Gamification: A How To
The term gamification has been thrown around a lot recently in relation to product engagement, client/user retention, marketing, and even training but what exactly does it mean to 'gamify' something?
Is it simply sticking badges and progress bars on a product? Giving clients 'points' for completion of tasks? It depends. There are some scenarios that badges, virtual currency, and competition boards are very useful and really facilitate client retention. In other cases that tactic can backfire in a major way causing your clients to feel talked down to and put off by your product/service. So how do you know the difference?
Lets start with talking about an industry that is thriving by literally making their product/platform/service a game: fitness. From apps to devices, the fitness and well-being industry has gone crazy by providing badges for levels of achievement, ways to compete with your friends, mediums to automatically tell others about your progress, and in some cases gain some sort of 'good' in exchange for interacting with the product. This concept has taken off so much that many large organization (e.g., Virgin Airlines) have corporate well-being programs that give employees these devices and provide incentives for activity. The whole point is to make loosing weight, running, counting calories, biking, training, <insert other activities here> a game so that you will do it more. This is an example where effective use of gamification techniques is literally turning the activity into a game- badges and all.
The next industry that has really benefited from gamification is child education. From Leap Frog to tablet apps, gamification has revolutionized childhood learning by making kids want the educational product and then creating something that they want to play over and over. Using game-like features and appearance, children are motivated to interact with the product because it is literally a video game. Parents support this because the video game teaches their kids ABC's, 123's, to read, etc. Then from there, the use of badges, new levels, virtual currency and increase difficulty kept the kids coming back for more. For the most effective products, the only reason the child stops playing is because they have moved past that curriculum.
Lets think about a situation where badges and 'level ups' would not help; frequent flyer programs. Does this mean you can't employ gamification techniques. Absolutely not. It just means that you have to be more sophisticated. Badges turn into frequent flyer status (e.g., Frequent Flyer status). Coins as a reward turn into 'points' or miles that provide them with access to other wanted resources (e.g., upgrades, club lounges, hotel benefits). By using the concepts of games, and not just game-like features, you still get the same desired outcome- client acquisition, client retention, product engagement, etc.- without talking down to your clients.
Games have been around since before we can remember and for good reason. They leverage several natural desires we have and encourage us to get involved, push through difficulty, and keep playing. Gamification harnesses those concepts and puts them on their head. If applied correctly you can move mountains. If not researched and applied incorrectly it can ruin a message, product, service, and/or business.