What is gamification? The term describes the integration of game principles into a non-game experience – very often simply to make things more fun. Gamification started to gain wide popularity around 2010: think frequent flyer and customer loyalty programs. Traditionally, companies use gamification to increase sales, customer engagement and brand awareness (speaking of which having custom t-shirts made could help too!), but today, the principles are applied to not only grow the business, but also employee productivity, product development and positive behaviour.
By using motivation and engagement, gamification can work beautifully in many different areas and for a variety of purposes. A gamified strategy rewards players and recognises their achievements publicly – through points, badges, and awards as well as levels that show their advancement. Social leaderboards, interaction with others and the flow of being “in the game” keep players engaged, inspire them to perform tasks and build brand loyalty.
Examples of gamification in business
The entertainment platform Steam by Valve offers players instant access to over 3,500 games across several platforms. But rather than be just a place where you only click through on the way to your next virtual adventure, the company wanted to increase user engagement, interaction on the platform and game sales. Valve achieved all that with the smart reward system of Steam Trading Cards. These virtual cards can be earned by playing games, and Steam lets you turn sets of them into badges for your profile page and tradable Steam community items or coupons.
The gamified language-learning platform Duolingo started in 2011 and is used by millions of active learners both on the web and as an app. Duolingo’s key to success is offering education free of ads and costs and with a gaming approach to learning. Incentives are implemented as rewards and achievements you unlock in tiers. Subjects are grouped in blocks, and you score points, lose lives and compare results on a scoreboard, much like you would in a game, thus taking the chore out of language learning.
The sports brand Nike wants customers to get active and stay motivated and launched the campaign NikeFuel around its fitness technology Nike+. With sensors and apps, Nike+ users can track their activities and convert them into points to be shared with the NikeFuel community. Reaching certain levels on NikeFuel unlocks trophies and rewards to keep motivation up. Sharing results on social media is a way of competing, but also increasing brand visibility.
Eye-spy M&M’s – with this gamification classic of 2013, M&M’s created a huge marketing success as part of a larger campaign for their chocolate pretzel candy. In a Facebook app, users had to find the hidden pretzel in a large picture of M&M’s. The company achieved great engagement with new likes, shares and comments and a fun way to interact with their new product.
The perfect tool to boost motivation! ChoreWars literally transforms any chore from bore to more, no matter if at home or in the office. We all postpone ticking off these mundane tasks that need doing, simply because they’re missing the fun factor. ChoreWars puts you back in the action, but first lets you create a character like in a role playing game, tricking you into thinking you get to procrastinate more. But then it’s XP, leaderboards and levelling up all the way. You can create a one-time contest, or an ongoing adventure with recurring stats and awards, and character badges can of course be shared on social media.
How to leverage gamification for your small business
Big brand gamification may snatch the largest headlines, but there is no reason not to use these tactics for your small business and within your start-up company. You can engage both employees as well as customers with this strategy to achieve goals. Before you press play, however, let’s be clear about a couple of best practises:
- Objective Key Results: What goal are you trying to achieve, and how will you measure it? Be specific, make it actionable and quantitative.
- Identify roadblocks: What obstacles will you have to overcome on the way to your goals? Incorporate any weakness into your strategy.
- Choose the right strategy: Now that you have named your objectives and obstacles, decide on the gamification tool that best fits your purpose, but remember to keep things simple with a low threshold for your target audience.
- Track your progress: What is working? What isn’t? Are you reaching your goals? Keep watching your performance.
- Iterate: Fix what’s broken and move on the next version number!
In order to make your approach to gamification effective and catch on among your customers or employees, the following gaming principles and mechanics need to be part of your strategy:
- Next actions: Provide simple and easily understandable cues for the next steps users have to take. Confusion won’t create engagement, whereas understanding a task is half of tackling it.
- Feedback: Gratify users with an instant reaction to their actions so they continue to be engaged and understand what is happening.
- Competition: Give users plenty of opportunity to compare results with others through visual and understandable markers for ranking and performance.
- Accomplishments: Let users celebrate their achievements and provide them with a straightforward and accessible path to further progress.
In a small business, everyone needs to pull their weight, and you can use gamification to keep high levels of productivity and motivation. Start by identifying tasks that are perceived as chores and make them interesting again. Foster communication and collaboration among your team members by setting up competing groups. Reward talent and include everyone in real-time feedback based on performance. Stages in the game and achievements to unlock provide goals and aspirations for players, while leaderboards are important to the social aspect of the game.
Can you think of areas in your business where you can use gamification to build a loyal community of customers around your brand or product? Social proof and word of mouth marketing can be important in the small business world, so meet your audience where they are. Reward users for certain tasks (leaving their contact information, signing up for your newsletter, sharing a post or your app) and keep them engaged with collectibles or tradable digital items. Use the data you collect for further marketing activities.
This is where small businesses are often struggling to compete with the big brands. Loyalty is built around the exchange: you have to provide something special to your customers in order for them to stay loyal. What is the nature of that exchange for your business?
Remember that you need to build and experience, and that gamification is about having fun while earning rewards. Assign points to certain actions or grades of loyalty, and use a website or an app as a platform for users to collect and compare their points. Create excitement with discounts, offers, coupons or any measure tailored to your service or product. Points automatically lead to competition, so keep your users engaged among each other.
Gamification strategy for the win
Your approach to gamification will look different depending on the goal you want to achieve. To reap the benefits, you have to invest a little more thinking and planning than simply awarding random points to customers or handing out achievement badges to your employees. In fact, gamification does not mean pointsification. It will turn your target audience into a zombie herd to do your bidding – gamification can only amplify a pre-existing interest and offer an additional incentive and reward. Don’t forget that people play games because of the fun to be had! They instil a sense of competence, progress and accomplishment in the player. Make gamification work for you by delivering an intrinsically rewarding experience, and you’ll be in it for the win.
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