I love the idea of using techniques exploited by game creators to make everyday tasks more appealing and fun! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could turn up to work each day to play a game (or at least view it that way). To me it seems like the biggest lifehack! I see the applications of gamification extending from running a successful business, to losing weight, to getting people to buy stuff online. And, given that this blog should focus on the latter I want to talk about just a couple of cool gamification techniques that can be tested in ecommerce…

I’ll leave some of the more mundane and obvious techniques such as ‘leader boards’ and ‘levels’ until later. They simply aren’t cool enough to be featured in the maiden gamification post!

Urgent Optimism


I’ll steal from the best (see video below) Jane McGonigal explores the power of urgent optimism to rally people into action when faced with an obstacle. I don’t know about you, but I see dollar signs light up. Let me elaborate. Most good ecommerce carts have drop off rates in excess of 60% ( and I am being generous). The implication here is (if you trust in the commonly held conversion formula below) that detracting elements (friction and anxiety) exceed the motivation, value proposition and incentive which are already artificially uplifted in this formula (not sure how it was derived even after extensive googling). If there was a way of sparking a sense of urgent optimism (which I believe is different to urgency, as in “Hurry! only 2 hours remaining!”), then a website might stand a chance in not losing the majority of people who wanted to add something to their cart. Let me quickly explore some ways this could pan out:

C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) – 2a where

C= Conversion probability
m= Motivation of the user
v= Value proposition clarity
i= Incentive to proceed
f= Friction elements of process
a= Anxiety about proceeding


One Idea..

Display the finish line with positive reinforcement. “Good job, you are almost there, just fill in your credit card details and you’re done!”. Mailchimp do a particularly fine job of gamification with their chimp that walks you through the wizard interfaces. Imagine if you saw this on the checkout page in an online store, wouldn’t that rally you into action? Speaking of chimp, whatever happened to the Microsoft office paperclip? Hmm, maybe be careful with this one.


Another Idea..

Combine urgent optimism with epic meaning, or even regular meaning. I think that outlining the significance of making a purchase, even if it is as meager as “You will be the 12,005,965th customer to buy this pocket watch”, is better than nothing. Though I do not think that epic meaning will work for websites that take themselves seriously like news.com.au, as ‘voice’ may become a concern and a source of confusion for the readership expecting to read about terrorists in Baghdad.

Yet another (free) idea..

Combine urgent optimism with surprise and delight. Say you are browsing along, not sure the battery for your pocket watch is worthwhile, then suddenly you are alerted (perhaps with a popup, perhaps not) with a notification informing you that you can get free shipping on your battery if you can complete the purchase in the next 5 minutes.  I would be all over that battery!

I genuinely think that testing some of these techniques may prove to be more fruitful than boring A/B landing page tests, and given how easy it is to setup Optimizely, I think it is worth a go!



P.S. I have no evidence to suggest that pocket watches are that popular.

P.P.S. If you chose to invest in a pocket watch manufacturing business based purely on the contents of this blog, please consult your financial adviser.

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