The joy of being an early adopter of some things is that you can watch it evolve and expand and you can say I remember when it first started. When Viggle first launched I was a huge word of mouth supporter and advocate. The concept makes sense to me. Why not get rewarded for something you are already doing, watching television. But the app has quickly gone from something that I loved and thought was innovative to something I dislike and think has lessened in terms of innovation.
Viggle first launched in January of 2011 so it is a fairly new app. The basic premise is that with a similar technology to Shazam you can check-in to what you are watching on TV and earn points for every minute watched as well as bonuses. You can use those points to redeem for rewards like Starbucks gift cards, Sephora gift cards, Kindle Fire, etc.
I started using Viggle in April of 2012 and I immediately loved it. Given that I work in TV and watch a ton of TV, it was perfect for me, or so I thought. I was so addicted I even got my boyfriend to sign up and we would compete with each other to see who could earn the most points. (Surprisingly he actually watches more TV than me and has me beat by about 50,000 points). I would talk about Viggle whenever I talked about the evolution of social TV. I got additional people to sign up by word of mouth, my own blog, tweets and Facebook posts about Viggle within my network. The peak of Viggle-dom was the Summer Olympics. You could earn viewing points, bonus points and points from answering Olympics related trivia. If I had to take an educated guess I would say I earned at least 10,000 points during the course of the Olympics. But right after the Olympics I noticed a massive shift.
Bonus points for watching selected TV shows, movies and sports would be as high as 500 points. The bonus points quickly dropped to 50 points. How do you go from offering high bonus points to low bonus points in the course of a week with no notice or explanation to users? I also noticed that the point values to redeem rewards had gone up. The same $5 Starbucks gift card that took 9,000 points to earn increased to 12,500 points. So now you are offering less bonus points but it “costs” more to get rewards? Think of it this way, for the price of something to go from $9,000 to $12,500 is almost a 40% increase. The standard rate of inflation isn’t even that high.
With any new technology there is going to be bugs. But the app has become more buggy as I guess the user based has increased. I don’t know how many points I have missed out on because I’ll be in the middle of a trivia game and it will timeout or lose connection. I have no idea how it is losing a connection when my boyfriend is playing the same trivia game, on his iPad on the same wifi I am. You also have to be vigilant about your points. My boyfriend and I have had to contact support several times about bonus points we were supposed to receive from checking in to shows or playing the “My Guy” game and didn’t. I should be able to trust that the app is going to accurately credit my points. With Viggle I no longer trust that.
Even the point structure on the trivia games changed. Some questions you could earn as much as 2,000 points if you got it right and a lesser value of points if you got it wrong. The point structure on trivia games is so all over the place I couldn’t even clearly tell you what it is now. Viggle also puts a lot more questions in the trivia that are polls thus they aren’t worth any points. I’m not interested in rating a performance at the Grammys if there are no points involved for my effort or it’s not going to be displayed on-air.
But the final straw for me was the changes in prizes. At one point you could win a MacBook. It was totally aspirational because even if you maxed out on what Viggle allows you to earn daily, it would take 3 years to earn it. But my boyfriend and I had both been trying to earn enough points to get an Apple TV for 210,000 points. Just when my boyfriend had gotten to 175,000 points, the Apple TV was no longer an option (along with a bunch of other prizes like the iTunes gift card and iPod Touch, in addition to the current inventory of available options increasing drastically in cost). But to add insult to injury, to make up for all the prizes that were no longer available Viggle added branded prizes like Viggle t-shirts, Viggle iPhone 5 covers, a Viggle water bottle…even a Viggle blanket. Besides the cost of these prizes being astronomically why would any user “pay” Viggle to give them free marketing and branding? I’m going to redeem 25,000 points, which can take the average person months to earn, to be able to walk around with your logo on my iPhone essentially marketing for you?
If someone is new to using Viggle it’s probably the best thing next to sliced bread. Again the concept is great. You take a captive audience that is doing what they would be doing anyway and offer them custom advertising from sponsors and rewards for consuming content. But as an early adopter I have seen what I consider a decline and I am disappointed. As a social media expert though I get what is going on. Viggle is clearly not earning enough money from advertisers. All the prizes available in the catalog are not provided by the vendors so to offset the cost of having to buy me a gift card when I earn it or whatever the prize is, they have increased the cost of what points you need to earn to get the prize.
So what can Viggle do to get back in my good graces?
Increase bonus points
Maybe 500 points for watching the NBA Finals is excessive so split the difference. Offer 250 points versus a measly 50 points.
Custom rewards to top users
Sorry, I’m not going to spend my hard earned points to market your company. But how about you send t-shirts, water bottles, etc. to your most loyal users. At whatever point people start using the app less, send them a reward. Whether that is 3 months or 6 months, send them a thank you incentive like the water bottle to remain an active and loyal user. At the one year anniversary for users send them a t-shirt. At the 2 year mark the blanket or whatever other branded prizes you have at that point.
Offer better rewards
Your branded stuff is not a better reward. If the cost of fulfilling rewards is getting excessive, work hard at partnering with brands. What about the Jamba Juices, Dunkin Donuts and other retailers of the world that want to come off as socially savvy and competitive? I’m sure if Dunkin Donuts had a gift card, Starbucks would want to compete. Put Netflix up against Hulu…Blockbuster Express up against Redbox…Barnes & Noble up against Amazon…I could go on and on.
Better communication with users
Viggle sends at least one email a week. Why not let users know in those emails that a prize they are eyeing is not going to be available so redeem soon. If my boyfriend had 30 days notice I bet he would have been checking in like crazy to get to 210,000 points to get that Apple TV. Also, notify users about the changes in bonus point structures. If you are going to lower that amount of points earned, let users know. Just don’t make changes in a vacuum and not explain the reasoning behind it. Most users are reasonable. They may not like the change but they are more likely to accept it when told in advance about it instead of one day using the app and the system is one way and then the next day it be completely different. That is not fair to the loyal user base you are trying to build.
Lower the cost of rewards
Everyone expects the cost of rewards to go up, but not by 40% in a matter of weeks. A $5 gift card shouldn’t be more than 10,000 points. Just as a $10 gift card shouldn’t be more than 20,000 points.
But that’s enough of my free advice. People actually pay me money for the business advice I am offering for free. Only time will tell how responsive Viggle is to their users and if the app will return to some of its better practices.