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Level up screen on a computer game


If customers are embarking on a long-term process, it can be made to feel more short-term by introducing levels to break it down into smaller steps.

If you learnt to swim through a formal programme, you will probably have started with your 5m badge. Then moved onto your 10m, 25m, 50m, 100m badges, and so on. You may have completed an extra award for life-saving skills such as treading water in your pyjamas for two minutes and diving to the bottom of the pool to retrieve a rubber brick.

Bronze, silver and gold

Breaking down a long-term goal into manageable tasks and challenges helps customers to stay engaged. By chunking a large, difficult task into smaller pieces, it keeps the near future in their focus. It’s a way of gaming the long-term into something that feels more immediate.

Computer games apply this approach really well and are designed to hold players’ interest and keep their motivation high. They introduce levels and increase degrees of difficulty as players progress. In alternative-world-type games, players are set quests, challenges, and mini tasks to perform to earn unique rewards. Simply wandering around a virtual world with nothing specific to do could become boring.

Examples of levels in action:

  • Students studying for their degree focusing on the next assignment, the next semester...

  • We have an education system broken down into “key stages”.

  • People who are trying to lose a lot of weight focus on the next half stone, the next stone, or the next 5% body weight.

  • Long-term construction projects, such as the building of new highways and railroads, are described in phases.

  • Long-term business plans are chunked down into quarterly targets. We use the language of milestones, conduct quarterly reviews and deliver long-term strategies in steps.

  • Speaking of milestones… when travelling we break long journeys up by focusing on the next big town we’ll pass. (It’s literally what milestones are.)

  • People wanting to learn a new language, or how to draw, or practise yoga are taught in classes ranging through beginner, intermediate and expert levels.

  • Airlines have different levels of loyalty membership for passengers, based on the number of air miles they have and the frequency with which they travel.

Boost your miles

People love boosts! Give customers a feeling of rapid progress by offering them a boost.

Can you enable customers to check off some easy wins first? Give them a head start while they are highly motivated. Offer them a chance to gain extra loyalty points or air miles. Offer an intensive course to help them get started quickly on a new skill, such as learning to drive. Add an extra stamp or sticker to their coffee card so they are immediately nearer to their next free coffee.

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