Goal Gradient Effect

Why the Steam Summer Sale keeps you buying more, and more, and more…

Goal Gradient Effect: Our efforts increase as we move closer to a goal.

The Valve Corporation develop some of the world’s most popular video games. Many of their titles build goals and achievements heavily into the gameplay, and perhaps surprisingly, before you’ve even made a purchase.

Steam, the online platform where users can buy Valve’s games, holds a yearly Summer Sale. For every $10 spent during the sale, customers receive on one of ten Summer Getaway trading cards. Those who collect all ten, after spending $100, earn a Summer Getaway Badge that’s visible to their online rivals.

During the sale, adding a game to your cart displays a progress bar showing how much more you need to spend to get your next card. Just showing that you’ve begun progress towards that goal is enough to create some mental tension over not having yet reached it, and some people are likely to toss in one more cheap game to get them over that hump.

It’s also clever of Steam to show you the progress before you check out so that you have one more reason to complete the transaction. Of course, once you get one card, the effect happens again because you’ve now started checking off what you’ve collected from the 10 card set needed to craft the Summer Getaway Badge.

By adding a goal framed as a reward before a transaction is complete, customers are not only more likely to convert but also spend significantly more.

This is an extract from my widely acclaimed book, Product Gems: 117 Science Experiments Demonstrating How To Build Products People Love. Get your copy today and join over 1,000 other readers who have purchased this month.

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