Gamification is usually described as “the application of game elements to non-game contexts.” In simpler terms, gamification takes the characteristics we like about games and adds them to everyday actions in order to make them more interesting. Think about receiving points for filing paperwork, or brushing your teeth.
These gamification elements leverage our love of competition and reward, and use it to encourage certain actions. This is the central concept of gamification: by changing the way people think about behavior, gamification can change people’s habits.
Gamification encourages behavior with instant, positive feedback. Consistent feedback connects smaller tasks to larger goals, and makes each action meaningful.
In order to understand gamification, you have to speak the language. Like any tech industry, gamification has a lot of jargon. Let’s dive in.
Anyone who participates in a gamification apps, systems or platforms. For some companies, users will be their customers (such as in a loyalty program). For other companies, the users will be their employees (such as in a gamified training program).
Perhaps the main reason humans love games, immediate, positive feedback makes us feel good about completing something and motivates us to do it again. Feedback mechanics are the most widely known gamification elements, and also feature the greatest variation.
One of the most traditional gamification mechanics, points form the basis for many game formats. Points help provide context for performance, and can make difficult or complex actions more manageable.
Badges are usually awarded for actions the user has just completed. They offer a more visual display of achievement than points, and can be shown on profile pages or user accounts. Badges also provide excellent branding opportunities, as logos can be featured on them.
Ranking top performing users on a leaderboard broadcasts who’s getting the most out of the game. Leaderboards help foster a sense of community, especially if users are joined into teams.
Conveyed through the aforementioned feedback elements, a sense of progress links actions that may initially appear unrelated into a coherent process. Like in the educational example at the beginning of this guide, progress helps users understand that their actions, however small, relate to a larger whole or a grander accomplishment.
Pulled from the level system of video games, progress in gamification can be as simple as telling a user when they’ve completed a required action or as a complex as moving through multiple stages of an extensive process.
Offering rewards for completing an action isn’t a new idea. Airline rewards miles represent one of the oldest, and most successful, rewards programs to date. Contests are another good example. With the advent of digital media, brands are able to reward users faster than ever for actions such as sharing content over social media, or purchasing a product.
By integrating social media platforms with gamification apps, businesses can empower users to share their experiences and show off their rewards. Incentives such as badges can be displayed on user’s profiles and news feeds. This allows the user to show off their accomplishments, and earns the brand valuable advertising space.
Now that you have an idea of what makes gamification work, you’re probably wondering how to go about implementing such a strategy in your office. Gamification can take many forms, so it’s important to evaluate all of your options.
Gamification services can be grouped into three categories
1. Software as a Service
The most common form of Gamification, these offerings are entirely cloud-based. They let companies take advantage of gamification services without the need for custom software or hardware. SaaS platforms usually give businesses a great deal of control with minimal coding or upkeep required. Because they run entirely in the cloud, users can also access the services from any internet connected device.
2. Custom Software
On-premise gamification software is generally reserved for specialty industries or custom solutions. Developers will sometime work with companies to create unique interfaces and mechanics based around their workflow and criteria. Certain vendors even offer full-fledged game design.
While gamification is usually a software-based technology, a few vendors integrate hardware into their product suites. One example of this is the company Belly, whose Belly Card rewards customers for scanning it each time they’re at a location. This combines hardware (the physical rewards card), with software (their online sales portal), to create a unique solution.
With the proliferation of big data, it’s far easier for organizations to measure the impact of their business strategies than in the past, and it should be no different with gamification.
Sucessful gamification strategies require fine-tuning and continual improvement. As employees complete tasks, new ones will need to take their place.
Luckily, many gamification providers include tools to make sure your solution is producing results. Once you configure goals, such as increased sales or leads, you can monitor your progress via regular reports and analytics dashboards.
Create Better Training Programs
Gamification can make a huge impact on the success of a work training program, especially if the program is mandatory or essential. These sessions are generally seen as a necessary evil when starting a new job, or moving into a new position, but they don’t have to be.
The addition of a rewards system combined with clear training goals, can increase the overall efficiency of these sessions.
Take the case of Deloitte. With over 200,000 employees, having an efficient training system is a must. They already had an online training platform, but weren’t seeing the numbers or results they wanted. They decided to gamify the system, adding an incentives program and public leaderboards.
Following these changes, their Leadership Academy program saw regular weekly users increase by more than 30%.
Gamification can be used for more than just increasing efficiency.For instance, a rewards system can be used to help foster a more connected office, or a healthier workforce.
Rewarding employees for exercising outside the office, eating healthy, or just taking a few short breaks to stretch and walk during the day can yield huge benefits in terms of morale and productivity.
According to a survey by human resource firm Ceridian, companies with engaged employees have five times higher shareholder returns than those with a disengaged workforce.
Additionally, when workers have a strong connection to their company’s goals, they’re more likely to pass on quality referrals.
Increase Workplace Competition
People’s natural competitive drive is a great motivational tool, you just have to learn to harness it effectively.
One example of this is assigning points for certain workplace actions - like following up with a client for a third time - and then displaying a public leaderboard with each employee’s score. There are several employee engagement solutions out there that incentivize employees in different ways. For instance, there are third party add-ons that can instantly turn using your sales team's CRM solution into a bonafide sales competition. Another example are gamified employee training programs that can simplify onboarding for HR while making it more fun for your employees to learn processes and protocol.
This places results front-and-center, provides extra incentive for employees, and helps the company better judge individual performance.
Improve Employee Collaboration
Ever felt there was a communication gap in your office? Employees often waste time searching for answers that their coworkers could easily supply.
Gamification can be used to encourage employee interaction, and track their requests for information or files. Companies such as Badgeville and BunchBall offer enterprise-specific platforms with intra-office social networks built in.
Such systems allow employees to easily request information from each other, and recognize helpful co-workers through badges or leaderboards. They also provide useful analytics for the company about where information is going, and how it’s being shared.
Build Customer Loyalty
A loyal customer base is one of the key components of a long-term stable business. Getting first time visitors to return, however, can be a challenge.
Gamification can make this easier by providing incentives for return-visits in the form of rewards or social recognition. These programs are often referred to as customer loyalty programs. For example, programs such as Starbucks Rewards, allow customer to earn points on every purchase.
Eventually, these points can be redeemed for free coffee or other merchandise, which reinforces buying behavior and encourages repeat business.
Engage Your Audience
Customer engagement is a key metric of brand success, and an area where gamification can make a huge impact.
When users are engaged, they not only return to your site or business, but are more likely to tell others about your brand in-person and over social-media.
Games are a naturally engaging activity. Applying some of the concepts found in them to your brand (in the form of a loyalty program, contest, or point system) can really enhance your user experience.
Improve Brand Recognition
Brand recognition is closely tied to engagement and loyalty. Social sharing and recommendation is a huge factor in attracting new customers.
You want to make sure you’re harnessing that power to boost your brand, and spread your message. Many gamification platforms provide incentives for your customers or users to share your content on their own social media channels.
When this happens, it turns your current users into brand ambassadors. This in turn leads to higher brand recognition.
Harness Social Media (For Good!)
Like it or not, social media is now a major platform for advertising, sales, and brand image.
If your company works with customers, simply creating a Facebook page or Twitter account isn’t enough. You need to interact with them directly, on their medium of choice. A gamified social media system can help you achieve this.
It will reward users for posting on social media, and allow them to display badges or other prizes directly on their accounts. This builds customer relationships, while promoting your brand at the same time.
Gamification is one of the fastest growing technology trends in the world. Research firm Gartner predicts that 50% of companies that manage innovatve processes will gamify at least one application by the end of this year, and some 70% of Global 2000 companies will adopt gamification by the end of 2014..
With the rise of gamification as an industry, scientific research around gamification is growing every year. Given the increased adoption of gamification, and the success of the current solutions, market growth shows no signs of stopping.
Here are two trends to look out for in 2014
As the market continues to grow, individual firms will become increasingly specialized. Current examples include Keas, which focuses primarily on enterprise wellness programs, and Bankerlab, which designs training programs for financial institutions. Forward thinking gamification companies will follow these examples and create industry-specific solutions. Specialization is ultimately good for the market since custom products often yield better results and higher ROI.
So far, gamification programs have focused on entire offices or user bases. While this has been successful, innovative companies will find ways to further personalize the gamification experience. For example, some companies are now creating personal leaderboards, which only show a user’s closest competitors instead of the entire office or team. This allows for a more personal experience, and doesn't discourage lower ranking employees.
While all of this might seem like a new trend, gamification's roots stretch back to the 1890s. We cataloged the most important moments in gamification's history, and created this graphic to show how the industry has evolved since then. Congratulations, you’ve finished the Beginner’s Guide to Gamification. Visit the rest of our site to find the latest gamification news, video reviews, upcoming events and more. Or feel free to use the Smart Advisor tool above if you're interested in finding gamification providers that fit your needs.