Gamification: A Primer

What is gamification?

The geeky definition of gamification is “the use of game thinking, game elements, and game design techniques in non-game contexts to make them fun and engaging.”

In the context of applications, such as a corporate or marketing website or a social community, it is creating a set of objectives, behaviors, or actions that encourage users to complete to earn points and rewards and build user recognition and reputation within the community.

  • Earn points for completing repeatable actions
  • Earn badges for recognition and reputation
  • Leaderboards for individual or team recognition and reputation building
  • Level up for more privileges
  • Redeem points for rewards (e.g. free passes to events or conferences, t-shirts, USB sticks, gift certificates, co-write a whitepaper, etc)

Why gamification?

Setting up a rewards- and reputation-based program can lead to achieving marketing goals such as customer retention and brand loyalty, encouraging education and training, increasing interaction with users, and making the overall experience for site visitors more fun and entertaining.

Customer engagement and loyalty

  • Encourage fun and friendly competition to increase social engagement and interaction with the application
  • Build brand loyalty
    • Example: airlines (earn points for status levels and redeem for airfare or earn privileges for early boarding or perks when flying)
  • Complete surveys as a means to provide relevant and valuable feedback
  • Establish missions around targeted or featured areas of the community and specific actions you would like your users to perform
  • Learn more about who your users are
    • Example: onboarding – set up missions around completing user profile, uploading an avatar, etc (e.g. LinkedIn)

Leverage customer base: your users are smart and have great ideas

  • Find your subject matter experts
  • Reputation
  • Recognition
  • Users will gravitate towards blog posts or discussions that have been contributed by
  • Encourage users to help each other: asking questions, answering questions, marking answers as helpful, etc (e.g. SAP Community Network)

Get your customers to actively participate by contributing content and evangelizing your products and services for you

  • Drive and encourage specific user behaviors and in specific areas of the site
    • Segment your community into groups that may be aligned to different user roles and personas (e.g. Sales team, marketing team, IT team, etc) and set up individual or team challenges that are targeted to those segments
    • See Personalization Demystified article: set up individual or team missions
  • Create valuable and useful customer generated content (e.g. through comments, likes, shares, follows, etc)

Education and training mechanism

  • Make learning fun through competition and other incentives

Crowdsourcing ideas

  • Your customers are smart and know what they want
  • Customers can contribute ideas for new products or services (e.g. there may be a real need for something in the market)
  • Develop a forum for users to come together and exchange ideas and suggestions to gain valuable feedback

Team participation

  • Team challenges – let your users come together naturally
  • Build a sense of community

Improving employee productivity

  • Set goals and establish work processes for employees and reward them for setting an example

Fun and entertaining

  • Adds a new dimension to the experience that your users will have on the site

Developing a successful gamification program

A successful gamification program requires not only calibrating against your community objectives and aligning them with your members’ needs and wants, but also establishing and developing a plan and strategy that you can deploy over time.

  • Start simple
  • Calibrate the program against your business objectives and goals
  • Reinforce your brand and tone
    • Continue to echo your brand and tone through iconography, status levels, mission names and descriptions
  • Develop a level-up strategy and build a progressive, multi-level program
    • Allow your users to get familiarized and comfortable with the program, which may be new to them
    • As your program grows and becomes more sophisticated and as your users become more advanced and engaged, the rewards should become more meaningful and valuable to acknowledge the contributions of your users
  • Keep things fresh
  • Make it fun, it shouldn’t feel like work, otherwise they won’t come back
  • The experience should also feel seamless and natural to the user
  • Use gamification as an opportunity to introduce your users to new features or areas of the site or new products, etc
    • Create missions and rewards that will encourage them to
      • Attend a webinar or event
      • Read about a new offering
      • Complete a survey to elicit valuable feedback on what your company is doing right or where improvements can be made
      • Work with other members (e.g. team challenges)
    • Iterate
      • Some missions won’t be as popular or won’t get the results you’re looking for; listen to your users and fine tune as necessary

According to research, the gamification market is projected to increase from $4.91 billion in 2016 to nearly $12 billion in 2021. If you’re looking to add gamification to your customer experience strategy, get in touch with us.