What Video Games Can Teach Businesses about Becoming Sticky

Businesses go to great lengths to win customers and earn a bigger share of the market compared to their competitors. Even the slightest edge can translate to a significant increase in leads and conversions.

But entrepreneurs know that the lifetime value of a consumer is worth far more. Due to the cost of acquisition, you have a greater incentive to earn loyalty once a consumer has experienced your products or services.

The implication is that you don’t just need to grab a consumer’s attention or give value. You need to continue doing so. In the process, you get them hooked. And you make yourself memorable.

There are many ways to make that happen. You can brainstorm a catchy brand name, bolster your social media presence, or use virtual pocket numbers for your business contact. All of those will help. Yet above all, your business needs stickiness.

The power of stickiness

A successful product sticks. The concept of stickiness is something that’s hard to define, but easy to grasp. You know it when you see it, or when it’s absent. Malcolm Gladwell discusses this in The Tipping Point, stating that the quality of stickiness is often counter-intuitive and goes against prevailing wisdom.

A certain amount of trial and error will be necessary in order to arrive at a sticky business idea. However, that doesn’t mean you just leave things up to chance. Through research and effort, for instance, TV producers succeeded in making educational shows sticky by creating the likes of Sesame Street and Blues Clues.

Once you’ve created a sticky product or service, it has the power to pass on through word of mouth. Consumers begin to tell their friends about it. And the endorsement of someone you know carries far more weight than the recommendations of celebrities or social media influencers.

video game controller on a keyboard and a pair of headset

Learning from video games

In the digital age, some of the best examples of stickiness at work come from the realm of video games. Millions of video game titles have been released, with only a few enjoying sustained success. Yet these titles have persisted for years.

Minecraft has been around for 11 years. The most-played MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) as of 2020, World of Warcraft, has been entertaining gamers for 16 years. Going back, you have a fan-base still dedicated to playing games like Ultima Online (23 years).

These successful video games can teach us a lot about stickiness. Any business would love to have the sort of loyal consumer following that sticks around for a decade or two.

The first clue as to what’s going on can be seen in the history of video games themselves. Going back to the early decades of the gaming industry, up to the turn of the millennium, video games were largely self-contained.

You could head to an arcade to play with your friends or hold playing sessions in your basement on a dedicated console. For the most part, though, you played games alone.

The gaming experience changed over the years as high-speed internet connection became more accessible. This enabled people to play together online. Eventually, mobile devices entered the scene and further expanded the gaming audience.

The key lesson here is that modern video games got their stickiness by becoming a social experience. No matter how much you loved the solo play, you’d get bored eventually and move on to something new. But if a game involve your friends, you’d all feel compelled to stick to playing, and only move on if everybody else wanted to.

That said, video games still rely on a ‘core mechanic.’ It’s what makes a game fun enough to play on its own, in order to lure players initially. For an RPG, it’s creating and training your character. For a sandbox-style game like Minecraft, it’s building and exploring for new resources.

Creating a game-like experience

Nailing these two components is what drives the success of today’s top games over many years. And these are the takeaways. Your business needs a strong core mechanic; a product that stands on its own merits. Then, you need the social experience. Existing consumers should engage others, especially their friends and family.

There’s no need to award badges or levels. Existing tools like social media work fine. But you have to be intentional with your approach. Instead of investing your money in a mercenary influencer, reward actual users of your product. Encourage them to interact with, and build habits around, your products and services.

As you continue to release new features and offerings, make sure that they not only add value but remain integrated with the core mechanic. This will incentivize existing consumers to stay loyal and create group inertia making it harder to jump ship to a competitor because their peers remain engaged with your brand.

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