Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rewards System with Social Twist

I've spoken before about SCVNGR (Scavenger) and how this campaign and reward-based location social media platform is racing to catch up with FourSquare. Why is SCVNGR significant? Because the back end allows you to easily create incentive plans -- think about rewards cards on steroids.

Yes, you can use student IDs or dedicated reward cards. They require infrastructure (card readers or prox scanners for RFID) and still have back end cost. Yes again, your institution may already own a card ID system for coding, but you're gonna have to absorb someone's time programing.

Here's what card scans can't do: radically incentivize targeted sport support AND enhance your reverse distribution system for information about your teams.

Sure the soccer/volleyball/swimming/lacrosse entry can be given a higher point value in a card scan system than say football/men's basketball/gymnastics to get those who are chasing discounts or prizes to show up. But they scan once, and then they are free to go. THAT's not supporting the team. That's gaming the system for points.

In a SCVNGR challenge, arriving at the game is given for sake of argument 3 points for the soccer match (vs. 1 point for football). That entry unlocks time sensitive additional challenges. Check in in the stands at half time -- 3 more points. That unlocks the big bonus: check in from the stands at the end of the match -- 10 more points. You have not created a huge incentive that is GPS locked to stay for the entire match. No one is going to run back to the scanners and swipe again for the additional participation points. Many systems won't handle that well, and once you're back at the gate, how easy to just walk on out at half time.

Now, here comes some classic SCVNGR social extras. Take a photo of yourself in the stands at the match and post to your Facebook -- 3 more points. Take a picture of your favorite Razorback, take a picture of certain other objects -- you get the idea. Tweet out the half time score, the goals scored, the final score -- more extra points. Post the score to your Facebook -- extra points.

Post the link to the athletic department's interactive blog on your Facebook -- ah, now are you getting the picture? Your fans become part of a vast reverse distribution network that generates traffic about your games. Points for using the official hashtag of the game -- that you of course put on the message board of the event.

I've heard the counter arguments -- not every student has a smart phone and students could give their phones to friends to gain extra check in points and not be at the match. If they really wanted points they could in theory do that with ID cards too, especially RFID based systems. Good luck finding a student willing to part with their phone for 2 to 3 hours just to get some extra SCVNGR points. That's worrying about the 2-3% deviants rather than the vast majority playing along (and if they are that into your reward system, why not? That shows it's own loyalty as well).

As to they all have student ID cards but they all don't have smart phones . . . have you looked at the market penetration figures on that? College students will make disposable income available for iPhones or Droids.

Plus, the kings and queens of reward card programs -- airlines and hotels -- are RAPIDLY ditching the physical card for, wait for it, wait for it . . . an APP.

I bring this all up today for three reasons. First, in a flash of insight while clocking off 25 miles today on the bike the progressive unlock element came to me (check in at start, check in at logical point mid-event, check in at close). Second, SCVNGR just announced some big milestones (millionth user, special contests in two major cities).

Third -- maybe the big reason -- it's budget and planning time for next academic year. The system will cost -- right now around $6K -- but you can likely partner with the university as a whole (in fact, look around -- someone on campus may have already set up a SCVNGR account). And, you're gonna need to get others on board -- it will take time -- to maximize the impact.

Call this the CoverItLive for the fall of 2011. About this time last year, we and many others started using CiL and it exploded in 2010 football and hoop seasons.

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