BigDoor Cracks The Code On Web Site Engagement

One of the most enduring challenges any Internet marketer faces is getting users to come back regularly and engage on their website.  In other words; loyalty. Social gaming companies and a few very popular consumer web services have gotten extremely good at creating loyalty, where loyalty rate is defined as Daily Active Users (DAU) / Monthly Active Users (MAU). Yet when you look at loyalty rates on the rest of the web, they look downright abysmal.  According to data from Nielsen, of the top 2,000 biggest sites in the US, only 21 of them have a loyalty rate better than 25%.  In fact the average loyalty rate among the top 2,000 US sites is less than 7%.  Do some quick math (7% * 30 days) and that means that on average their “active” users are only visiting their site two days out of the month.

That doesn’t feel very loyal, and this is the challenge, or opportunity, that our portfolio company BigDoor set their sites on.  The team at BigDoor has been busy building a gamification and rewards platform, but after two years of work and a lot of learning they discovered that what they had really created was an engine that helps publishers increase user loyalty and engagement.  Once they realized this, they also realized they needed to have a drop dead easy way to measure the impact they were having on loyalty rates.  So they built in cohort analysis that automagically creates a random control group and the analytics engine needed to compare control groups versus reward user groups.  Next came an iterative exposure function, because no smart marketer would roll something out to their entire site without testing it first on a subset of their traffic.  Then they made it as easy as possible to implement, with the requirement being that it should take the same technical ability that a person needs to install Google Analytics.

BigDoor has been in private beta with this latest version of their gamified rewards program for the last few months, and the results surprised all of us.  That’s because when a user goes to a site that is using BigDoor, they see a tightly integrated and highly gamified rewards program that lets them earn real rewards for engaging with the site.  The more loyal and engaged the user is, the more points and rewards they get.  Think of it like a fun and engaging frequent flyer program for any website.  But behind the scenes is a white-label gamification engine that is churning through data, comparing cohort performance, and measuring results.  And what has their impact been on loyalty rates?  On average, across all of their publishers, they saw a lift in loyalty rates of over 150%.

If you talk to the BigDoor team they will tell you that they still have a ton of things to improve upon.  They want to make the implementation process for a new publisher even simpler.  They want to create more and better integrated widget templates.  They want to get their loyalty score lift even higher.  They are busy doing all of those things, but what’s already there is working incredibly well.  That’s why we decided to double down with our investment in BigDoor and lead another round of investment into the company.

In addition to announcing their new funding round, yesterday BigDoor also announced they were bringing their gamified rewards program out of private beta, so it is now available to everyone.  They currently have a huge pipeline of publishers they are working with, but if you manage a website that is struggling with that never ending challenge of loyalty and engagement, give their gamified rewards program a look and let them know what you think.

  • hmm… sounds interesting, but I am usually skeptical when i hear the buzzwords – gamify, loyaty, and rewards.  Site owners are bombarding with business who promise the world if you just “insert a small code snippet” but often the integration doesn’t jive with the overal site, or the follow through analysis is just dumped onto the site owner.  Another learning curve to master and thing to manage.

    What does sound appealing is the cohort analysis and segment testing.  That sounds like they are ahead of the curve here.

    Still, I wonder about the long term effectiveness of the badges and rat-pellet reward systems they seem to be offering.

    Finally, what’s up with their branding?  When I saw the name and logo in your portfolio I always thought it was some security software company. A large ominous door and trajan font doesn’t really convey what BigDoor is about.  Feels like there was a pivot and the branding stayed the same.

    • They’ve always had that big red door. It’s something that was there before I invested – I don’t remember the origin although I’m sure Keith Smith (CEO) does and I’ll ask him to weigh in.

    • I agree on the big red door. Ugh. It looks like a desktop server to me too. I agree with about everything that Jess commente

    • Thanks for the feedback Jess.  Unfortunately you aren’t the first person this week to tell me that our logo sucks.  Yesterday someone posted this in the comments of our TechCrunch article: “I wish that logo could come from 1995 even HARDER.”

      That comment made me laugh out-loud, but also realize how badly it needs to be replaced.

      Point well taken.  The origin?  I paid $350 on 99Designs almost three years ago for that logo.  We now have a full team of amazing designers, but they spend all of their time working on designs for clients.  Clearly we need to revisit the logo at this point, so thank you for the reminder.

      • I laughed out loud too… Seems almost as if it’s a huge milestone when it comes time to revamp the logo (e.g. Twitter, etc). Look forward to seeing what’s in store for BigDoor — both product and logo-wise.

  • I’ll also add that the top line stats on their site, “9x revenue per users” seem uncredible and not backed up.  Any service that implies a 9 x revenue per user lift can be had for $99 a month seems fishy to me.

    Are these averages? Are they cherry picked?  I created this chart to explain my thoughts better.

    • I always welcome a skeptic Jess.  Especially one who can model their skepticism in a graph. 🙂

      Here’s a little background on the 9x ARPU lift.  The way we measure that is to have our publishers assign approximate values to each rewardable action that a user takes.  They might think that a signup is worth $.25, a Like is worth $.08, a referral is worth $.50, a video view is worth $.04, etc.  We then use those proxy values to calculate the assumed revenue from a randomly selected control group (publishers can decide what % of their audience they want in their control group), and then compare the performance of those users to the performance of the users that are part of the rewards program.So the values are a proxy, and are intended to give our publishers directional feedback – but we certainly don’t see every bit of revenue that each of our partners generates.  We use a similar methodology to calculate lift in user loyalty and engagement, but those are more quantifiable measurements. Hopefully that helps give you a bit more visibility into our claim.  

      • Thanks Keith, makes more sense.  Might wan to put that someone on your site, small link or something.  Selling is making me comfortable, not just amazed.

  • Do they have an approach that can help companies building ‘sites’ as one-page apps?

    • Hi Pete.  I’m not sure I understand your question, but I’m guessing you mean that you want to integrate us into a single page site.  If that’s the case, I think that would be a significant challenge.  Because our gamified rewards program is intended to reward users for a variety of actions that they take on your site, we find limited success on sites where there is a limited set of actions that users can take on a site.  A great implementation of our system requires a variety of rewardable actions for a user to take (things like; checking in, commenting, uploading content, watching videos, rating content, inviting friends, taking quizzes, connecting with friends or following, etc.). 

      As long as there is a good variety of rewardable actions that will allow a user to earn points over time and then redeem for their rewards, then we should be able to work with you to create a great rewards program.  

      • Don’t tell us how good your Bigdoor, show us. Whats seems like a huge oversight is that I do not see it implemented on you own blog?? Is the minibar still around?

        • Editing disqus commments on an iPhone is so frustrating.

        • We have the equivalent of our Lite version (our free product) on our blog: 

          But keep in mind that neither our blog nor our site (at least pre-login) is a great candidate for a gamified rewards program.  Sites that are good candidates are typically consumer facing and have an underlying content and/or social experience that gives the user enough actions to do to earn points and then redeem.  

          Think of our gamified rewards program like jam for toast.  Jam makes the toast taste better, but the jam is a bit pointless without a good piece of toasted bread under it.  We don’t claim to magically turn a simple blog into a richly rewarding and engaging user destination.  But we can turn a consumer facing site with lots of content into a much more engaging and rewarding experience for users.

      • Hi Keith
        thanks for the speedy response. It isn’t that I want to do it. I was really curious how a company like Bigdoor viewed the trend to single page sites. My feeling was that it would be much harder for you to provide your kind of offering in that context. IMHO it isn’t so much to do with the number of actions a user can take on such a site, because as far as I can see such a site can offer a user unlimited actions, but rather the fact that it is harder to plug into a large js app than into a traditional website. Hope this makes more sense. 🙂

        • Thanks for the clarification, that makes more sense. 

          From a tech perspective, it doesn’t matter a whole lot.  But from a user engagement perspective, I think you are right on.  Our Directed User Engagement (think quests) are geared to take users from page to page in order to introduce them to new or overlooked features as well as educate them on how to earn & spend points.  So we generally find that a more traditional site that has a variety of pages works better, but the real key is having a good variety of underlying actions that you want to reward users for.

          • Thanks Keith. That makes sense.
            And congrats on all the hard work paying off for you guys. 🙂

  • Is it just me or is bigdoor website somewhat vague (and in deperate need of front end desighn rework) as just how there free version works. Is the minibar still around? I am sure that there are marketing / ad reps logging on saying huh? If it takes 5 minutes to install if should take 5 minutes (video) to describe. See for an example of what a 5 minute video can to a Huh? Into a wow!

    • Solid point Rich.  We struggle a bit with how to take something that is actually quite complex, and boil it down to its component parts to make it simple to communicate.  We have our video on the home page, but I’ll grant you that it could stand to be less about communicating the why and more about informing the viewer on the what and how.

      We just redesigned our site, so I’d love to hear what parts you would like to see redone.  (Besides our logo, which we’ve already determined needs more than a face lift.)

  • Nikhil Govindaraj

    Interesting. Do you have any examples of where this is being deployed?

    • I’ve posted this message three times now and it keeps disappearing.  Maybe Disqus doesn’t like the fact that I have three links in one comment.  So I’ll reduce it to one and see if this works.

      Big K.R.I.T.:

      You can also check out Big Brother Sweden and Wetpaint (but Disqus isn’t liking that I’m linking to those).

      It is worth noting that the link above is from my personal account on KRITs site, so I get points for sharing, I get more points whenever anyone clicks on the link, and then if you register I get more points.  And if you sign up from my shared link, you also get bonus points. 

      I tell you that not just because I’m trying to earn enough points to get K.R.I.T. to give me a shoutout on Twitter (I’m almost there), but rather to highlight how cool our built in referral mechanism is.

      • That is a pretty cool example… though it made me think of rewards in terms of individual sites vs your network of sites. For example, is my cumulative activity across Big Door sites an asset to me as a user, or more limited to each site?

  • The site looks effective to me, I quickly understood what they do, different options, and specially good job on the pricing page.  It’s easy to look at someone else’s work and find problems, but not as easy to appreciate the accomplishments and how it delivers results for them.  I don’t see why the logo would be an issue for a marketing person that is anxiously looking to improve her/his portfolio’s performance.  do you have time for that?

    The service is compelling.  An an operator of multiple sites the issue of loyalty is top of mind for us and gamification is a concept that we need to consider to optimize out potential.  My only concern comes from the fact we are basically “paying” people to use the site.  That tells me that the service by itself is not compelling enough to bring the users back and that can be a larger underlying issue that we need to keep on top of.  That said, I know rewards are a key motivator for people and they do work so we’ll be taking a look at what BigDoor offers to run some tests.

  • great blog info on your blog thanks

  • David DuPont

    My company, TeamSnap, happens to be in the fortunate crowd with a DAU/MAU over 7% but I believe the metric has a serious drawback. It measures web site engagement, not customer engagement. Customer engagement with our mobile apps, emails, text messages dwarfs online engagement and reflects a growing preference to access information in non-online ways. We find ourselves taking steps that decrease online traffic to increase customer utility.

  • Rewards that are entries in monthly drawings to win things – as touted on the Big Door site evoke a let down feeling for me after the excitement of reading this post. Why not points towards actual rewards Brad?

    • The publisher can do either so it’s up to them.

  • Wow…Really nice post. I like it. Thank you for sharing.

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