Clash of Clans’ Secret to Success (Spoiler Alert: It’s UX)

Build your village. Fend off enemies. Battle against millions of other players around the world. Combine those elements with crisp and fun visual graphics, a fast user interface and a solid marketing plan, and you have a mobile gaming sensation the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Angry Birds or Candy Crush.

To date, Clash of Clans has been downloaded over 13 million times from the Google App Store. Not surprisingly, it ranks among the top-grossing Android apps and ranks in the top of the free games section. Its Facebook page has over 12 million Likes. Ads, like the one embedded below, air during primetime television. And the Clash of Clans Super Bowl ad became the most-watched ad on YouTube following the big game’s broadcast.

A recent article on LinkedIn Pulse forewarns that the ad industry should be worried about Clash of Clans. The reasoning: so-called “freemium” games like Clash of Clans typically rely on ads to generate revenue. Users download the free app, but must pay to play the app in an ad-free environment.

The wrinkle here: Clash of Clans is completely ad free. Instead, the game’s maker, SuperCell makes money off in-app purchases that provide users with certain advantages in the game, and it’s working—SuperCell reported a revenue of $1.7B in 2014, up from $570 million the year before.

What’s the secret to Clash of Clans success?

Answer: Stellar user experience (UX).

Freemium games that rely on ads focus on revenue as opposed to user experience. It’s a less-than-ideal user experience to bombard users with ads—but it works to a degree because the user is getting a little something out of the deal (the ability to play the game for free). None of these games have had the type of financial success or enjoyed the popularity that Clash of Clans is currently experiencing.

In the words of Bob Gilbreath, co-founder & president of Ahalogy (an official Pinterest Marketing Developer Partner):

The secret of these games’ success is that they make the best possible game experience to lure in as many players as possible, then convert a tiny fraction of regular players to pay for extras that make the game even more enjoyable.

Let’s apply this situation to you and your marketing efforts.

If you’ve neglected UX and are relying on ads it’s likely you’re not capitalizing on all the opportunity you have available. You’re essentially a freemium brand of the old school of thought.

If you put a strong focus on creating an amazing user experience for your audience, all the better. Especially if you pair that strategy with a strong marketing plan—because, in all honesty, part of Clash of Clans success has certainly been its ubiquity both on- and offline.

What goes into digital UX?

User experience has many definitions. I prefer the following one offered by Jesse James Garrett, author of The Elements of User Experience: “[UX] is the design of anything, independent of medium or across media, with human experience as an explicit outcome and human engagement as an explicit goal.”

Creating that amazing user experience is no small feat. UX is a monster in and of itself involving many considerations that overlap traditional and digital marketing, including:

  • Website analytics
  • User testing
  • Voice of the customer interviews and surveys
  • Brand personas, voice and tone
  • Content strategy
  • Customer purchase journeys
  • Workflows, page priorities and navigation patters

For a more comprehensive dive into UX techniques, check out this article from Smashing Magazine.

Some of these UX items you can handle yourself without the need of a UX designer or even a design team. But it nearly goes without saying that hiring an expert almost always wins out in the long run and it can be a major time- and cost-savings if you hire a UX designer from the start—they won’t have to undo anything you may have done up until this point.

When was the last time you considered your website’s user experience? Ask yourself: are you doing all you can to make your digital presence as friendly to your target audience as possible? If not, a UX analysis can be a great place to start.

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