What eCommerce User Experience Designers Can Learn From Game Design (Part 2)

eCommerce user experience learn from game design

As I mentioned in my first post on this topic, there are many ways that eCommerce user experience designers and developers can drive an engaging online experience simply by leveraging the basic structure and usability pillars of video game design. I specifically discussed the pillars of Fascination, Urgency, and Imperfection, and how they can be applied to eCommerce when trying to develop an engaging and unique customer experience.

In part two of this post, I’ll focus on the remaining three design pillars to consider:  Naturalism, Time, and Purpose.

Naturalism / Sense of Self

In a video game, if the player believes the environment they’re playing in feels “real”, it doesn’t take long for them to become completely immersed in the experience. While creating a similar experience in eCommerce can be challenging, there are many sites that do this well. For example, Warby Parker lets you upload a picture of yourself to their website to virtually “try-on” a particular set of frames. Some clothing sites are doing the same. They’re creating 3D models of clothing, then simulating the look and behavior of a garment on an uploaded photo of the shopper. To some shoppers, this level of personalization can mean all the difference. After all, naturalism and sense of self go hand-in-hand. To a shopper, online or otherwise, the natural world includes them. Without providing this sense for the user, the online experience would feel very artificial and empty.


While the “time” pillar may seem closely related to the urgency pillar I discussed in my first post, there’s another factor here to consider…the passage of time. To keep an online shopping site fresh and interesting, time should be accurately represented. Again, it makes the user feel immersed in the experience. And while I’m not suggesting you take it as far as the game Farmville does (which has everyone from Senior Executives to Soccer Moms waking up at 4am to water virtual crops), it does make sense to feel as “real-time” as possible for your users. After all, apparel sites don’t merchandise the same products in the winter as they do in the spring. And while your products may not be as inherently seasonal as the apparel business, chances are there is something you could regularly change about your customer experience site that represents the passage of time and seasonality, and the applicability of your products over time.


As I’ve mentioned, your user experience should always put the shopper at the center of the story, and the story should have a purpose. A sense of purpose, in the form of identity or accomplishment, will give the shopper more than they purchased. It will provide that extra intangible that builds pride in the purchase and momentum for the brand. Gamification and Social Commerce are a great way to provide these. Just like in games, online shoppers like to feel invested and have long-term goals. Providing intrinsic rewards for writing reviews, answering questions, and social sharing can deepen engagement between online shopper and merchant. Easter Egg campaigns, such as Bonobos’ Scavenger hunt system and interactive shopping games, such as Teleflora’s Gamified Engagement Platform and Nike’s “Winter’s Angry” Game not only get shoppers engaged with a brand, they also create loyalty and increases revenue.

Think about it. Most teenage kids cry boredom at the drop of a hat, yet they can stay engaged in a game for tens of hours at a time. But it’s not just video games that can teach us how to better engage our consumers. There‘s so much to learn from the world around you, and focusing only on the bubble of eCommerce can lead you down a road towards sameness and boredom. You must have an engaging experience to succeed. And what better way to drive engagement than to take a page out of the video game handbook?

The next time you happen to be playing a game, any game, recognize how it captivates and motivates you to continue playing. These factors can be used in similar ways to captivate and motivate shoppers on your site.


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