From Super Mario to seamless shopping: what video games share with the customer journey

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If you are of a certain age and played video games growing up, you will be more than familiar with titles like Contra, Ghosts ‘n Goblins and, of course, the original Super Mario Bros. These 8-bit games of yore featured challenging, side-scrolling environments that required players to jump, shoot and slash their way end of a level, dodging Goombas or skeletons or whatever else on the way.

For the most part, these games placed players on a linear journey. They needed to get from point A to point B with (the occasional ‘warp pipe’ aside) only simple, set routes to the game’s conclusion.

In many ways, the structure of these games is like a traditional marketing campaign; pushing Mario-like shoppers down the purchase funnel towards their ultimate goal. However, rather than rescuing Princess Journey MapPeach, their prize is purchasing a new pair of sneakers or signing up for new marketing technology.

Like these games, a campaign has a single main objective and expects people to hit predetermined checkpoints on their route towards it. True, gamers (like shoppers) have some control over whether they completed the route (or not). Nevertheless, they could not change the path.

Today, the purchase funnel still exists, but within an environment more like that of the Elder Scrolls role-playing game, Skyrim.

In this sprawling fantasy world there is still an overarching main goal, but players can go about reaching it in whatever way they choose. They could take the most direct narrative to the final battle with the game’s dragon antagonist. But more likely players will undertake countless, concurrent, random side-quests on their way, or even just roam free into the wilderness, unbound by the restrictive machinations of others. A game like Skyrim can cater just as well to a player with a single-minded mission to the endgame as one who chooses to stay and chop wood and smith armor in the first village they stumble upon.

In terms of today’s customer journeys, brands must accommodate a similar need for freedom, Skyrim quest route mapcreating an ‘ecosystem’ where multiple journeys, across multiple channels can take place, and the customer’s needs can be facilitated. Shoppers can jump into their journey at whatever stage of the traditional funnel they choose (yes, many consumers can be ‘advocates’ even before ‘purchase’), often picking up a journey they started on their work desktop and plan to finish on their tablet at home in the evening.

Now, rather than being the ones who set the checkpoints, brands must be more like Skyrim’s NPCs (non-player characters). In the game, many NPCs reside in taverns, in shops and near places of interest, interacting with the player to push them towards the endgame, offer them a side-quest, help them solve a problem, or simply add to their experience.

Similarly, brands must be ready at appropriate points to engage with customers and intervene in their journey. This could be a product recommendation, a personalized web page showing content tailored to their taste, a live-chat pop-up if they lingering on a booking page, or a reminder that you offer free delivery if they abandoned a basket. Essentially, maintaining a contextual conversation that will assist them on their ‘quest’.

Who would have thought that buying a new pair of shoes would share so much with defeating mythical creatures? Well, be it video game or online shopping experience, one thing is certain: if you cannot deliver an experience the user demands, you’ll soon find them switching off. 


intervening-in-the-customer-jourvey-cover.pngDownload the BlueVenn eBook: Intervening in the Customer Journey.

Marketers now have to focus more on the experience than the goal, simply because your customers and clients demand control of how they get from point A to point B. To do that, marketers need to understand the customer journey, as well as find new ways to intervene appropriately, at the best times.

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