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Badgeville Engage 2012 Chicago Summary

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Badgeville Engage 2012 Chicago Summary
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I can’t say that I’ve been officially “on tour” for quite a while, so the opportunity to serve as emcee for the Chicago tour stop of Badgeville Engage 2012 was pretty exciting. Badgeville’s road show started on the West Coast earlier this year with events in San Francisco and Seattle, and wraps up on October 17 in New York. You should take the opportunity to request an invitation to the New York event now before it reaches capacity.

The idea of bringing in marketers who caught an early vision for adapting game mechanics to serve a business purpose is powerful for those still climbing the ladder of understanding. Almost like a good-old tent revival to evangelize to the non-believers and shake the ground a bit, the event in Chicago yesterday was special also for the reason that Badgeville, the company, turned 3 years old on the day.

Kevin Akeroyd, SVP Field Operations for Badgeville wrapped up a brisk 2 hour agenda of panels and punchy presentations with a reality check that we are still early in the game of applying game mechanics to a variety of business situations. He reminded the group that this isn’t just a “game”, but a serious set of tools that business can leverage to improve profits and add to shareholder value.  Kevin’s viewpoint is important as he is an experienced veteran of field operations and enterprise software, including leadership roles across sales, marketing and business development with other start-ups that have become established enterprises including Salesforce.com and Jigsaw.

The event kicked off with Jennifer Polk, Vice President with Edelman Digital who shared some quick insights on her work with customer engagement and then introduced the EdelBug an Edelman Digital branded VW Beetle Turbo that is touring Chicago during Social Media Week.

The packed room at the event site was then treated to Marc Parrish, VP Membership & Customer Retention Marketing, Barnes & Noble as he shared his experienced based beliefs on why gamification was going to change the loyalty marketing landscape. You can find his presentation from the Engage 2012 Summit on Slideshare here.

A panel composed of presenters from Bazaarvoice, Bradsdeals.com, and Herff Jones addressed how they each became adopters of game mechanics for their businesses, citing key business objectives that triggered their search for solutions beyond standard reward program offers.

Bill Fanning from Bazaarvoice talked about the company’s desire to connect digital interaction points of information gathered across channels to bring structure to otherwise unstructured data. Bazaarvoice was seeking to increase the volume of user generated content for its clients, drive SEO, and improve consumer engagement.  Gamification allowed Bazaarvoice to recognize the “micro-contributions” of web site community visitors in ways that would encourage return visits and community growth.

In many cases, driving status in community was enough to increase customer interaction frequency, though some of the panellists were experimenting with discounts and similar offers to encourage reviews. Both Ken Walters of Bradsdeals.com and Jim Gordon from Herff Jones noted the importance of increasing customer engagement, leading to the ability to profile community members as contributors, influencers, and advocates.

Ken talked about the interesting journey Bradsdeals had taken, as it started with research into building a traditional rewards program but quickly uncovered the possibility that gamification systems could be a means of accomplishing much of what they were looking for in a rewards program without the liability and overhead.

The same observation was made by Chris Krohn, President and CMO of Restaurants.com when he shared with the group “we did not set out to research gamification….it found us. We were researching traditional loyalty platform providers that could help with customer retention and repeat purchase rates and found the answers in gamification”.

Linking these practitioner presentations together was a heady talk from Evangeline Marzec, Mobile Strategist, Deloitte Digital about “How to Use Fun” to create successful games. Evangeline is a video games industry veteran with expertise rooted in development of user profiling for the purpose of understanding what makes an activity “fun” for different types of psychological profiles. The CTO of a major cosmetics company called the 1-hour version of her presentation his “ah-hah moment” in understanding how to transform his organization with game mechanics. Her 15 minute version at the Engage 2012 event did not disappoint.

Catherine Blackmore, VP Account Management with Badgeville, led a fantastic panel covering how to build vibrant user communities. Catherine was joined by Ken Hieronymus from higi, a new enterprise with the mission to make people more aware of their personal health & well-being through use of a “higi Score”. Also presenting was Adena DeMonte, Badgeville’s Director of Marketing, and Tyler Altrup, now a Solutions Architect with Badgeville, having joined the team recently from EMC Corporation.  At EMC, Tyler led the launch of RAMP, EMC’s new gamification-powered Recognition, Award, and Motivation Program. He’s a frequent blogger and his musings can be found at TylerAltrup.com.

Badgeville Engage Chicago was a unique event that delivered valuable content to attendees and created a learning environment that opened eyes. Many in attendance agreed one big step forward for gamification will be to find a new name for this marketing genre, just as we have evolved from talking about Loyalty programs to building Customer Strategies.

As a follow up report, I’ll share a complete interview with Chris Krohn of Restaurants.com on the Loyalty Truth next week. Chris shared comments that clarified the benefits of the gamified enterprise and answered many key questions for Engage 2012 attendees. Don’t miss it.

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