Gamification: Are we there yet?

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Barry Kirk
Barry Kirk

From reality TV to the workplace to weight loss, gamification has developed a presence in nearly every facet of our lives. However, New Media Age recently reported that although 78% of marketers agree that customers are more likely to respond to marketing with a gaming element, only one-third of marketers actually understand what gamification is. As a result, four years after its introduction, many companies and marketers still view gamification as simply slapping badges on a website in an effort to increase user engagement.

Yes, badges and other evidence of accomplishments are important elements of gamification, but sustained success with the technique requires a deeper understanding of how and why game mechanics encourage desired consumer behaviors. Serious gamification means creating a system of challenges, rewards and achievements that satisfies the unique needs of a specific audience.

The reason gamification has proven to be successful at driving high-value behaviors is because it is based upon satisfying fundamental human needs and desires for things like rewards, status, achievement, self-expression, competition and altruism. It is essential that brands take the time to consider which game mechanics makes the most sense for your business strategy and will be most beneficial in helping the company reach its goals, while also meeting customer needs. Here are some examples:

  • Points are non-monetary rewards given to users for completing certain tasks; they have value because they indicate and/or unlock access to exclusive content.
  • Levels indicate that a person has reached a milestone or a level of accomplishment and should receive a certain amount of respect and status.
  • Challenges are missions given to users to accomplish; they are often rewarded with points for successful completion or access to a new level.
  • Virtual goods offer users non-physical objects that can be purchased for use in online communities and/or games that are valuable to users.
  • Score boards are high-score tables that track rankings and bring aspiration to users by adding fame to their name.
  • Gifting & charity gives users the option to send earned gifts to friends or donate them to charity.

Serious gamification means creating a system of challenges, rewards and achievements that satisfies the unique needs of a specific audience. For example, an audience of channel sales partners might respond best to a gamified experience based around competition and mastery, whereas a consumer audience of new moms might prefer one that is more collaborative and social. Like any strategy, there's a right and wrong way to implement gamification into a company's business model.

Companies need to be educated in not only what gamification is, but how they can use game mechanics to drive meaningful results based on their own company's needs and goals. For example, Bunchball's services can help organizations engage their fans and users, increase customer loyalty and sales or motivate its employees and channel partners. In order for the implementation of gamification services to succeed, a company must hone in on what they need and what results they are looking for so that they can decide on a tailored solution that will provide their organization with results that matter. Some other tips marketers can consider when considering gamification:

  1. First, consider your desired result. Different needs require different types of applications.
  2. What type of audience are you targeting? This is important to know, as different types of people are responsive to different types of game mechanics.
  3. What is meaningful to that audience? To successfully gamify a site you need to give users real value.  Otherwise you might see a brief uptick in activity, but it will quickly wane if users aren't interested.

Gamification has proven effective so far, but the next few years will push gamification to even greater heights and success.  How do you expect to see marketers use gamification in the next couple years? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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