Whilst we have all heard of gamification, what exactly is it? Gamification is a process which takes a mundane task (such as looking after your bank account) and turns it into an interactive game with points and rewards received when people achieve predefined goals. This approach can improve the customer experience for stagnant industries and can inject dynamism. For training, it can also improve information retention.
In order for the process to work, it takes data-driven techniques used by game designers and then applies them to non-game experiences such as websites or online communities; this motivates actions, engagement and loyalty and results in added value being accrued by your business.
Things to keep in mind
If you decide to adopt the process of gamification then you need to take account of the following before you begin:
- Do Not Confuse Activity with Success – there is no fool like a busy one; the hype surrounding this process is high so you need to focus on the results, not the solutions. Many companies get fixated on what they are doing rather than what they have achieved.
- Think of the Audience as Players not Puppets – companies also get lost by believing that by throwing a few badges and point scoring systems onto websites, customers will come flocking. This is just not the case as Google found out when they awarded badges to those who read their news; these have now been withdrawn. Your offering to your audience must comprise a meaningful incentive.
- Clearly Identify the Business Objectives – cut through the hype. Don’t get stuck on using gamification as a solution that needs a problem i.e. seeking an opportunity to use it. Instead, work on putting together a list of clear business goals and a critical analysis that prove the suitability of gamification to achieve those objectives.
- Design for Player-Centricity – leaders in the gamification sector such as Nike focus on a design that motivates the players. Don’t focus on identifying the business objectives without clearly identifying those of the player. You need to get to a point where the business objectives and player objectives overlap so that players have a target to reach.
Example – NikeFuel
Nike are big users of gamification. Since they released FuelBand they have been working on adding more new features to keep customers absorbed. The process works by using the customer’s everyday movement and tracking it with NikeFuel. The user sets their level of play and they are then challenged to earn a set amount of NikeFuel to move onwards and upwards to the next stage. Each level/mission is played against the clock and makes use of all devices that collect NikeFuel. As each mission takes place, the user meets virtually with a Nike athlete who provides them with suggestions and advice, enabling them to battle on and get to the next mission. At the end of each one, they can track progress.
5 mechanics of gamification
The five most commonly used game mechanics of gamification are as follows:
- Points: The use of points is widespread, even in apps that are not game related. They provide a good way of keeping track of the user’s achievements when compared to others. They also act to keep them motivated, wanting to get to the next stage, sometimes even working as a currency related to activity. As an example, Health Month uses points; each person begins with 10 points and by the end of the month, there needs to be at least 1 left. The idea is that points are lost when rules are broken, although friends can help the player to get points back by ‘healing’.
- Badges: Digital badges are also incredibly popular. Foursquare recently used real-life merit badges ranging from easy for Newbies up to extra-hard with 10 movie tickets being requires to hit the top Zoetrope badge.
- Levels: Zynga makes use of levels to make tending crops interesting; users are persuaded to move up through the levels, gaining improved discounts as they do so.
- Leaderboards: Leaderboards are used to incite users to play, often ranking them against friends; this was a tactic adopted by Foursquare. Points are awarded for a check-in and then you can see how you are rated on the leaderboard in comparison to your friends.
- Challenges: These can be simple of complex, often involving group play. Priebatsch applied this theory to their South by Southwest Interactive keynote by using a group challenge where players had to work together. At the same time, they offered a $10,000 donation to the National Wildlife Foundation as part of the deal.
How gamification leads to increased retention
When making use of gamification, it can be used to increase retention if you cater to a wide range of players. You need to get to know your audience, using campaigns that will appeal. You can then use your gamification techniques to produce highly targeted messages based upon player behaviour.
There are three different types of reward structures that you can make use of to increase retention:
- Points – think of this as a loyalty programme with each customer being awarded points according to their actions. This is a good method for companies that are involved in many short-term purchases, such as supermarkets or fast-food outlets. Research has shown that “higher point values may be directly correlated to increased customer spending,” but what is really important is how easy it is to redeem the points. Don’t make it too complicated by making the rules too hard to understand. Using this method, Delta Airlines and United Airlines switched from a miles flow points system to one based upon dollars spent. You have to make the process easy to follow with no hidden fees or rules that spoil it for those that participate.
- Achievement – here, participants need to attain certain levels of achievement in order to reap the benefits. A tier-system is well suited to this structure; the higher the level, the more rewards the customer receives. This is often used by airlines or other businesses that operate on high price-points. It also enables customers to see how buyers interact with their brand hence they can ensure that the loyalty system aligns correctly with consumer interactions. Treehouse is a virtual training academy; so that students don’t cancel, they use badges and points which are awarded as they work their way through the course. A tracker clearly shows the student’s progress, enabling them to showcase their achievements whilst also impressing potential employers.
Competition – everyone loves a competition so by getting customers to compete and having a leaderboard that is updated regularly, they are drawn in. Autodesk is a 3D design, engineering and entertainment software company; they used the method to increase usage of their 3DS Max product. The found that users during the trial were far more likely to convert to being a customer if they had used the software at least 3 times during the trial period. As the software was quite complex, they used gamification to create fascinating tutorials. Users received points whilst taking part in ‘missions’, allowing them to move up the leaderboard with the top users receiving a prize. It worked well: The contest increased trial engagement by 54% and conversion rates by 15%. There was also a 29% increase in revenue per trial, showing that users spent more money on expensive items or buying multiple software licenses.
See more gamification ideas
There are so many gamification ideas available so you are sure to find some that you can use within your digital platforms. Here are just a few so get into brainstorming mode and see what others you can generate:
- How about having a leader board on your website or social media site showing the first name or initial of the customer who completes a set task.
- Celebrate with your customer via your website or similar when they hit a milestone i.e. they just made their 25th purchase from you!
- If you have stores, award your regular customers with a discount or small prize.
- Keep a record of your customer’s favourite football teams and have a graph in the store showing interesting information i.e. XXY supporters buy lots of coffee etc.!
- You can even ask customers to vote for their favourite team or product and show the top answers on a digital screen.
- Following the same idea, ask customers to vote for their favourite sport or athlete and showcase results on your website.
There are so many things that you can do so don’t be afraid to come up with your own ideas. Look at what competitors or those within the same industry are doing and gain inspiration. Think of how you can motivate your customers, retain their interest and keep them engaged as loyal buyers through the use of gamification.