By both understanding and driving customer behavior through the use of social media and gamification, marketers can solve an ongoing “engagement crisis” in today’s marketplace. In a session at this week's virtual event hosted by Marketo and Badgeville, “Good to Great Marketing,” Badgeville VP of Marketing Chandar Pattabhiram described why today’s consumers are so hard to engage and how marketers can use leading-edge tools and strategies to reach them.

The Engagement Crisis

Pattabhiram began by offering some grim statistics on the use of the web and social media to engage customers. Only 16% of people actually receive Facebook brand updates and only 28% of people who log into a brand community engage with it. In addition, 55% of customer loyalty program members are inactive and 65% of online shoppers abandon carts before making purchases.

“Customers today have lots of choices and low attention spans,” said Pattabhiram, citing competition for customer attention such as daily deal sites, social media, search and competitor sites and channels. “We live in a BADD world, or business ADD world. The average customer span is eight seconds.”

Exacerbating this situation is what Pattabhiram described as a lack of a way to deliver instant recognition, feedback or gratification to consumers for performing certain behaviors. Until now.

Reputation and Social Mechanics

Pattabhiram said reputation and social mechanics, which are aspects of the larger gamification strategy, now allow marketers to offer instant gratification and recognition that spur consumers to spend longer amounts of time with a brand online and make more and larger purchases. He described reputation mechanics as features that recognize consumers for “status and aptitude,” using tools such as levels and point thresholds, status leaderboards and expertise achievements.

Meanwhile, social mechanics focus on “surfacing high-value behavior across applications in real time,” according to Pattabhiram. “When you log into Facebook, you see an activity stream with things like friend comments,” he said. “You can incorporate this on your own site and showcase high-value behaviors. It gives people the ability to follow their peers.”

In addition, Pattabhiram said social mechanics allow marketers to better understand consumer behavior and determine factors such as what time of day promotions around a specific product work better. They offer “intrinsic” rewards that can add value to more basic “extrinsic” rewards (i.e., low prices or special discounts and incentives).

“For example, if I buy nine cups of coffee at Starbucks I get the 10th cup free,” said Pattabhiram. “That’s extrinsic. But if I receive recognition as the top coffee drinker in my area, that’s intrinsic.”

Gamification Enables The Four Steps to Customer Engagement

Pattabhiram said there are four sequential steps marketers must follow to successfully engage customers: acquire, engage, retain and convert. Gamification allows them to perform each step in its entirety and then move on to the next step.

“Gamification is not about games,” advised Pattabhiram. It’s deeper than that. Gamification is the intersection between technology and psychology that drives the right set of behaviors.”

Pattabhiram quoted statistics from Gartner indicating 70% of Global 2000 companies will be using a gamification solution within two years. While reputation mechanics give customers status and social mechanics give that status context, the game mechanics that underlie gamification sequentially reward customers.

“If a customer performs a high-value activity and is rewarded, the behavior is reinforced,” said Pattabhiram. He said these rewards can include things such as receiving points for Facebook “likes,” giving badges for specific achievements (such as recruiting Twitter followers), and also creating “missions” that combine multiple achievements across different social networks into one larger meta-achievement.

In response to an audience question at the conclusion of the session, Pattabhiram said that gamification can also be applied to employee-facing activities. “You can gamify Salesforce, customer service, learning and training,” he said. “There is also an engagement crisis with the employee.”