Autodesk Ups Engagement with Gamified Trials

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The software company added a layer of gamification to its software trials, allowing users to compete in a more engaging experience.
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Business Boost: Gamification increases Autodesk's trial downloads and ups sales.

First impressions are not only imperative in life, but they're also important in business. Forward-thinking organizations are putting in a lot of effort to make sure they leave a positive impact on their customers and prospects from the first interaction.

Autodesk, which creates software for architects, engineers, and special effects professionals around the world, was cognizant of this and wanted to make sure prospects' first experience of its products was positive. The company's customers expect to try out Autodesk's sophisticated products before they make a purchase to be sure they're making the right financial investment. It is therefore essential for Autodesk to create a meaningful initial user experience for products that require a significant learning curve.

This was a challenge for Autodesk, notes Sheila Tolle, senior director for ecommerce and small business marketing. "We needed to find a way to viscerally demonstrate the value and selling points of the software in a way that truly gave the customer a great experience," she says. The aim was to get customers to really understand the value that the software would add to their workflow.

While the majority of customers only open a trial once, Autodesk's business leaders were aware that those who open the same trial three times or more are twice as likely to make a purchase. It was therefore important to make trials more engaging to encourage customers to use them and become familiar with them.

Armed with this knowledge, Autodesk decided to introduce a layer of gamification and link it to social channels. Tolle says the company wanted to create a "curated and guided learning experience" that provides incentives for trial users and was also fun. "The point was to leverage game mechanics and psychology to get trial users to be more engaged," Tolle explains.

Last Fall Autodesk launched "Unchartered Territory," an in-trial marketing game for Autodesk 3ds Max, a 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software. Using Badgeville, Autodesk built game mechanics into the trial, providing a way to reward customers for using the trial. Tolle describes the initiative as a "learning experience contextualized within a 'race against time' narrative." Through a series of missions, users were guided through the various features of the software. "At the heart of these missions is the learning track that walks a user through activities where they interact with the product and learn how to use it," Tolle explains. Players earned points and achievement badges when they completed missions, which they could share on Facebook and Twitter to earn additional points. In order to increase the element of competition, Autodesk developed a leaderboard that ranked trial users against their peers, and ultimately showed who won the game.

Throughout the experience, Autodesk kept in touch with users through emails highlighting the leaderboard and encouraging them to continue playing. Autodesk decided to host the game on its key community site, AREA, where 3ds Max users were already congregating to share their work and participate in forums. "This strategy helps pull in new players, get blogger coverage, and encourage game-related conversations within the customer forums," Tolle notes.

Autodesk was also aware of the important role that social media has in its clients' decision-making process. Word of mouth is critical in the purchasing decisions of very small businesses, with which Tolle's team mainly works, and they use social media as part of their validation and vetting process. "Social media is where this peer review and endorsements take place," she says. "[Prospects] use it to determine whether our products are right for them and how their peers are using them." In fact, research showed that YouTube is one of the first places where users go to get training in using the software. The team leveraged Facebook and Twitter to promote the games and to reward players who shared their mission completions on social channels, which in turn would attract their friends and followers to the game.

More than 600 trial users played the game over a three-month period, Tolle explains. Autodesk saw a 10 percent increase in trial downloads while trial usage went up by more than 50 percent. Further, the company saw a 15 percent increase in buy clicks through the trial.

Following the success of the first trial, Autodesk decided to expand the gamification approach to AutoCAD, its flagship product, allowing the company to give customers a truly engaging experience that helps them get a quick understanding of the product's value proposition and its benefits. The AutoCAD Design Suite game saw more than 500 players and trial downloads went up by 4 percent.

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