Gamification is swiftly becoming the buzzword of the decade. Although the word can be found used in previous years, it didn’t begin gaining popularity and common use until 2010. In 2011, it gained a new surge in popular use when Al Gore called games the new normal and discussed gamification at the 2011 Games for Change Festival. But what is gamification, and why should you care?
Gamification is described as using game design techniques and mechanics for non-gaming applications and websites.
The purpose, as with any marketing technique, is to engage audiences, build brand loyalty, and create a reason for customers to return. It usually involves giving the users points, badges or other acknowledgement each time they visit a website, run an application or purchase a product or service. The earliest and most prevalent examples of gamification have been the frequent flyer programs employed by all major airlines and the token collection games used by fast food restaurants.
More recent manifestations of Gamification involve more engaging but less lucrative uses of the process such as having customers ‘check in’ when they visit a location like a coffee shop, restaurant or movie theater using such ubiquitous applications as Foursquare and Facebook. This check-in process gives the user points or badges which, in time, can accumulate to where the customer gets special recognition, discounts or coupons. It also provides the vendor with contact and tracking info to reach out for repeat business.
While this type of use has been growing in popularity over recent years, gamification is now being touted as the next big trend in marketing. Companies are finding that using game playing techniques is an expedient way to hook customers and ensure repeat customers. These practices take advantage of people’s natural tendencies to have fun, compete, and obtain status, real or imaginary.
Gamification has many uses that go beyond simple marketing, however.
Any task or concept where getting people engaged that might otherwise not be is ripe for gamification. Some examples of this include:
- Incentivizing people to fill out forms or surveys.
- Inspiring employees to brainstorm or participate in idea generation.
- Encouraging people to remain on a website longer or visit more pages once there.
- Reward employees to follow revenue saving behavior and follow company policies.
Despite the gaining popularity of gamification, companies rolling out such marketing ploys have to be careful about potential legal restrictions and other downsides. In some jurisdictions, gamification has been labeled gambling, while in others, the questionable ethics of virtual currencies are challenged. Companies also have to be careful with data privacy laws and protecting their customer’s legal rights.
All that being said, any company looking at revamping their marketing campaign would do well to investigate this decade’s hot new trend – gamification.