscape, it’s now even easier to reward that part of the subconscious brain and influence behaviour towards engagement.

Turning brands into habit

Turning brands into daily or weekly habits is the key in the next stage of consumer engagement. It’s what I call “Neuro CX” or Neuro Customer Experience. An experience with a brand that is immersive and can quickly become a habit.

Personalisation is starting to get really prescriptive because of big data in digital experiences.

A lot of the branded utilities that we’re creating are also something that we want to use to make the public’s life better, by facilitating a healthful habit. Nike Fuel, for example, is a habit-building product that, at its core, aims to create loyalty whilst reminding us every time we hit the button that Nike is still a brand that’s relevant.

Nir Eyal, who wrote the book ‘Hooked’, says “If manipulation is a designed experience crafted to change behaviour, then Weight Watchers, one of the most successful mass-behaviour change products in history, fits the definition”. Manipulation and influence can’t be all bad.

Personalisation is starting to get really prescriptive because of big data in digital experiences. The data is there now to create highly relevant experiences which in turn can enrich a consumer experience. Amazon targets products at you that they think you’d like based on your spending patterns for example.

Old retargeting methods are out

Instead of using old retargeting methods, such as showing someone an ad for a car that person just viewed online, brands are using new technologies to help them decide, often in advance, whether a consumer should be shown an ad for, say, a luxury car or an inexpensive car, or any car at all.

Social media companies work with advertisers to help segment users based on their Facebook data. Facebook can tell an advertiser that a group of mothers using the site are talking about sending their children to a festival, and a big manufacturer of say, sun cream, could create an ad campaign that focuses on children using their product at a festival.

Facebook can also help the manufacturer categorise consumers as heavy or light buyers of sun cream and determine the number of ads each group will see. Those who buy less may see fewer ads than those who buy more.

Online retail is one part of the economy that is really doing well in this space. Indeed, the statistics show it is a substantial success story bringing in record business for firms like John Lewis.

The psychological approach

Retailers often talk about offerings, design and functions. But that focuses on the website and its mechanics. The companies that are doing well online lay their focus at the other end of the relationship; they focus on their visitors and customers, relegating the website itself to the lesser part of the equation. In other words, the successful retailers focus on online customer behaviour, taking a psychological approach, rather than a technical one.

Brain scanning research shows that website visitors make the decision as to whether to stay or to click away within 600 milliseconds.

This is evident in online retailers such as ASOS who changed their strategy a few years ago. Their website has several psychological triggers which show their visitors they need to stay. The same is true for Next or John Lewis. These firms provide psychological signals that the visitor can interpret within seconds. Brain scanning research shows that website visitors make the decision as to whether to stay or to click away within 600 milliseconds.

Traditional retailers are used to having several minutes in which to engage their customers. Plus they can manipulate things like lighting, temperature and sound, to make the shopping experience more enticing. But online retailers have only seconds and they cannot manipulate those environmental factors that increase the likelihood of buying.

Neuromarketers: exploiters?

Other examples of the manipulation of the mind to better advance product sales are; Microsoft mining EEG data to understand users’ interactions with computers including their feelings of “surprise, satisfaction and frustration”.

Google made some waves when it partnered with MediaVest on a “biometrics” study to measure the effectiveness of YouTube overlays versus pre-rolls. Result: Overlays were much more effective with subjects. Daimler employed fMRI research to inform a campaign featuring car headlights to suggest human faces which tied to the reward centre of the brain.

All the successful brands are doing it. But the practice is not without its critics and issues. First, consumer advocates and other groups have claimed neuromarketers are exploiting people to “sell us stuff we don’t need” and creating unhealthy and irresponsible addictions and cravings.

Ian Bogost, the famed game creator and professor, calls the wave of habit-forming technologies the “cigarette of this century” and warns of equally addictive and potentially destructive side-effects. However, I believe the customer is smart enough to make up their own mind and we’re simply helping them make better, more relevant decisions.

What makes you click?

There’s a turf war for readers’ mouse clicks and one of the favoured trick is to phrase headlines as questions. This isn’t an Internet innovation. As a way to grab attention, question headlines have been recommended by editors and marketeers for decades. But what is new, is the easy ability today to measure how often readers choose to click a headline. For a new paper, researchers in Norway have used Twitter to find out if question headlines really do entice more clicks. This is classic Neuro CX at work. The art of fooling the inquisitive.

Linda Lai and Audun Farbrot used a real science communication Twitter feed that had 6,350 followers at the time of the study. Real stories were tweeted to these followers twice, an hour apart. The first tweet used a statement headline, such as “Power corrupts”. The second tweet, referring to the same story, was phrased as a question that was either self-referencing, as in “Is your boss intoxicated by power?” or non-self-referencing, as in “Are bosses intoxicated by power?”

Lai and Farbrot found that self-referencing question headlines were clicked on average 175 per cent more often than statement headlines (this advantage dropped to 150 per cent for non-self-referencing question headlines). The difference in clicks for question and statement headlines was statistically significant, but the difference between the self-referencing and non-self-referencing headlines was not.

A follow-up study was similar but was conducted via the Norwegian equivalent of Ebay, known as Finn.no. Lai and Farbrot posted adverts for an iPhone, a couch, a TV and a washing machine using either statement headlines or question headlines (self-referencing or not), such as: “For sale: Black iPhone4 16GB”; “Anyone need a new iPhone4?”; or “Is this your new iPhone4?”

Overall, across the four products, non-self-referencing question headlines were clicked on 137 per cent more often on average than statement headlines; this rose to 257 per cent more often for self-referencing question headlines. This time the difference between the two types of question headline was statistically significant. This overall benefit of question headlines was observed despite one anomaly that the researchers were unable to explain – question headlines for washing machines actually led to fewer clicks than statement headlines.

The clear take-out from this research is that you should phrase your headlines as questions, especially self-referencing ones, if you want to attract more clicks. “The combined strategy [of question headlines and self-referencing] seems to represent a useful tool for practitioners in attracting readers to their Internet-based communications,” the researchers said. However, an issue they don’t address is what happens if headline writers heed this message and adopt question headlines universally. Perhaps then statement headlines would appear more original and distinctive and attract more clicks…

Original Source: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/are-you-more-likely-to-click-headlines.html
Reference: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15534510.2013.847859#.Un6NFpH0hBI

 

Out of the box CX

Here’s a little known fact about me: I never studied design or multimedia or service design way back when I was a student at university in the noughties. I knew what I wanted to do and be part of (even back then!) and I wanted to learn about design, information architecture (I didn’t call it that back then, I was just fascinated in information delivery and consumption), product design, digital (or multimedia as we called it back before the interweb 1.0 proper) and the users interface with ‘stuff’ because I was always a righter-brainer & rubbish at the good stuff. I was working part-time at a CBT (computer based training) company helping put together training CDRoms (remember them?) for Helicopter Pilots and I was really unimpressed with how bad they were to use (the CBT materials, not the helicopters!) and how bad the graphics were – In todays world we’d call that ‘poor experience’, and so I got myself on the ‘Packaging Design’ course at Bournemouth University. PACKAGING? ARE YOU MENTAL?! A lot of my mates (and colleagues at the CBT company!) thought I was insane doing a degree in Packaging, they thought I’d decided I wanted to design milk-cartons and not carry on doing what I was doing… but here’s the thing, I was doing what I always wanted to do… think about the component parts of all packaging;

  1. Form
  2. Function
  3. Instruction / Product Information
  4. Design / Brand
  5. Fast moving, evolving consumer goods

Sound familiar? Not so skeptical now are you!

It was literally the only course I could find that would teach me everything I wanted to know about design. About the esthetic form of something, the information architecture of something, the design of something that needs to stand out in a crowded aisle, the typographic quality of something (print anybody?), the brand of something, the perishability, materials, mass appeal, recognition, touch… you name it and in those 3 years I learnt the lot. I just did it using the paradigm of cardboard, tetra-pack and plastic. We even covered sales & marketing as part of the course. It was great.

It’s also something I continuously refer too today because it’s even more relevant in towards world. All our UX is just packaged design.

Packaging on a supermarket shelf has less than three seconds to grab the attention of a consumer.

Those three seconds are exceedingly important when you consider that more than 70% of purchasing decisions are made at the shelf. Add to this the fact that supermarkets can contain on average 40,000 packs to choose from, then that pack has got to work hard. It’s the same with websites, apps, digital outdoors etc.

Packaging’s role is threefold:

  1. To sell the product
  2. To protect the content
  3. To facilitate the use of the contents

Ditto, the role of digital is the same. The component parts are the same too;

Graphics

Packaging graphics have more to do than simply look pretty. They must work to cut through the white noise that is the crowded supermarket shelf, and attract a potential buyer.

Shape

Packaging comes in all shapes and sizes. The structure of a pack can serve to create shelf standout and sell the product, to prolong the life of the product and to facilitate the use of the product. There’s also a lot we can learn from packaging that ‘just is’. It’s practical & boring in some cases, but absolutely necessary to transport the precious cargo to the end user.

Sustainability

The packaging industry has been vilified over the years, not least on the subject of plastic bags. Yet, brands have always been looking for ways to reduce materials and maximise packaging for both environmental and financial reasons. Web optimisation in UX is the same.

Materials

Traditionally certain materials have been associated with certain markets. But as markets change and consumer attitudes adjust it is unsurprising that material choice has also changed in the packaging sector accordingly. Same in digital, only our material is now ‘content’ and ‘conversations’ and bits of media.

Regulations

The packaging industry spans many markets and so is regulated by many different forms of legislation and voluntary codes. More parallels – I work a lot in Financial Services so I know this all too well.

Golden Rules

There are 8 golden rules of packaging design that we were taught at uni too that I stilI also apply in UX:

  1. Conduct a thorough audit of all competitors in your market before you start, and make sure you understand their respective positionings and attributes. Then create your own.
  2. Look at what is happening in other markets, e.g. if you are just considering the UK or Europe, what is happening in the US or Far East that might give you a point of difference?
  3. Put measures in place at the start so you can track and learn as you go, e.g. measure awareness of and attitude to your packaging now and in the future. A good research agency will tell you how to do this.
  4. Be different and ensure your pack has its own visual equity and has a strong personality and attitude.
  5. Make sure your pack works at all stages of its life cycle, from leaving the factory to ending up in the user’s hands.
  6. Mock up how your pack would look alongside your competition. Test it in store and make sure it really does leap out at point of purchase.
  7. Design with tomorrow in mind. Create a pack that is in keeping with current market trends and future trends.
  8. Consider doing some pre-market testing to make sure your pack will find a willing audience. But be careful how you test it as consumers never quite know what they are looking for until someone shows them something new. Henry Ford once said: ‘If I’d listened to what people wanted I’d have built a faster horse!’

Out of the box UX

Everybody in the field of UX should be digesting and using content and background materials from the field of Packaging Design. It’s a rich seam of knowledge that can be directly applied to what we do. Take a website for example, it’s just in many cases a fast-moving-consumer-good and it comes with all of the same elements. Now that interfaces are merging with the real world it’s more relevant than ever.

2013 is the year where I go right back to my roots and start to bring packaging to the forefront of the area of UX that I work with. I’m going to start taking packaging examples to client meetings & as part of all my Discover, Define, Design phases. It’s actually one of the single biggest areas of parallel comparative research available to us so when you start a new brief this year, make an effort to go down to the supermarket & decide what kind of package your making for your digital content.

Resources

Prosumer – fear the new breed of user

There’s a guy in a bedroom in London tweeting to his followers about a crap experience with a new digital service. They’re listening too. Lapping it up because they think it’s giving them some inside track. Some of them will even pass the disgust on to their followers. They might just re-tweet creating a virtual cycle of pass-it-on with limitless viral potential. Some might even just plagiarize the advice and pretend it happened to them instead – an interesting case of wanting to be the top informant. It’s binary Chinese whispers, but in this case the message doesn’t change just the magnitude of it. Meanwhile the digital service is shitting bricks of binary trying to put the untameable fire out – “it’s out of control, what can we do?” – the answer is of course nothing at all. If you tackle the guy at the source you risk in framing his rage by second guessing the motive and getting it wrong again. Besides, he’s getting his moment in the limelight as the hero who exposed the scandal (him & the 32 other people who nicked the warning and claimed the victory) so why would he be interested in a bung to shut him up. We have an unwritten rule in our land of digital architects & experience manufacturing, you can only do one thing – “don’t feed the troll”. Act ignorant, pretend it’s not there & eventually it should go away.

It’s not a new phenomenon, I’ve been parroting on to colleagues & peers about this for almost 10 years under various labels. In fact the whole concept is rather old hat – you have a crap experience & human nature tells us to warn our friends to stop the same thing happening to them.

On the flip side if you have a great time you’ll be an advocate & pass the good times on. So we have to embrace the new world order as much as fear it because the positive effect can be too huge to risk missing out on.

We’ve come to label the uncontrollable desire to tell everyone everything “The Prosumer Effect“.

Prosumer is a portmanteau formed by combing either the word professional or producer with the word consumer. The term has taken on multiple conflicting meanings: the business sector sees the prosumer (professional–consumer) as a market segment, whereas economists see the prosumer (producer–consumer) as having greater independence from the mainstream economy.

Influencing a company with the power of communication

My view of the Prosumer is as one who can influence what a company does be it product development or marketing in ways which directly benefit them. For example, say you’re an advertising agency and a group of people who were subjected to a particular campaign took issue with it & used social communication tools to voice their concern. These customers are important enough that losing them would seriously hurt your bottom line. Based on their request you direct a portion of your next campaign budget to solve their specific issue. While the customers didn’t directly make the changes they did influence the company with their feedback. This arrangement has positive effects for both parties:

For the customer:

  • Immediate access to a more tailored counter-campaign
  • The new campaign meets their specific requirements.

For the company:

  • Strengthened relationship with the customer.
  • Demonstrates a willingness to keep their customers satisfied.
  • The company now has a new feature/product/service they can market to other customers.

It’s a win-win scenario.

Another definition of Prosumer is “Progressive Consumer” which emerged during the recession in 2008 / 2009 and identifies a modern consumer who has changed their approach to the traditional methods and habits of purchasing products. A Prosumer is researching a products value, performance, and price through social networks (twitter, tumblr, facebook) and consumer product reviews (such as Amazon.co.uk) and prices comparison shopping engines such as Kelkoo before making a final decision or purchase. Within these web sites a Prosumer researches all aspects of a products performance, price and social acceptance in relative comparison to similar products within the same category.

It’s no coincidence that Aleksandr Orlov of Compare the Meerkat was an advertising hit in 2009, he was the poster boy (well, animal) for the prosumer crowd, all scrabbling over the best deals to help dented pockets.

The Prosumer is searching for the highest quality product that best meets their personal needs for the maximum amount of money they are willing to spend. Based on that search criteria, the Prosumer is also willing to venture into new shopping distribution channels in order to purchase that product.

I simply adore this video entitled Prometeus: the future of media. It really crystallizes some of the new order in stunning over-exaggerated style:

Prometheus – The media new age

“Man is God. He is everywhere, he is anybody, he knows everything.”
“A new figure emerges: the prosumer, a producer and a consumer of information. Anyone can be a prosumer.”
“Experience is the new reality.”

It’s melodrama of course, but those 3 statements from the video alone carry weight & reality. We are everywhere now, we do communicate globally in real time & we are hyper-connected. I’m writing this post in bed using a app on my iPad. I might go & shop & review when I’m done. If something irritates me I can open Tweetdeck and let my 200ish followers know it sucked. Hell, if it REALLY sucked I might send the same status update to my Facebook profile & let my 170 ‘real friends’ know so they can tell their friends & so on. We call it a ‘status bomb’ in this game. I’m a prosumer. I’m also an influencer. I carry weight in my own vapor sphere & that means I can’t be ignored. Scary, huh?

The rise of the Twinsumer

The proliferation of the use of digital marketing has led to significant growth in brands using social marketing campaigns to increase consumer engagement. Social channels facilitate the art of listening, learning and sharing, so consumers are now using online channels to find the exact product to match their tastes based on fellow consumers’ recommendations.

Moreover, they are not just listening to any old recommendation they find online but are listening to their taste ‘twins’. These are consumers who share the same opinions, whose purchase procedure, engagement and characteristics are very similar. Ultimately, by mimicking other users’ behaviour and purchase patterns these people are becoming ‘twinsumers’.

Before the digital marketing age, marketers were reliant on influencers who would spread their customer experience by word of mouth, to their ‘real-world’ friends, to encourage other shoppers to visit their stores. Although customer loyalty schemes did help to track the customer journey, they still did not allow marketers to see the full consumer journey and to track shoppers at every touchpoint. Without this information marketers would struggle to see exactly who their customer was and at what point they were being turned off by the brand. The explosion of e-commerce brought many opportunities for marketers to track customer insight and recommendations online but all too often it came without in-depth analysis of what was making the customer engage with the product in the first place.

So why should marketers be interested in these twinsumers? Firstly, as the online environment is now a hotbed for social interaction, buzz around a brand can have longevity as audiences continue to engage in dialogue about it. It really cannot be underestimated how much consumers are relying on peer opinion over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions; most importantly, consumers are increasingly looking at opinions that have been posted online to inform their choices. The twinsumer phenomenon turns millions of reviews, ratings and recommendations into truly valuable results that can exactly match one person’s particular preferences to another.

This is crucial for businesses as the nature of these well-linked and related recommendations often leads to impulse and surprise buys, as well as generating more sales. Statistics also show that click-through and conversion rates of recommendations based on collaborative filtering are much higher than untargeted content such as banner advertisements or top-seller lists. Consumers respect the opinion of others, and twinsumers respect the opinions of those who share their characteristics. You can’t impress them with traditional marketing and advertising alone any more.

Marketers need to consider if their brand can exploit this new wave of twinsumerism and adapt their websites accordingly. Do they already provide a review, opinion or recommendation area on the site? If so, then consider adding the functionality for personal profiles to allow real twinsumerism to blossom. This should include everything from your customer’s age, appearance, occupation, favourite websites, hobbies, interests and musical taste to entire biographies. In fact, anything that allows other consumers to grasp a better feel for how compatible they are with the brand.

While many twinsumers bond over a niche market such as travel, books or reading, marketers must not ignore the impact of the ‘Master Consumer’: a leading twinsumer and a mass influencer. These are certain reviewers, bloggers or consumer experts who have become so popular that they appeal to large numbers of other consumers who will trust and follow their recommendations even if their profiles do not match the usual narrowly defined twinsumer matches. By identifying which of these master consumers are relevant to a brand, marketers can look to initiate twinsumerism by specifically targeting these influencers.

Twinsumers are an important part of the process of how we make purchasing decisions online. The digital generation emerging is the first group of consumers to grow up with all these new tools and peer-to-peer options through which they are ready to contribute. There are already millions of personal profile, blogs and homepages up and running exchanging this information. With online sales continuing to increase, marketers need to leverage every opportunity to ensure they can achieve the most cut-through. While twinsumers are an emerging phenomenon, as a purchasing group they are perpetually growing and it is imperative for any marketer to consider these consumers within existing and future digital strategies.

Published by Figaro Digital – 01/10/2009

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