WHY GIVE GAMIFICATION A THOUGHT?
You will have heard something about it already – the powerful trend that has been making inroads into the various aspects of our lives for at least a decade now. According to Gabe Zichermann @gzicherm, gamification is one of the most important trends of our generation. Gamification_wiki defines the phenomenon as “the infusion of game design techniques, game mechanics, and/or game style into anything”. Please note “anything” at the end of the definition. It is bold indeed, and may even be farfetched, still it may be a good idea to consider if your application, website or – more broadly – organization, might benefit from gamification in any way.
Gamification techniques and mechanics can be used to improve our health, facilitate education, create better working experience or save the environment. Gaming solutions may help some companies and non-profit organizations to deliver a better product/service, increase their customer and/or employee engagement and thus build a better organization.
WHAT CAN GAMIFICATION DO FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Viewing some statistics may fire up your interest in the subject. Bunchball – a gamification solution provider with a decent portfolio of enterprise clients – reports that after adding a gamification layer to their clients’ websites, within 3 months, their clients observed some substantial improvements in their metrics:
- page views doubled
- pages per visit increased by 60%
- repeat monthly visits doubled
- user registration increased by 20%
- time on site increased by 100%
- unique visitors increased by 30%
- ROI increased by 400% and up
Another big gamification solutions provider – BigDoor – try to entice their potential customers with the following numbers:
- 141% user loyalty lift
- 312% user engagement lift
- 94x social sharing lift
- 7x revenue per user lift
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO GAME MECHANICS
Game mechanics are constructs of rules used to create a game. Every game uses some mechanics and game designers have to choose which ones will be the most effective for a given group of users in a specific context. So what are some of the mechanics typically used in gamified websites and applications?
- Points – numerical values granted for specific actions. Just as one scores points in basketball for placing the ball in the basket, so can the users of your app or website score points for specific actions taken. You define the rules of the game. You can award points for posting a comment, providing an answer to a question about your product, inviting a friend to join in or for any other user action that brings some value to your venture.
- Achievements / badges – a representation of having accomplished a task. You can, for instance, reward a user with the badge “commentator” after they have contributed 100 posts or they may win the badge “expert” after successfully answering a fixed number of questions on a quiz. Such badges are proudly displayed on the user’s profile and may boost their status in the user community. The temptation to shine is hard for many to resist.
- Bonuses – extra rewards. For example, if the user posts a review comment, they score 10 points; if they, however, submit the comment within an hour from the review publication, they are awarded 15 points.
- Combos – rewards granted for performing a combination of tasks. To give an example, if the user shares your article on their twitter or facebook, they get 10 points for either action. If they post it on twitter and facebook, they gain 30 points in total. It is a powerful incentive for some of the users.
- Countdowns – allowing a certain amount of time for performing a task. A new user has only 24 hours after the sign up to complete a specific task. Having completed the task within the time limit set, the user receives an achievement or a bonus.
- Leveling up – very popular in role playing games where players who accumulate an appropriate number of points gain new powers and skills. The mechanics can easily be applied to apps and websites. The user can gain access to an activity on condition that they gather a predefined number of points. 100 points may allow the user to vote, 500 points – to post a comment, 2000 points – to create tags, etc.
- Statuses – the rank of a player: rookie, student, teacher, master, or private, sergeant, captain, general, or else peasant, soldier, landlord, king. It may as well be applied to a professional setting with junior sales rep, sales rep, senior sales rep, sales director, etc. Players can be motivated to win more points and thus gain a respected status rank. And they can only do so by performing the associated actions on your application or website.
- Leader boards – ranking lists of the best players. They incentivise players to score points but there is a “catch” to them. New users start at the bottom and they may be discouraged by the number of points the other users have already gathered. That’s why it is a good idea to have a few ranking lists covering various time spans, e.g. global, last quarter, month, week or even day. Such an approach ensures newcomers are not driven away from the game.
- Loss aversion – the user is encouraged to perform a certain action to avoid losing something they already possess. They can lose some points if they do not log into your website for 2 weeks or lose their current status if they do not post any comments for more than a week.
- Appointments – an equivalent of “happy hours” in pubs, bars and restaurants. Order a drink within a time window set and you will get a discount or a snack for free. As regards an application, you can encourage users to log-in at predetermined times or on specified pages of your website. If they do so, they are rewarded with bonuses.
GAMIFICATION APPLIED – EXAMPLES
Dealmachine is an example of a gamification application used to manage and motivate salesforce. First sales managers customize the scoring systems, set targets and rewards for the sales representatives they manage. When the rules and parameters are set, sales reps can start to play the game: they complete tasks to score points, unlock badges and advance to higher levels of performance. Everything captured visually to allow the user to easily track his progress towards achieving the goals and objectives set.
WB intended to boost the promotion of their films, tv shows and video games by increasing the traffic on the dedicated websites. The BunchBall gamification solution provided WB with a point-based loyalty program. Everyone can join for free, and members earn points for posting reviews, viewing trailers, purchasing tickets, playing games, etc. The points they earn can be redeemed for free Blu-ray™ discs, DVDs or Digital Downloads.
Codeacademy is a web-based interactive educational platform where players can learn to code and are rewarded with points and badges for the progress they make. The learners can see their progress and status as well as are able to connect with and compete against the other users. It is yet another online course but thanks to gamification – real fun to attend.
The site was looking for a solution to drive their readers deeper into all of their contents since a lot of the visitors bounced off soon after they had read the main stories displayed on the front page. SavannahNow have managed to change their users’ behaviour with a reward system. The latter guides the readers to the deeper sections of the site, encourages them to view new content as well as to answer questions. Engaged users can earn Savannah Bucks and use them to collect rewards from the local businesses.
miCoach – touted as a personal coach – allows the user to choose or create their own training plans and track their workout progress. The application is meant to engage runners and football players and uses the construct of an avatar to boost and maintain the user’s motivation level. It was designed to encourage people to buy Adidas products. The customer buys the gear that allows them to track their performance. While they are working out, the gear counts the numbers of sprints, records 360-degree movements, measures the total distance, captures maximum speeds and tracks the training time. When the user finishes their physical activity, they can sync the data wirelessly and the stats collected power their avatar. The user is free to share their progress data with others or play a mini game using their avatar. The more they train the more powerful their avatar becomes.
You understand your venture and the goals and objectives behind it. You know the architecture of your organization, its business model and the landscape within which it operates. With the knowledge at hand you are in a position to determine if gamification is an effective tactic to pursue. If it happens to be so, add it to your toolkit. Remember to carefully select the mechanics which will drive the user, be it a customer, an employee or yet another group member, to undertake the actions which favour your cause. Gamification may provide the incentives needed for others to join in and get engaged.