Is this the year you transform your business using gamification?

The key for business using gamification is to let go of the illusion that gamification is merely an excuse to develop a game. Using game design elements in non-game contexts can increase participation and factors such as flow, enjoyment or perceived ease of use. Therefore, the addition of game design in your business and information systems is not such a leap as the headline may suggest (See Herzig et al. 2015) if it allows your business to affect behaviour. This could very easily increase your conversation rate in sales, provide rewards to your customers who complete tasks or as a means to inform, educate and teach employees. And the irony is many of us are already familiar with the process, and take part in many of these applications with little thought in our day-to-day activities. For example:

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  • LinkedIn — Gamification is not the first thing that comes to mind when picturing LinkedIn, but they have successfully implemented this in generating a user’s profile information. It motivates users to reach 100% profile strength, as well as rewarding users with badges, continuously encouraging them to remain active on the platform.
  • The Starbucks Game — By using gamification in their marketing campaign, a simple but effective level system with stickers, it supports user loyalty by creating a sense of exclusivity and elevated status. Quite modestly, it triggers emotions that are linked to positive user experience and, as a result, guarantees repeat business.
  • Nike+ Campaign — An example of gamifying the exercise of running, adding a familiar game in a social environment. Using their own version of Nike+ tag, the app is in a game of virtual ‘tag’; users must keep running to avoid being ‘it’. This is a smart business use of gamification because it took something that people find hard to get motivated for and offered a direct incentive.

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What each of these examples share is the ability for business to use gamification to drive engagement. Whilst introducing gamification into existing or new systems was previously seen as an expensive endeavor (in terms of development efforts), the growth of easy-to-use platforms such as Gametize and Picnic have made this cost effective, easier to access and adoptable in any context. With just a little creative thought and imagination, your gamification idea can become a reality in a number of hours or days. Despite its ease of use though, not all organisations have followed the trend.

In 2012, Gartner predicted that “by 2015, 40% of Global 1000 organisations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations“. Yet, before the end of 2014, 80% of gamified applications had failed to meet business objectives due to poor design. Whilst many would agree that the future of gamification in business to convert customers into fans, turn work into fun and to make learning a joy, has enormous potential, the reality is that finding the sweet spot, where business and player objectives overlap, is the greatest challenge. Research has shown better success among Generation Y, those born between 1977 and 2000, who seek environments that are flexible, interactive, engaging and are more likely to connect with the idea. So where have organisations seen success, as others have failed?

The future of gamification: evolution not revolution

While gamification may not have yet hit the heights expected by industry analysts, there is still promise in the concept

  • Marriot Hotels – A closed off, bespoke digital platform allows hotel staff to sign up in teams to compete against other hotels within their region completing tailor-made challenges, while a leaderboard ranks the best performing teams using a points-based system. After months of development (and failure with a previous ‘My Marriott Hotels’ attempt), the initial roll out in 2015 has shown promising results at review last year; engaging 416 hotels with over 870 challenge entries.
  • Stick to it! – A gamified program to encourage young men aged 18-26 to regularly screen for HIV and other STIs found repeated screening was higher than a comparison group with no engagement. An accumulated points and rewards system for testing, results and follow-up appointments were used to attract patients in two local medical clinics.
  • Freshdesk – a helpdesk software program for customer support centers that aims to improve not only employee productivity but also customer satisfaction. This creates value for the business by reducing costs and for customers by boosting service quality. It has been successful in enhancing workplace productivity because it better aligns the goals of both employees (i.e. having fun at work) and employers (i.e. addressing customer enquiries efficiently and effectively).
  • New research already this year out of Bournemouth University provides a holistic picture of gamification and foundations for its engineering processes. The recommendations show that businesses should first consider context, i.e. where is gamification being applied to?

The target audience must be engaged

Designers are encouraged to choose game elements that are compatible with end-users, business objectives and the culture of the organisation. As is the case with most trends, there are people who want to use gamification just for the sake of using it. The name is catchy, it sounds fun and many pundits have praised its results. But maybe gamification just isn’t right for your company and your demographic. It also recommends that gamification should be configurable by either managers or end-users. To ensure it remains adaptive, it is critical that changes to design are made quickly to avoid boredom and to sustain motivation. Finally, it is important for the design of gamification to be supplementary to the environment, and it should not become the goal. Users should be reminded that the use of gamification in business is there to help them, and not to be the goal of the business. Whilst this may seem more obvious, many organisations have begun to believe that people will readily do their bidding by simply slapping some meaningless badges, points and leaderboards on their website. The target audience must be engaged with meaningful incentives if you want to demonstrate real success.

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Laura Marulanda-Carter

Head of Curriculum IoT at Milton Keynes College

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