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Table of Contents
- What is gamification software?
- Why you should use gamification software and gamified elements
- Who uses gamification software and gamified elements
- The importance of employee and customer engagement
- The gamification software market
- Consumer-facing use cases for gamification
- Business-facing use cases for gamification
- Major features of gamification apps and gamified software
- Major trends in gamification
- Choosing the best gamification software for your needs
What is gamification software?
Gamification software is any tool or platform used for applying game mechanics to non-game contexts in order to boost engagement and successful end-results. Common use cases include customer loyalty, e-learning, employee engagement, and performance management.
In recent years we’ve seen an explosion in the use of gamification and gamified elements in consumer and business software and apps. The increase in adoption of gamification has led to a split in definition between gamification and gamified elements. While there are still many platforms that provide custom and complete gamification tools for marketers, sales people, and consumer brands, there are even more types of software that have adopted gamified elements into existing products. Gamified elements include:
- Points or purchase-based rewards
- Social interactions and sharing
- Story and choose-your-own-adventure plots
This guide talks interchangeably about gamification software and gamified elements within software. Both terms have become commonplace, and the distinctions between them become more blurred by the day.
Why you should use gamification software and gamified elements
By harnessing the entertaining aspects of games, gamification technology offers organizations a solution to their engagement problems. In many of its initial applications, gamification has had impressive results, leading global organizations such as IBM, Walmart, and Deloitte to use gamification in their marketing campaigns and workplaces. Some companies even acquire gamification startups to permanently integrate the technology into their software and business models.
According to Daniel Pink’s book Drive (and the accompanying TED Talk), it’s important for individuals to feel autonomy over their work, mastery over the concepts they apply every day, and a purpose for getting the job done. Gamification can make employees feel connected with each of these concepts individually or any combination of them.
- Autonomy: Employees who engage in gamified training modules have power over their own success. They can choose the pace of their learning and their own engagement with it, which ultimately makes the more engaged.
- Mastery: As employees move through training modules, they learn concepts and skills they need to complete their job. Each badge they receive for a completed module or certificate they earn for finished courses only affirms the sense of mastery.
- Purpose: Many employees will complete training for intrinsic reasons—they want to learn in order to do their jobs better—other employees may need extrinsic motivations like badges, certificates, or even physical and monetary rewards for their training.
Of course, these same concepts can work for customer loyalty gamification tools, but these tools often take advantage of the endorphin hit customers receive when they feel they’ve won a special prize, mastered a tricky game, or been included in an exclusive group.
Who uses gamification software and gamified elements
Gamification is useful for any business team that needs motivation to get more done. All the team needs is measurable goals to attain and a platform to track and report on progress and deliverables. The platform the team chooses depends on its needs, and can be as low-tech as a whiteboard or sticky notes or as high tech as a custom enterprise gamification app. Whatever form the gamication comes in, these are the teams that most often find a use for a gamification software.
Human resources often takes responsibility for critical onboarding, training, and ongoing performance management initiatives for a company, each of which can be gamified. And many HR departments are using gamification in some of their more grueling tasks, like recruiting. Introducing gamified elements to recruits can send a message to potential job candidates that your team is invested in motivation and engagement.
Sales teams often run on a natural sense of competition for the best deals or the highest sales. Gamification software can help concentrate that competitive nature into key sales enablement tasks. Documenting tasks in a CRM, scheduling call appointments, and promoting quick contract turn-arounds can all be gamified and improve overall revenue generation.
Help desk, call center, and customer support
Help desk and customer support is often grueling work: customer problems and issue tickets decide your schedule, and customer frustrations can be emotionally taxing. By gamifying parts of the process, customer support and help desk representatives can find a little joy in the everyday. Whether it’s competing for the highest completion rate, best customer satisfaction rate, or another custom internal metric, gamification can help reps see beyond the individual ticket and better understand how their work affects the overall customer lifetime value.
Marketing and customer engagement
Competition in nearly every industry is tight, and companies must find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. While offering discounts and incentives may work in the short-term, customer retention, long-term customer satisfaction, and increased lifetime value have become the new metrics of success. Gamification engages customers at all points in the lifecycle.
These are just some of the teams and use cases for gamification software and software with gamified elements. The most important idea for each use of gamification is that the game elements provide a vehicle for individual engagement and ties positive feelings towards the brand.
The importance of employee and customer engagement
Employee engagement is widely accepted as a driver of a company’s productivity and growth. This is true of the percentage of engaged workforce and depth of engagement for individual employees. According to the 2018 TalentLMS Gamification at Work survey,
- 88 percent of employees who use gamification say they’re happier at work
- 89 percent of employees who use gamification say they are more productive at work
- 78 percent of those surveyed say that if a company uses recruitment gamification it makes the company more desirable
- 83 percent of employees who use gamified training at work said they feel motivated in their training
- while 61 percent of non-gamified feel unmotivated
But engagement is easy to lose and difficult to inspire. The recent push among American companies for higher engagement rates has made a difference: the 2018 Gallup poll of employee engagement states that American workers boast a 34 percent engagement level. This rate ties the all-time high level recorded in 2000, when the survey first began. The record high is complemented by a long-term low of 15 percent of employees who self-report as actively disengaged. While these optimistic numbers show an all-time high ratio of 2.6-1 engaged to disengaged workers, they still show that US businesses have a long way to improve overall employee engagement.
The low employee engagement rate means that companies must create new methods for making work more engaging. Disengaged employees are less productive and have lower morale because they tend to think negatively about their jobs. And this isn’t a static crisis: disengaged employees tend to bring their colleagues and teammates down with them, affecting the overall employee culture and spreading discontent throughout the company.
And engagement doesn’t just affect employees. Holding consumers’ attention through the continuous noise of competing marketing messages represents another avenue where engagement is critical to success. Salesforce found that 84 percent of customers felt that the experience they have with a company is as important as the products the company offers. Modern consumers are fickle and spoiled for choice. Companies that invest in engaged customers will keep them.
The gamification software market
Although some of the initial hype around gamification in the early 2010s has diminished, the market is still growing. Research in 2015 predicted the global gamification market to reach 11 billion by 2020, but the market topped out at 6.8 billion in 2018. Projections are still hopeful, however, with a predicted CAGR of over 30 percent in the period leading up to 2024, with market predictions reaching as high as $40 billion in 2024.
Analysts disagree over which market segment will produce the most growth in the gamification market. Some say that end-user and consumer markets like retail, customer loyalty, and healthcare will drive the majority of growth, while others cite business use cases for HR and software development. What we can say for certain is that both B2B and B2C software now include gamified elements to increase user engagement.
Because software vendors have chosen to acquire gamification companies rather than build their own tools, the gamification software market isn’t clear-cut. Market measurements must take into account that gamification tools now exist as part of CRM, ERP, help desk, and customer loyalty software. But the wide acceptance of gamification theories shows the methodology has gained steam. The normalization of gamification means you’ll find many other specialized and overlapping software categories that include gamified elements:
- Performance Management: This HR software helps managers and teams better understand an employee’s job responsibilities, track job-related goals and metrics, and measure improvement. Gamified elements might be involved to track employee progress and increase engagement.
- Learning Management Systems: This software gives companies a platform to build, track, and improve employee and customer training modules through an online web portal. Gamified learning is often built into these systems to increase engagement and drive user outcomes.
- Employee Engagement: These platforms use gamified elements to promote productivity and revenue growth across a company. While often used to motivate sales teams to increase profits, employee engagement software can be used to reduce turnover, give meaningful feedback, increase training efficiency, and improve overall morale.
With such a huge market and a wide variety of solutions, it can be difficult for first-time buyers to make the right decision. This guide will detail the most popular methods of deployment, use cases for each scenario that can provide a roadmap for your engagement strategy, and common trends defining the gamification software market.
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Consumer-facing use cases for gamification
Keeping your customers loyal is marketing 101, and yet companies often spend much less on customer retention than customer acquisition. Forbes reports that it can cost up to five times more to attract a new customer than retain an existing account. Research shows that customer retention can pay off between 25 and 125 percent annually. And existing customers are 60-70 percent more likely to convert than new customers. Let’s face it, it’s easier to retain than to find new, but companies are often focused on getting that next big customer rather than growing their existing relationships.
Loyalty programs can be found everywhere from your grocery store and coffee shop to mobile apps. Usually based on a point or badge system, customer loyalty gamification rewards customers for purchasing and sharing their experience with others. Common rewards include discounts and free gifts, free shipping, or other valuable prizes for engagement.
By targeting specific behaviors and offering relevant reward systems, gamification provides an excellent method for rewarding your most loyal customers. In addition, these tools often promote brand loyalty. As an intrinsic motivator, brand loyalty decreases the need to provide discounts and coupons and increases overall customer engagement.
Marketing and user experience
For marketers, grabbing the attention of consumers is more difficult now than ever before. Though increased engagement can be achieved through savvy social media usage, creating engaging user experiences is often a more reliable strategy to ensure long-term engagement.
These strategies can range from engaging push ads that encourage consumers to interact with specific content to utility functions imbedded within an online application. Consumer loyalty mobile apps are increasingly engaging customers by enabling them to complete common time-consuming transactions on their phones. The Starbucks mobile app sends your order to a nearby store for pickup, the Walgreens app lets you renew prescriptions, and the Hilton app can work as your hotel room key. All of these features make customers more likely to stay loyal to brands because the apps make their lives easier, and they often earn rewards and discounts while doing their everyday activities.
Companies that understand what customers want and reward them for their engagement with the brand at key purchase and conversion points capitalize on the latest trends in customer experience.
Business-facing use cases for gamification
Sales team motivation
Gamification has been around almost as long as the sales industry; while modern systems may not win you a holiday turkey, they still work to motivate employees to compete against one another to sell more, complete sales tasks more consistently, and push revenue goals.
Sales teams often thrive on competition for accounts, deal size, and commission payouts. While increasing internal competition isn’t necessarily the biggest need in this department, many teams use gamification to focus sales teams around desired behaviors. These can range from putting data into the CRM earlier in the sales process to selling a new product.
Sales gamification works much like any other gamification system in that it uses badges and leaderboards to communicate progress towards sales goals and motivate employees to improve their revenue generation behaviors. Some products in this field build monetary or physical rewards into the games, while others are team-oriented and have the whole group working towards long-term goals. The best sales team gamification software will allow you to tie your contests directly to KPIs and revenue goals.
Call center and help desk motivation
As automation, predictive maintenance, AI, and other technological advances begin to remove humans from many manual jobs they once performed, industries need to pivot to a service-centered model to remain relevant and useful to consumers. Technicians have to learn to include customer service into their workflows and call centers, and help desk teams no longer reset passwords but rather focus on edge case issues that require service skills and technical knowledge.
Consequently, automating your customer service isn’t a great option, but the increasing level of disengagement in service representatives needs to be addressed to keep their productivity from slipping further. To make matters worse, it’s difficult to keep skilled service agents. Call centers in particular can experience turnover rates as high as 27 percent among entry level employees, with experienced workers only marginally more committed to their positions.
To address this problem, many call center and help desk organizations deploy gamification platforms to solve their employee engagement problem. These tools pit individuals or teams of service agents against one another in friendly competition to achieve high performance against customer experience and service KPIs and goals. Depending on the solution you choose and your company culture, rewards for high achievement can run from leaderboard recognition to prizes and bonuses.
New employee training ensures new hires integrate well with the rest of the team, but it also affects the new employee’s overall productivity. Retraining new hires, teaching new skills, and preparing the employee for a culture fit can all delay a hire’s integration with the company and even the length of their tenure with the company.
Reducing turnover is particularly crucial in maintaining and extending the employee lifetime value (ELTV). A salesperson who receives optimized onboarding, career management, and development and stays just one year longer than a counterpart in the same position could earn the company as much as $1.3 million more. Studies also indicate that the cost of losing a single employee increases exponentially with the employee’s pay: turnover of a lower wage employee who makes under $50,000 a year will cost you about 20 percent of their wages, while a highly compensated CEO could cost as much as 213 percent of her salary to replace.
Onboarding nearly always requires recent hires to learn additional skills, or at the very least new organizational protocols that they’ll apply to their role. While gamification can improve the outcomes for many organizational problems, it’s especially effective at encouraging learning. Companies who hope to train employees and retain their investment in them should consider gamified learning as a way to get employees engaged in onboarding learning and extending their skills to grow into more complex roles.
Gamified learning management
Gamified learning uses the same leaderboards, badges, and competition tools to encourage employees to take lessons tailored to the company’s training needs or contracted through third-party learning systems.
These tools motivate employees to
- gain certifications needed for regulatory compliance
- become better at working with people
- learn how to use software tools
- train to use complicated and dangerous machinery
With the addition of augmented or virtual reality tools, companies can reduce the risk of training new employees and engage them in meaningful learning that improves company outcomes.
Health and wellness
Employee health can have a sizable impact on performance. Unhealthy employees take more sick days, which reduces their productivity and can cost your company money. Obese workers cost American companies 36 percent more on healthcare and 77 percent more on medication than their slimmer counterparts. This is a significant issue considering that 25 percent of American workers are not active at all, and 49 percent of Americans receive health insurance through their employer.
Implementing a company wellness program can make your employees more productive and healthier. For employees who aren’t currently active, forming healthy habits can be a challenge. Gamification offers an excellent supplement to a traditional wellness program, and can increase participation and long-term engagement.
Employee gamified wellness programs take many forms, from weight loss competitions and step count leaderboards to diet and exercise challenges that change from week to week. Many of these programs require self-reporting, but others gather exercise, heart rate, and calorie burn data from wearable devices like the Fitbit or via an app on the employee’s mobile phone.
Major features of gamification apps and gamified software
Badges and rewards
Badges and rewards are the carrot of the carrot-or-stick approach to gamification. Badges are usually electronic images that players can collect to show their progress within the app. These are often socially shareable or available for individuals to include on their profile. Earn enough of the right badges, and the individual may be eligible for a reward—a physical manifestation of their progress. Customer loyalty tools often provide rewards in the form of digital coupons or free items, whereas companies may offer cash or days off as rewards for spectacular training.
Leaderboards maintain a sense of competition in a group by listing all the individual players and ranking them according to progress markers. Companies hoping to increase competition among sales executives may publish a revenue leaderboard in the sales office with the top five sellers for the month. Or a consumer app may publish an anonymized leaderboard to track the influence of customers. But take caution: these tools often help the highest performing individuals perform even higher, while it may have the opposite effect on the middle and lower performing tiers.
Maps, progress bars, and goals
To reach your destination, you have to know where you’re going. Many well-designed gamification tools use maps to track an individual’s progress toward a goal. Often an app’s maps expand, offering new goals to achieve and pathways to follow that match those new learning, sales, or purchasing goals. Using a model common to many video games, the maps show completed modules, allow for individuals to repeat modules to improve their score, and award badges or other themed rewards upon completion.
Other tools use progress bars to show the competitor’s progress through a task or set of courses. Progress bars are especially helpful as they can persist across different screens without taking up too much visual real estate, so competitors can always have a sense of how well they’re doing.
Social news feeds
Social news feeds improve communication around shared goals, engender some friendly competition among participants, and provide an at-a-glance view of recent activity within the app. Often based off the Facebook news feed, these tools combine instant messaging with status updates and awards notifications.
Increased engagement goes hand in hand with advanced reporting and analytics, and most gamification software provide both. Companies can use reporting tools to understand the baseline of their employee engagement, and then measure increases in engagement, skills learned, time spent in the app, and more. Reporting can give HR and administrative teams key insight into the ROI of the tool or program, and can help managers understand how their teams perform to improve overall outcomes.
Major trends in gamification
Our world has gone mobile. This change has affected how we advertise and how we interact with brands both at work and in our personal lives. The ubiquity of mobile usage for both work and play has driven the rise of gamified mobile apps.
Because everyone is connected all day, the chances for mobile gamification of business systems and consumer apps is much higher. Employees can get notifications on their phones to update sales numbers or work orders when they leave a job site, and consumers can interact with their favorite apps from anywhere including the office or coffee shop.
For many, modern life is dominated by social media: we keep up with friends and family on Facebook, we get our news from Twitter, we network on LinkedIn. Online social interaction has so dominated our lives that business apps now adopt many of the software tropes of social media including likes, activity feeds, and instant messaging. Each of these pressure software vendors to make interactions on business software like CRMs and ERPs more like the commercial apps we use every day.
The concentration of social interaction in our lives also drives and reinforces gamified elements of business software. Teams can support one another in sales competitions and congratulate the first to achieve a badge. In addition to growing revenue and helping teams achieve defined KPIs, the social nature of these tools helps all users engage in and form the culture of the company. A strong company culture results in more engaged employees, higher revenue, and reduced turnover.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become all the rage among business and consumer software for lots of reasons, most notably:
- It helps reduce some of the manual (and boring) work previously done by humans
- It brings together large data sets for fast analysis. The same data analysis would cost employees many thousands of hours and companies thousands of dollars
- The algorithms and software that run AI are more common and less expensive to deploy than ever, giving more companies access to their benefits
Companies can now collect massive amounts of data from customers about app usage, product interests, movements around the internet, and where they do their shopping. All of this data can be used to better personalize marketing and sales pitches directly to the individual. Personalized pitches are useful in consumer gamification apps as they increase customer engagement with the app and bolster consumer loyalty.
Business-facing gamified apps can use AI to better understand employee workflows, collect and use data about which types of contests or engagements individual employees respond well to, and gather feedback via chatbots. These tools can provide recommendations for employe behavior through statistical analysis. Gamified business tools that use AI can also connect with employee engagement and performance management software to help companies improve their culture and increase sales numbers.
Healthcare companies have long understood that patient engagement is key to reducing individual patient risk and relapse rates. But many doctors struggled to track patient behavior after they leave the office.
Gamification vendors have popped up across many areas of the healthcare sector where consistency is rewarded with good health. Consumer health gamification apps remind individuals to take their medication, measure their blood sugar, and walk more every day. Other companies have used gamification to improve physical therapy outcomes and even rehabilitate stroke victims.
Consolidation of small companies into larger retail outlets
Growth by acquisition is a common story among large software companies: large and capital-rich companies bring on entirely new technology branches by purchasing smaller businesses that are leaders in emerging technologies. And big name retailers and software corporations didn’t take long to hop on this trend. Walmart acquired Punchtab in 2015, Microsoft drafted Fantasy Sales Team in 2016, SAP bought Gigya in 2017, and BI WORLDWIDE integrated Bunchball into its gamification software in 2018.
Market consolidation has a couple of effects:
- It makes gamification more accessible to business users who contract with the large software companies for their HR, sales, or IT software
- It results in fewer choices for individual businesses who want to introduce custom gamification into their software or business processes
- It makes gamification more common in the daily lives of consumers, who come to expect badges, leaderboards, and rewards in their interactions with consumer brands of all types
The overall effect of market consolidation is that it makes gamification so common in our work and personal lives that many of us come to expect these elements. Rewards for loyalty and healthy competition are so commonplace that brands who fail to employ some form of gamification risk being ignored by consumers.
Choosing the best gamification software for your needs
Now that you’ve seen gamification in action, it’s time to find a solution that works best for your organization. At TechnologyAdvice, we’ve already done the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours, or even days, searching the internet for the information you need.
Connect with the vendor that’s right for your business by calling one of our in-house specialists at 877.822.9526 or using the Product Selection Tool at the top of the page to get free custom product recommendations based on your company’s goals and needs.
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