Game elements add fun and yield ROI for home office
By: Sarah Pendley
“Gamification is well suited to direct selling companies because at its very core, it transforms mundane business practices into more engaging and rewarding activities by incorporating game mechanics.”
—Brian Palmer, CEO, Theorem
The original video-gamers have grown up and brought the elements they love into their professions, spawning an entire industry of gamified applications that reach across multiple sectors.
Earning badges, competing for followers, winning bids, collecting tokens, advancing levels and other gaming practices are now commonplace, as they provide satisfaction for some of humanity’s deepest psychological needs.
For example, earning a badge for completing a training class can turn a general task into an exciting achievement, tapping into our need to feel good about achieving something and being recognized. (This need was first identified in Albert Maslow’s 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation.”) Accumulating those badges and becoming a “top” earner dials in and satisfies our competitive nature.
From points systems and progress bars to countdowns and group voting, gamification can encompass almost any process and desired outcome. Brian Palmer, CEO of startup hair-care company Theorem, says, “The reason why gamification is well suited to direct selling companies is that at its very core, it transforms mundane business practices into more engaging and rewarding activities by incorporating game mechanics.”
Gamification in direct selling applications and websites is continuing to grow as more people recognize that gaming structures can cultivate brand loyalty, motivate teams and increase engagement.
“We all love to know that we are accomplishing things, that we are progressing toward our goals, that we are moving forward,” says Rodger Smith, CEO of software firm DirectScale.
He adds: “That’s why gamification works, and it’s why an engaged rep is so much more valuable than one who enrolls and doesn’t stay active.”
The Impact of COVID-19
The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the people communicate and connect everywhere. If ever there was a time to employ tools to better engage team members, it is now. Studies have shown that the well-being of Americans is significantly dropping during the pandemic. One survey by New York-based psychological research firm SocialPro found that just over 30 percent of respondents were lonelier due to the isolating effects of the coronavirus.
Arizona-based health and wellness company Xendurance launched a community within their Team XND app called XND In Motion. The goal is to encourage and reward movement, which makes it a well-timed incentive program as the pandemic and shelter-in-place restrictions continue to isolate people. With each step of this 21-day, multi-round game, players are rewarded for completing a motion and reminded of their continued success throughout each round.
What makes XND In Motion unique is that it not only rewards participants with virtual badges, there is also an opportunity to earn products and monetary rewards each month.
“In six months, we established a network of people encouraging each other to move their bodies and feel better,” explains Jason St. Clair, CEO of Xendurance. “During a truly stressful and isolating time in their lives, we can bring the community to them, right to their phone.”
Additionally, direct selling leaders are taking it upon themselves to leverage gamification to realign the field during the pandemic. “We have a volunteer salesforce and, because of this, we need to make it fun. We need to make selling something they want to do,” says Palmer.
Recognition has always been a critical component of a successful direct selling company. In the past, this sort of recognition has traditionally been conducted through in-person events. Due to COVID-19, annual conferences and leadership retreats have been indefinitely halted. Gamification can help fill this recognition gap, acknowledging sellers through virtual badges or personalized emblems.
Building Culture Through Gamification
Distributor retention remains a top priority for every company, and it’s another area gamification can influence. Companies with advanced gamified systems have put a tremendous amount of thought into their distributors’ selling journey and how to keep it in line with the company’s culture. “Gamification breeds thoughtfulness and reflects the brand,” Palmer says. “It becomes part of the company, and the culture starts to emulate that same thoughtfulness.”
Gamification also allows companies to create a “sticky” experience for both distributors and customers. By encouraging healthy repetitive behavior, St. Clair says Xendurance hopes to spark a lifestyle movement.
“This is not just a game, this is habit-forming and life-changing,” St Clair says. “I truly believe that. When people see success, your business sees success.”
Participants of XND In Motion are encouraged to post each completed challenge on social media. By sharing the brand consistently with their followers, participants build lasting and supportive communities, creating further interest and conversations around health and eventually Xendurance’s products.
Gamification Meets Machine Learning
When gamification began, the concept was simple: Apply gaming principles to seemingly uninteresting and tedious processes to make them more interesting. As activity has spread through the channel, data collection and analysis has also grown, providing the ability to go beyond templated training and provide personalized interactions. While the game’s UX design remains simple for the distributor, more companies are diving into the intricacies of machine learning.
“To the distributor, the gamification elements are introduced in bite-size chunks and easy flow,” Palmer says. “We have hidden the complexities of machine learning behind the curtain.”
Incorporating machine learning and backend data, for example, can provide helpful notifications to distributors. For example, they can be notified through the game when their customers’ products are up for reorders and automatically receive a text that they can then send to their customers. Through machine learning, companies can also identify customers who have a higher chance of conversion and push them as leads to the distributor.
“In its simplest form, the process provides an automatic customization of the selling experience that is completely relevant to both the distributor and customer,” Palmer adds.
Return on Investment
As with any new piece of technology or operational upgrade, companies seek confirmation that there is a return on investment. Smith says, “It’s about visibility into metrics like social sharing KPIs, suggested next steps, rank advancement, and as many gamification elements as the client wants to deliver. We enable the journey from independent seller to true ambassador of the brand.”
Smith adds: “That transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but meaningful engagement from day one matters: A seller who sees even a few dollars in commission in their first six months is three times as likely to stay enrolled.”
One of the biggest returns Palmer has identified is the willingness for the independent distributor to complete specific tasks. Gamifying a sampling program, for example, guides distributors through the entire process and helps them complete the sale through the game’s reward system. For Palmer, the results speak for themselves.
“There is a strong correlation between high earners and those engaged in a gamified processes,” Palmer says. “The independent distributor wants to make money. They want to build a business. If they can do this in a fun way while achieving their ultimate goal, then gamification proves to be powerful.”
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