Yesterday I posted a write up of five reasons that everyone needs to get on board with the digital apps produced by Topps. Today is the second in that series that details some of the situations that need to improve to help keep the experience top notch.
Topps has generated a lot of fans from the creation of their three flagship apps, and for the most part, people continue to come back every single year to participate. However, there are some major issues, and I am 100% confident that they are aware of every last one of them. From what my understanding is, they are working on coming up with some solutions, some of which may be in place with the new build for 2015 Bunt.
1. New User Experience
Right now, Topps has to be focused on generating more users for their apps, as that is the only way to grow the footprint that each of them have. The problem is that the community can function quite a bit like any internet community, with unspoken rules and manners in which you should operate. Because it takes so long for new users to get onboarded, it can cause some major attrition of this resource, something that just cannot happen.
To be completely transparent here, I started this site as a resource for new users because I felt the experience I had was horrible. I was basically drug through the mud on every trade and every game, because I just couldnt figure it out. Because so much of Topps’ apps are based IN the app, there were so few resources outside of it to truly understand what I was doing. This needs to change.
I would like to see Topps Digital have an official site that provides resources for new users, much like its’ competitors have. I would also like them to offer more startup capital for the new users, without making it abundantly easy for existing users to take advantage of it. Lastly, there should be more opportunities for the new users to gain a quick advantage so that they stick around. The releases of the Bunt On Deck and Gridiron Greats were huge plusses for new users, but that dissipated very quickly.
2. Customer Service / Customer Support
This is the biggest issue at bay for existing users, and I put it number 2 because you need to create users to keep them on board. In fact, I would go as far as saying this should be one of the biggest focuses for Topps Digital in 2015, especially as the new builds of Bunt/Huddle/Kick all get going.
I dont think there is a shortage of people getting their problems sorted out eventually, but the main problem is that no one knows the best way to reach out to the team. There are forms in the apps and main twitter accounts for everyone involved, but the response timeframe can get slowed down significantly when a bigger issue arises.
Topps is usually slow on the draw to recognize issues publicly, which only adds to the volume that can be directed to any number of the main accounts and forms in play. I have suggested an automated twitter support account for the apps, and I have also suggested making things more available for more casual users to know the best way to reach out.
That being said, I also understand that users frequently try to abuse what they believe to be Topps’ slow nature, trying to capitalize on things that arent true. This is an issue in every commodity based industry, so there will have to be some big deterrents involved to make sure that only real requests get through.
3. Gameplay Functionality
In all 3 of the apps, there has been gameplay issues in the mix, everything from small glitches to huge gaffs that impact every user. Obviously, any computer based entity has the potential to break or glitch up, but at the same time Topps has to be able to address issues in a way that doesnt look like they are tripping over themselves.
In Huddle, one of the biggest refunds in history just took place because server crashes and certain card functionality was not available during the Super Bowl. Although I can assure you that everyone at Topps was beyond upset that the biggest game of the year was impacted by something out of their control, it still happened.
In Bunt, there have been issues in the past with users plays resetting to zero, and other API related situations that impacted scoring across the app. Again, Topps doesnt control some of these aspects, but it still happened.
With the EXPECTATION that things are going to go wrong eventually and unavoidably, there needs to be some user based functionality that can showcase the efforts to fix and inform everyone of status. When money is involved, people get fired up, and that’s where this can get kind of ugly.
4. VIP Program
I love that the VIP program exists, and I love that there are rewards for being a frequent buyer and supporter of the Topps apps. This should never go away, as the best customers should always get the appreciation they deserve.
At the same time, there is so little transparency around the VIP program that it causes more friction with people than it should. No one really knows how much it takes to reach each level, and it leaves the newer users in the dark on how to reach the tiers. There are articles that detail the rewards, but many people are still feeling left out in every way.
To be candid with my readers here, Im not sure if you want to know how much some people spend on the app. Just from talking with certain users, if people knew how much they spend, they would walk away, plain and simple. You cant compete with people who spend thousands if you dont spend at all. It will be inevitable that people will leave if they feel like there is no shot. That’s why I am sure they dont want to publish some of that information. Similarly, the way the program looks to be structured, I believe it is something that has moving targets based on the spending month by month. There isnt a set amout to reach gold, black and diamond until they find out the median spending. I have a section and a few posts detailing my theories if you want to read more.
I dont mean to put this at five, because all of the things discussed in this post are almost as important as the other ones. Competition is a huge one, as it is the main source of gameplay in the apps. Collection pieces are big too, but competition is some of the main reasons why people do what they do in Topps Digital.
Right now, lower tenure users cannot compete in many ways because of the way the standings are structured. Because everyone is lumped together every week, it puts the big fish against the small fish, and that never really works out for newer people.
At the same time, I also support spenders having an advantage over non-spenders, because I want my investments to mean something. I want to be special for spending money, and I want to have something that people who dont spend cant get. Otherwise, what is the point of putting real money into the app?
That does not mean that competition should be 100% skewed in that direction as balance needs to exist some how. This is where personally formed leagues and friendly competitions between buddies should become a part of the game. Im sure we will see some of this during the releases of the new builds for 2015, but no details have emerged.
As I said yesterday, I am a huge fan of these apps, and both of these articles are meant to be used as a platform for improvement. It is not a matter of complaining when you can offer constructive solutions, and I encourage everyone to lend their voice with me. Start your own site, post on twitter, and do so in a way that highlights concern and support in a helpful way. Dont be a jerk about complaining, and dont be a mindless drone supporting things with the hope of reward. Be a thoughtful part of the community, and use your platform for the betterment of everyone.
Hopefully our discussion will lead to a better state for 2015, as the great things become bigger strengths and the areas of development are addressed.