Leveraging Interactivity to Boost Stickiness

Stephen Yagielowicz

It is a lesson from my earliest days of website development — addiction is the key to retention, not only in terms of keeping members recurring, but keeping them on your site for longer periods of time — boosting the appeal and profit potential of your online endeavors. Rather than a website, however, Windows Solitaire led me to this revelation — a computer game that I witnessed some devotees playing for several hours each day.

I asked a friend why he wasted so much time playing this simple game. “It’s addictive,” he replied…

The desire to discover and collect is rooted in our psyches, transcending all socio-economic strata.

From then on, I realized that giving prospects what they want is all fine and dandy, but giving them what they need is even better.

Certainly, providing exclusive and unique content that the customer cannot find elsewhere is vital to this process, but instilling addictive elements of game play — elements that will push the deep buttons of our hunter-gatherer past — are perhaps more important, in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

The desire to discover and collect is rooted in our psyches, transcending all socio-economic strata.

The other night, for example, I found my 83-year-old father intently gazing at his computer screen, the sounds of an arcade filling the room; “beep… ding… ring…”

I smiled as I looked over his shoulder to see him playing an online game that was similar to the video “slot machines” that my lovely wife Dawn enjoys playing in Las Vegas. He had been playing for a while, with no sign of letting up on his quest to win the challenge presented by this specific game.

He had played games on this website before, and continued playing for at least another 20 minutes while we were visiting.

It was exactly the type of site stickiness that I am targeting; and it was reassuring to not only see its appeal so close to home, but across an age demographic that is far beyond “teens and young adults” — old folks like to play online games too!

The concept goes beyond games, however, to center on game play, a task that takes on many forms and known today as “gamification.”

Offering discounts or other sales incentives is one use of this combo of psychology and technology.

One adherent to the practice is Certified Hosting, which periodically offers discounts on its hosting services, exclusively for game winners. For example, its Flash-powered “April Showers” promotion had hopeful customers “scratching” a virtual lottery ticket, in hopes that the flower graphic they selected is the one revealing the 20 percent discount code.

Gamification is not something that is limited to mainstream applications, however.

Porn is great for what it is, but my current goals include the use of free adult content to attract an audience that I then hope to influence as a means of advocacy and policy development across a broad range of hot-button issues. In practice, this is as simple as bridging mainstream and adult through brief articles accompanied by erotic imagery — think photo gallery or video clip with a short story attached.

Gamification comes into play with incremental content add-ons. In this specific example, I want you to read and comprehend the article; and to encourage this, there will be a simple quiz at the end of it — posing a single, relevant question, with a multiple- choice answer.

The correct answer unlocks additional free content.

Other game-play features include memory games that match paired images; puzzles featuring a sexy photograph, that upon completion, allows access to that model’s gallery or mini-site; and other content that holds appeal beyond a single round of play and that rewards successful players with more freebies.

It is simply compensating website visitors that perform specific actions on your behalf.

Unscrupulous operators have used similar techniques to crowdsource Captcha-based login hacks, while perceptive marketers leverage these methods to generate individual video content descriptions: “watch this clip and enter a brief description below to see more” — an innovative way to include unique content on a white label that is otherwise similar to thousands of others.

If you can include live or pseudolive content into the approach, the results can be even better.

For example, a visitor that wins 10 rounds of online video poker may then have the opportunity to play strip poker with a live model via two-way webcam or other services.

The options are limited only by your budget and imagination, but the underlying message is that the more interactive and “interesting” the site, the stickier it becomes — and the greater its profit potential.

By employing elements of interactive gamification, you can set your site apart from its competitors, and enjoy a greater level of opportunity today.