The gaming industry is a remarkable and multifaceted enterprise. It’s an understatement to say it’s captured popular culture; it’s also permeated business culture.
Even when viewed purely as part of the ‘entertainment industry’, gaming has out performed other categories, financially eclipsing the music, art and film industries combined. In many ways, it has absorbed these traditional industries into its ever-expanding orbit. Moviegoers lining up to see the premieres of Warcraft: The Beginning or Angry Birds: The Movie would only attest to this.
Gamers worldwide are expected to generate more than $100 billion in revenues for the industry in 2017, with APAC accounting for a leading 47% of the market. This figure covers gaming revenue across PCs, consoles/TVs, web games and mobile devices.
With this degree of success and broad-ranging influence on society – what lessons can other industries learn and apply from the gaming sector? Can marketing leaders in particular apply gaming industry strategies to positive effect?
I’d say a resounding yes, and these are the insights I would highlight.
The gaming world places a high value on delivering a first-rate customer and user experience. In fact, it’s really all about the experience: in gaming, users are often immersed in a story playing the lead role in an often-spectacular narrative.
In a sales and marketing setting, we can apply this “lead role” thinking to any digital business customer, elevating her to the hero of the story. Web and e-commerce user experience designers can and often do look to the gaming experience as an ideal paradigm as the customer journey is mapped out. It may be a different context, but a positive and engaging user experience is what keeps users coming back.
By providing an emotional incentive, [Taito] unlocked a great insight into human behaviour: people like the emotional reward of out doing their friends for bragging rights.
Simplicity and engagement of user interface, a logical flow of navigation, easy to understand instructions, and a good sense of fun and enjoyment in the customer-buying and post-sales journey – these are all concepts the gaming industry continues to influence. As far as digital business goes, experimenting with gamification techniques (such as these innovative referral contests, bidding systems and gamified service optionsfrom eBay, Nike and others) in your online strategies can serve to improve customer retention and foster loyalty.
Consider the leaderboard innovation, first introduced by Taito in 1978 when they released a humble little game called Space Invaders. By providing an emotional incentive, the company unlocked a great insight into human behaviour: people like the emotional reward of out doing their friends for bragging rights. Years later Foursquareapplied this particular technique – allowing users to compete with each other to become the “mayor” of their favourite physical locations.
Video games are just one medium that uses storytelling, but their interactive nature makes them an influential and memorable example. Consider all the different choices you can make within fantasy or sci-fi action role-playing games like Mass Effect or The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Each decision made around, for example, who you converse with or where you travel to affects the storyline considerably. This concept of variable, interactive and immersive storytelling is a powerful model for brands to consider and apply to the customer journey and contextual marketing. Your customer made a series of decisions in the narrative which constitutes their interaction with your brand. Track these product and service decisions and communicate in the context of this story.
This concept of variable, interactive and immersive storytelling is a powerful model for brands to consider and apply to the customer journey and contextual marketing.
It’s the job of “storytellers” within organisations to inspire and delight via the story their brand is telling. As customers engage with different decision points as they get to know your company, give them a narrative. Contextually, this will often be about your organisation’s principles, history and take on the world – but combine this with your customer’s reality. Which city they live in, the way they use your company’s offerings, which products they purchase, where, when and how they purchase them, what support and service queries they log with your organisation and so on.
The gaming industry is moving toward virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies with recently cited titles like Knockout League, Eagle Flight and Eve: Valkyrie. These elements will only increase the immersive nature of storytelling.
Equally, organisations should look to AR and VR as ways to explore new customer experiences, sales, product discovery, and brand storytelling opportunities. As The Harvard Business Review points out, VR and AR can be used to transform how people shop, eliminate pain points, and elevate customer service. The market for VR/AR is set to hit $120 billion by 2020, and $50 billion by 2018 according to Digi-Capital forecasts. The implications are vast, as brands will soon roll out VR/AR driven engagement mediums such as digital showrooms, virtual product customisation platforms, live entertainment simulations prior to buying concert tickets, field service training for technical workers, and all kinds of yet to be conceived applications.
The gaming industry has been successful in building dedicated communities of users. This is evident in organised clans of players who engage en masse in multiplayer online games like League of Legends, Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls.
There are also large communities organised around gaming digital distribution platforms such as Steam and Origin, which feature multiplayer gaming along with advanced social networking and chat services. Minecraft and Roblox have also achieved much in this realm, the latter is a user-generated massively multiplayer online social gaming platform where players can create their own virtual worlds and games within the platform. Recent figures show Roblox has 30 million active monthly players and 500,000 game creators! Meanwhile, the popular Twitch video platform and community loved by gamers boasts figures of close to 10 million daily visitors who gather to watch and talk about video games with more than two million video streamers.
Brands often have an opportunity to emulate this idea, bringing together thousands of fans and advocates into online communities in a bid to complement the customer experience via additional resources and peer-to-peer engagement. Research shows these communities have the potential to drive greater reach, encourage conversions and enhance the customer experience. Proctor and Gamble, SAP, Lego and Harley-Davidson are examples of brands executing this strategy well.
Brands often have an opportunity to emulate this idea, bringing together thousands of fans and advocates into online communities in a bid to complement the customer experience via additional resources and peer-to-peer engagement.
As for me, I grew up on classic PC games like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM, and these days I’ve been known to spend a few hours playing Star Wars: Battlefront and Call of Duty in my spare time. As a marketing leader, I’m often looking to the gaming industry for inspiration around customer experience. Our push into the gaming sector via our Legion gaming brand is exciting as it provides even more opportunity to build dedicated communities of users.
Game on marketers!
I welcome your thoughts and comments. Please tag me below or find me on Twitter.
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