Gamification borrows key concepts from the gaming industry to encourages user engagement and experience. Some of those concepts include competitiveness, mastery, sociability, achievement, and status. The application of game principles to the business context, companies can design products that are more enjoyable to users and customers.
|Gamification||Gamification is the practice of applying game-like elements and principles to non-game contexts, such as business, education, marketing, and more, to engage and motivate individuals. It leverages the psychology of gaming to achieve specific goals.|
|Key Elements||Gamification often includes key elements like points, badges, leaderboards, challenges, rewards, and storytelling. These elements are strategically designed to encourage participation and enhance user experiences.|
|Engagement||The primary goal of gamification is to enhance engagement. By incorporating elements that make activities more enjoyable, users are more likely to participate, interact, and stay engaged over extended periods.|
|Motivation||Gamification leverages psychological motivators such as competition, achievement, status, and rewards to drive desired behaviors. It taps into intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to encourage users to take specific actions.|
|Applications||Gamification has diverse applications, including employee training, marketing campaigns, education, healthcare, and customer engagement. It can be adapted to suit various industries and objectives.|
|Learning||In education, gamification can be used to make learning more interactive and enjoyable. Game-based learning environments can improve retention and understanding of complex concepts.|
|Feedback Mechanism||Effective gamification systems often incorporate a feedback mechanism. Users receive immediate feedback on their actions, allowing them to track progress and make informed decisions to achieve goals.|
|Customization||Successful gamification is often customized to the target audience and specific objectives. What motivates one group of users may not work for another, so tailoring the experience is essential for effectiveness.|
|Measurement||Gamification effectiveness can be measured through various metrics, such as user engagement, completion rates, and achievement of goals. These metrics help organizations assess the impact and success of gamified initiatives.|
|Iterative Design||Gamification often involves an iterative design process. As users interact with gamified systems, feedback is collected and used to refine the gamification elements continually. This iterative approach leads to better results over time.|
Why gamification matters in business
At its core, gamification involves taking a mundane task and making it more enjoyable. It does this by borrowing key concepts from the gaming industry that encourages user engagement. These concepts include competitiveness, mastery, sociability, achievement, and status, to name a few.
This increased user engagement is largely driven by rewards. In the context of gamification, rewards are in turn driven by game mechanics such as badges, points, levels, and any other factors which give performance feedback to the user and increase a sense of accomplishment.
By tapping into basic human emotions and desires, businesses can use game mechanics to educate, entertain, and inspire employees and consumers alike.
Breaking down gamification
- Gamification attempts to bridge the gap between a potential client and an actual client by making mundane tasks more enjoyable.
- Gamification encourages consumer interaction with a brand through point and status-based loyal programs.
- Gamification is subject to the same risks that all games possess. Namely, that consumers can become addicted and exploit the game at the expense of others.
Applications of gamification
Perhaps one of the most well-understood application of gamification is in the frequent-flyer schemes offered by most airlines.
The aviation industry harnesses well-known game mechanics in their schemes with frequent-flyer points, membership levels, and their associated privileges.
Though few will associate travel with playing a game, it is hard to deny that game mechanics are a significant reason for the success of frequent flyer programs worldwide.
Gamification is also used in marketing to driver consumer engagement in much the same way as it is in aviation.
Here, gamification is used primarily to build brand loyalty through competitions, ranking lists, and loyalty programs that utilize point systems.
The goal, as in any game, is to keep the user playing. In this sense, the gamification of marketing strategies is very well suited as it increases the odds a consumer will be motivated long enough to buy.
The incentivized reward program used by Starbucks is a classic example of following up with customers through gamification.
Loyal customers receive stars with each purchase which are redeemable for free food and drinks. Loyalty program members also receive gifts on their birthday and can achieve certain levels according to how much they purchase.
Gamification can also involve contests to drive sales. In McDonald’s Monopoly Time, the fast-food giant offered cash prizes in the millions for customers who held the relevant game pieces.
The only catch was that the consumer had to dine-in at one of their many restaurants to collect them.
Drawbacks of gamification
While gamification seeks to emulate the positive emotions associated with game playing, there cannot be winners without losers. In other words, some consumers will inevitably associate the game with a negative experience.
Businesses that use gamification in their marketing strategies must also strike a careful balance. Games must be effective in that they should direct consumers to take a specific course of action.
They should also encourage positive associations with a brand and be designed in such a way that consumers cannot exploit loopholes and win at the expense of others.
Games must also be non-addictive – particularly those involving products or services that are considered high-risk such as gambling and eating.
The hook model
An example of Gamification and the priciples of the gaming industry applied to business is the hook model, by Nir Eyal. This is a process and methodology which creates habit-forming products.
To prevent from creating products that are ethically wrong, Nir Eyal proposes the Manipulation Matrix:
In the Manipulation Matrix, in order to know whether a product can be gamified you want to be in the Facilitator box, where it both improves the users’ lives and the maker also uses it.
The worst case scenario, and a no no in terms of using gamification in designing your products, is if you build products that make users’ lives worse, and the maker does not use the product.
Of course, the most difficult part here is defining in which way the product might improve the user’s life.
More gamification examples
Let’s conclude by taking a look at some more examples of gamification from a few well-known companies.
Nike Run Club
As part of the experience that extends beyond purchasing Nike products and services, the Nike Run Club app enables athletes to join a running community where they can measure their efforts according to a personalized training program.
In essence, the Nike Run Club motivates customers to establish running as a regular exercise routine.
Athletes can set weekly or monthly challenges, compete with friends, and even give back to the community.
To make the prospect of exercise more appealing, the app tracks metrics such as pace, location, distance, heart rate, mile splits, and elevation.
KFC Shrimp Attack
KFC Shrimp Attack is a video game that incorporates advertising – otherwise known as an advergame.
The mobile-based game, which was created in collaboration with KFC Japan and Gamify, encouraged customers to try KFC’s new line of shrimp-themed menu items.
Players were required to swat at shrimp falling from the sky to protect KFC headquarters.
While KFC Shrimp Attack is one of the most basic advergames, it attracted over 800,000 players and 600 hours of playtime.
Such was the success of the campaign that KFC had to shut the game down mid-campaign since it had run out of shrimp.
Under Armour Trivia App
Sports apparel brand Under Armour partnered with NBA legend Steph Curry to launch a surprise trivia game during the NBA playoffs.
After Curry’s first three-pointer in each regular-season appearance, a trivia game called Steph IQ would launch.
The elimination-style trivia app asks questions related to Curry himself in some way.
Prizes were offered to those who could answer all eight multiple-choice questions correctly, with a few entered into an exclusive raffle where they could win Under Armour apparel, playoff tickets, or a pair of shoes signed by Curry.
The campaign boosted Under Armour’s sales and increased viewer numbers of NBA games.
Language platform Duolingo realized that learning a new language was a daunting task many people simply did not stick with.
To increase the amount of time users spent on its platform, it introduced gamification across the entire learning experience.
To build momentum and foster a sense of achievement, the company introduced learning streaks, various social functions, experience points, awards, and user badges.
Engagement is further increased by Duolingo lowering a user’s experience levels over time if they have not practiced for a while.
As a way to solidify the process of learning a new language, however, the platform allows users to revisit modules they’ve already completed.
When a module is completed, the user is awarded a certain amount of gold “lingots” which can be redeemed in a virtual store.
These can be used to reward other users for their accomplishments or spent on game-enhancing features such as bonus courses or the ability to skip a level.
Used properly, gamification can be an affective business tool, that helps companies connect the core problems customers experience, built into the product’s dynamics, to enhance the experience and value of the product for users and customers. This in turn, helps to build a more sustainable business model.
It is important to use gamification ethically, to build valuable products that improve users’ lives.
Other Case Studies
- Google Maps – Local Guides:
- How it works: Google Maps encourages users to contribute reviews, photos, and information about local businesses and places through its Local Guides program. Users earn points, badges, and sometimes even exclusive benefits, like early access to new features or events, for their contributions.
- Benefits: Gamification motivates users to actively engage with the platform, improve the quality of local information, and foster a sense of community.
- Fitbit – Fitness Challenges:
- How it works: Fitbit, a fitness tracker company, offers challenges that users can join to compete with friends or a global community. Challenges include step challenges, virtual races, and activity challenges. Users earn badges and virtual trophies for completing challenges.
- Benefits: Gamification motivates users to stay active, achieve their fitness goals, and maintain engagement with the Fitbit platform.
- LinkedIn – Profile Strength Meter:
- How it works: LinkedIn’s Profile Strength Meter encourages users to complete their profiles by providing a visual indicator of profile completeness. Users are guided through the process, and as they add more information and connections, their profile strength increases.
- Benefits: Gamification prompts users to create comprehensive profiles, making their profiles more discoverable to others and enhancing their professional networking experience.
- Uber – Uber Rewards:
- How it works: Uber Rewards is a loyalty program that rewards frequent riders. Users earn points for every eligible dollar spent on Uber rides and Uber Eats orders. As users accumulate points, they unlock different status levels, such as Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond, each with its own perks.
- Benefits: Gamification encourages users to continue using Uber for transportation and food delivery services, fostering loyalty and repeat business.
- Waze – Road Warrior:
- How it works: Waze, a navigation app, offers a feature called “Road Warrior” that rewards users for reporting road incidents and contributing to traffic data. Users earn points, stickers, and achievements for their contributions.
- Benefits: Gamification motivates users to actively report road conditions, accidents, and hazards, which helps improve the accuracy of traffic information for all users.
- Amazon – Amazon Badges:
- How it works: Amazon incorporates gamification into its fulfillment centers, where employees can earn digital badges for achieving certain performance goals and milestones. These badges are displayed on their profiles and can be shared with colleagues.
- Benefits: Gamification in the workplace can boost employee morale, encourage healthy competition, and improve overall productivity.
- GitHub – Contribution Graph:
- How it works: GitHub, a platform for developers, features a contribution graph on user profiles. Developers earn contributions by actively coding, committing, and collaborating on projects. The graph displays a visual history of their contributions.
- Benefits: Gamification encourages developers to actively participate in open-source projects, showcase their skills, and build a strong developer portfolio.
- Snapchat – Snapstreaks:
- How it works: Snapchat motivates users to maintain streaks (sending snaps to friends for consecutive days) with a “Snapstreak” feature. Users receive emojis, fire emojis, and other symbols as rewards for keeping streaks alive.
- Benefits: Gamification promotes daily engagement with the Snapchat platform, fostering user retention and social connections.
- Airbnb – Host Achievement Badges:
- How it works: Airbnb offers host achievement badges to hosts who meet certain milestones or provide exceptional guest experiences. These badges are displayed on their host profiles, such as “Superhost” for outstanding hospitality.
- Benefits: Gamification motivates hosts to provide high-quality accommodations and service, improving the overall guest experience on Airbnb.
- LinkedIn – Skills Quiz:
- How it works: LinkedIn offers Skills Quiz assessments for various professional skills. Users can take these quizzes to validate their expertise in specific domains. Upon successful completion, they receive a badge on their LinkedIn profiles.
- Benefits: Gamification encourages users to showcase their skills and knowledge, making their profiles more attractive to potential employers and professional connections.
- Facebook – Memories and Friendversaries:
- How it works: Facebook uses gamification elements to remind users of their memories and friend connections. Users are presented with “Memories” from past years and “Friendversaries” celebrating the anniversary of their friendship.
- Benefits: Gamification enhances user nostalgia and engagement on the platform, encouraging users to revisit and interact with their memories and friends.
- YouTube – Creator Awards:
- How it works: YouTube recognizes content creators with Creator Awards based on their channel’s subscriber count and video view milestones. Creators receive a silver play button, gold play button, or diamond play button, depending on their achievements.
- Benefits: Gamification motivates content creators to produce high-quality and engaging content, attracting more subscribers and viewers to the platform.
- Reddit – Karma Points:
- How it works: Reddit assigns “Karma” points to users based on the upvotes and downvotes their posts and comments receive. Users can accumulate Karma to showcase their contributions and reputation within Reddit communities.
- Benefits: Gamification encourages users to participate in discussions, share valuable content, and follow community guidelines, contributing to a positive user experience.
- Amazon Prime – Prime Gamification:
- How it works: Amazon Prime includes gamified features such as Prime Day, where members can access exclusive deals and discounts. Amazon also uses gamification in its shipping and delivery progress tracking, making the process engaging and interactive.
- Benefits: Gamification increases the perceived value of Amazon Prime membership, encourages participation in Prime Day events, and enhances the overall shopping experience.
- Starbucks – Starbucks Rewards:
- How it works: Starbucks Rewards is a loyalty program that rewards customers with stars for every purchase. As customers earn stars, they unlock different reward tiers, including free drinks and food items.
- Benefits: Gamification motivates customers to choose Starbucks for their coffee and dining needs, driving repeat visits and brand loyalty.
- Microsoft Xbox – Gamerscore and Achievements:
- How it works: Microsoft’s Xbox platform offers Gamerscore points and Achievements for completing specific in-game challenges or reaching milestones in video games. Players can showcase their gaming accomplishments on their profiles.
- Benefits: Gamification encourages gamers to explore and engage with a wide range of Xbox games, extending their gaming experience and loyalty to the platform.
- Driving User Engagement: Gamification taps into human emotions and desires, encouraging users to interact with a brand and its products or services. It can be used to educate, entertain, and inspire both employees and consumers.
- Applications: Gamification finds various applications in business, such as frequent-flyer programs in the aviation industry, marketing strategies to build brand loyalty, and incentivized reward programs to encourage repeat purchases.
- Drawbacks: While gamification can enhance user experiences, there are risks, such as some users associating negative experiences with the game. Businesses must strike a balance, ensuring games are effective, encourage positive associations, and are non-addictive.
- The Hook Model: The Hook Model, proposed by Nir Eyal, is a framework for creating habit-forming products through gamification. It consists of four elements: trigger, action, reward, and investment.
- Ethical Use: Ethical use of gamification is crucial, ensuring products improve users’ lives and provide value. Businesses should avoid building products that negatively impact users and should use gamification to enhance user experiences.
- Examples: Well-known examples of gamification include Nike Run Club, KFC Shrimp Attack (an advergame), Under Armour Trivia App, and Duolingo (language learning platform). These examples demonstrate how gamification can motivate users, increase engagement, and boost brand loyalty.
- Building Sustainable Business: Properly utilized gamification can help companies connect with customers, enhance product experiences, and build more sustainable business models. The key is to use gamification ethically to create valuable products that improve users’ lives.
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