Level-up! your business with Gamification

Mitch Posada

Mitch Posada

by Mitch Posada

Lured by the possibilities of a stickier site, soon you will you be asked what can Gamification do for your business?  But what does that mean and how should you think about it?  Here’s my first pass at answering this question.

ga∙mi∙fi∙ca∙tion [gay-muh-fi-kay-shuhn] — Integrating game dynamics into your site, service, community, content or campaign, in order to drive participation.   (source: Bunchball)

Think social media headlines not long ago and still today, just type into your search ‘is social media good for your business?”

With the popularity of Foursquare and Zynga 2010 has been dubbed the year of Gamification or in some cases kicking of the decade of Games, Gamification is not entirely bound to the digital realm (you don’t just do things online) but it will have strong ties to it since the not secret element fueling gamification are social graphs especially Facebook Open Graph.   A high-level goal of Gamification is to create customer loyalty as emphasized by a leading authority on the subject Gabe Zichermann who references airlines loyalty programs and hits home a few more key insights like the game is ‘the thing’, plus it can be a PR machine, and he outlines why prizes are passé.

Pause Play.  If Loyalty is the game you wish to play I recommend first reading…

Designing Loyalty Programs to Enhance Value Growth — By Mark Kadar and Bernhard Kotanko

Kadar and Kotanko have identified a number of key issues for creating loyalty programs that make an ongoing contribution to value growth.”

For more on Loyalty see Bob Thompson article on Find the “Ultimate” Loyalty Metric to Grow Your Business”.  One line I took away was “The most effective measurement for Loyalty is Average satisfaction scores.

Resume Play.  For the digital practicioner, online marketer, and product manager we are tasked with increasing many of the following metrics:

  1. Registered users
  2. Demographic and behavioral profile data of registered users
  3. New visitors
  4. Visitor frequency
  5. Length of stay and quality of engagement
  6. Education and familiarity with product
  7. Frequency of purchase
  8. Revenue per sale
  9. Content consumed
  10. Engagement in between sales, events, content broadcasts

We look to measure and drive user behavior that creates value for our business and function.  These measures are sometimes referred to as KPIs (key performance indicators).  Keep in mind behavior can be ones you want and don’t want.  Broadly defined the goal for these performance indicators fall into these categories: Acquisition, Conversion, Revenue, Retention, and Brand Perception.

Fundamentals of Gamification are based upon:

Applied game dynamics create the conditions that spontaneously generate (my words — don’t make them have to evaluate or think about it too much) optimal behaviors by tapping into human desires that fit well in the context of seeking fun and enjoyment ala the term ‘Funware’…again refer to Gabe at funwareblog.com.

Human desires most listed include:

  • Reward
  • Achievement
  • Competition
  • Status
  • Self-Expression

But also include:

  • Making a new connection
  • Strengthening an existing bond via a shared experience
  • Values-Expression
  • Altriusm
  • Co-creation

Game mechanics most listed:

  • Points
  • Leaderboards
  • Badges & Levels
  • Challenges
  • Rewards

Applied game dynamic hooks once you have someone playing include:

  • Peer pressure
  • Clock running out
  • Keep an appointment
  • Increase reward frequency
  • Exclusivity

Ok, so you were probably skimming through to get to the examples well, here they are (check back as this list will grow):

Or, you advanced this far for some additional thoughts on how to answer can Gamification help your business.   Some assessment questions you might ask first:

  • Do you know what behaviors you want more and/or less of?
  • Do you know which performance metrics you want to improve and their priority?
  • Can you create an activity (fun layer) that folks will want to participate in just for recognition or self-expression as the reward?  Is it one they’ll want to tell their friends about?  Is it congruent with your brand?
  • Do you have something to offer existing or potential customers as a reward for really good behavior and is it what they want?
  • How easy will the tracking and fulfillment of the reward be?   There are vendors that can help build this solution and some come with functionality pre-programmed.

Two impressive presentations that will do a better job than me to get you primed for motivating you to dig deeper into applied game dynamics…

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

Carnegie Mellon’s Jesse Schell

Additional Reading:

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/09/03/the-game-based-economy/

http://www.hplusmagazine.com/articles/art-entertainment/gamification-turning-work-play

http://www.assortedstuff.com/?p=3466

http://www.slideshare.net/gzicherm/game-mechanics-funware-for-nonprofits

http://www.bunchball.com/nitro/

Comments & Advice:
  1. Great collection of gamification resources. Adding a game layer to non-gaming sites is definitely of great value and can add engagement/loyalty that websites are currently not doing effectively or perhaps not at all!

    You touched on it briefly, but the social graph is of particular importance with game mechanics success. Awards/Badges/Trophies are really just “braggable moments” and who better to show off to then your friends? Your social graph is already a group of like-minded individuals and websites can tap into this as a source of acquisition and brand evangelism.

    Also, regarding your assessment questions, specific to rewarding good behavior. It should be noted that a virtual prize is as good if not better than a physical one. People are too set in thinking of rewards as something tangible. If you create a good online experience you can create valuable virtual goods.

    It may sound easy to add badges, levels, leaderboards, etc, but you should work with companies such as http://bigdoor.com to power those game mechanics. The BigDoor API already powers the most common game mechanics and will save you time and frustration on adding a game-layer to your website.

  2. Nice summary Mitch. I would add that these types of dynamics will also be useful to new innovation practices such as open innovation or user-led innovation. Understanding how to motivate and reward participants (beyond $$) is critical.

    Cesar Castro
    DiscoveryCast, Inc

  3. Sharleen says:

    Nice list of resources, thank you. I had some further thoughts on the importance of gifting in the gamification list. Gifting (from invitations to virtual goods) is a powerful social exchange and I can't help but think that some underestimate the potential of this game mechanic. I would suggest it should be one of the first mechanics to consider.

    Sharleen
    Strategic Synergy Inc. (Stratsynergy)

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