At the last count there were 2.3 billion gamers worldwide, and the market is predicted to be worth over $33 billion by 2020. 56% of gamers play multiplayer games at least once a week, 60% of American gamers play every day. 25 new games are released on Steam daily.
The average gamer is 34 years old, 45% of US gamers are women, and 23% of US players are over 50 (so dispelling the image once and for all that gamers are largely teenage boys sitting alone in their bedrooms).
As a game developer or owner, while you’re in a growing market that seems to appeal to a wide demographic, there’s a lot of noise out there and it’s getting tougher to be heard, even among your own subscribers. Just because someone signs up to your game it doesn’t mean you’ve successfully captured their attention or that you’ve got their loyalty for life.
Gamers are notoriously fickle. Their experience needs to be uber-compelling from the start or they will log off again in short order, never to return. They not only need to see how to get into the game and level up as quickly as possible, but they also need to feel like they’re a valued part of a vibrant community, that you’re helping them progress, that you want them to succeed, there’s rewards to be had and there’s plenty to keep playing for.
Yes, the game itself needs to keep them engaged – you probably already invest a lot of time and effort into doing just that - but that’s not going to be enough on its own. Recognising, acknowledging and communicating with them via the right channels and at exactly the right moment is just as vital to keep them on board.
You need a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) strategy for your players
And it needs to swing into action from the very second you see a new player signing up. Because the window of opportunity is very narrow, the drop-out rate is frustratingly high, and you probably don’t want to spend all your marketing budget trying to fill a leaky bucket.
Recent research shows that among mobile gamers for example, the vast majority spend less than two minutes trying out a new game. Less time than it takes to Snapchat their mates just how good (or bad) it is. Another report from Google and CEB shows that customers who are emotionally connected to a brand are twice as likely to buy from that brand and four times as likely to defend that purchase decision (another one for a Snapchat streak).
The psychology behind the gaming experience is complicated, but we do know that stagnation in gaming is death. So to keep your players playing not only do you need to keep the game itself immersive, you also need to be ready and waiting with communications, offers, rewards and in-game messaging that keeps them coming back for more.
CRM practitioners talk about “Moments of Truth” – the encounters you have with your customers that help them form an opinion about your organisation, particularly about how you engage with them, measured against their expectations. Those expectations can be met or not, exceeded or not. It’s how you plan, monitor and modify your responses to those moments of truth that make for a good CRM strategy and a loyal customer base.
CRM best practice in gaming
CRM is a tested and proven way to grow your business through player retention and growth. By using the data you are already gathering on a daily basis to analyse history and behaviours, you are in a prime position to develop player relationships and add value to their gaming experience.
A CRM plan should be for the lifetime of your subscribers, and these are our top 5 fundamentals to include. We will explore and expand on each of these elements in more detail in later blogs.
1. Data analysis
You are uniquely placed in the gaming industry to have the kind of customer data at your fingertips that most other industries would kill for. You can track every event, move and interaction your players have with the game and the community supporting them. Mine that data to create player ‘personas.’ You will need to identify at least three separate unique personas (preferably more) to help determine how you will communicate and market to different player types. Because not all players are created equal and not all marketing messages will work for everyone.
2. Map the player journey
Create a roadmap showing how a player interacts with your organisation and the game platform at every touch point. This will include your operations, marketing, communications, sales, service, and support — any aspect of your business where your customers” touch” your organisation, either directly (though set-up or in-game interaction) or indirectly (e.g. support or player forums). There is always a reason why these touch points happen – they are your “moments of truth” - so defining and mapping them is a key part of your CRM plan.
3. Set objectives for each stage of the customer lifecycle
For each player persona work out what their lifecycle looks like, how many stages they go through, what their interactions are, what the ‘trigger points’ (any player-originated event that prompts an action from you) are, and what are the likely outcomes for each of those stages. Then set objectives for each stage. Objectives can be categorised as: retain, grow, monetize, reward, reactivate, progress, convert, reduce churn, increase game time etc. Each objective should have its own set of KPIs and measures which contribute to an overall business goal.
4. Create a continuous ‘always on’ communications strategy for the whole customer lifecycle
Use marketing automation tools to proactively and reactively communicate with players at key points in the lifecycle. This can include automated email marketing like welcome, nurture and win-back programs, display ad retargeting, e.g. via Google Ads or social media remarketing, or in-game personalisation, recognising and rewarding achievements, recommending next best actions, offer or content to explore. Each communications activity should be tailored to the player’s persona.
5. Track engagement and revise the CRM plan where necessary
Build in a process to test, test and test your CRM activities over and over again. CRM is not a ‘one and done’ deal. Your game is changing all the time, your players will react differently to expectations all the time. So you need the ability to monitor their behaviours and responses to your attempts at engaging them and the rapid reaction reflexes that allow you to adapt and adjust your communications accordingly and in real time.
Putting a CRM plan together is only the start of the process and there are plenty of elements to include. If you need our help in any aspect of your CRM deliberations, then please get in touch.