by Kris Duggan, coauthor of Business Gamification For Dummies
Just a few short years ago, business gamification was practically unheard of. Before 2010, barely anyone searched for the term on Google, and it’s still not in the dictionary. But that doesn’t mean you should say, “gamifi-what?” and move on with your life.
The fact is, business gamification — or the use of gaming elements to drive, measure, and reward high-value behaviors by customers or employees — is becoming a go-to strategy for a rapidly growing number of companies. It’s here to stay, and it can help your organization reach new heights.
Games have been played for millennia because they’re fun and people enjoy them. Today, that love of games is being leveraged by smart businesses to boost customer loyalty, employee performance, sales, growth, and more.
Specifically, business gamification uses elements like points, achievements, levels, leaderboards, missions, and contests to drive desired behaviors. All of a sudden, promoting a brand becomes fun for customers, and sharing troubleshooting solutions with fellow consumers is an engaging challenge. Likewise, employees actually enjoy training instead of seeing it as a chore, and they’re motivated to work harder on a day-to-day basis.
Like anyone else, your customers and employees crave attention, recognition, approval, and rewards. With gamification, you feed this craving, and in the process convert customers into loyal fans and employees into highly effective collaborators and advocates.
Here are ten examples of websites and apps that feature smart — and successful — gamification:
eBay has long used a points system that enables users to show their status on the site. The success of this system, which goes so far as to issue badges to the “best” sellers, has effectively demonstrated the importance of reputation as a reward to both buyers and sellers.
As you probably know if you’re an eBay user yourself, these are key game mechanics. In the future, look to eBay to gamify more aspects of its site to make it even more engaging.
Foursquare is a free mobile app that enables you to “check in” at various places and share your experiences there. As you do, Foursquare rewards you with points and badges. You might even get special deals, such as a discount off your bill at a restaurant or a freebie for bringing your friends.
You can use Foursquare to get recommendations for what to do next. And if you check in at a given place enough times, you may become its ‘mayor’ — which can bring with it its own set of privileges, such as a special parking place.
GetGlue is a little like Foursquare… except that instead of checking in at their favorite restaurants, shops, and such, GetGlue users check in while watching shows, listening to music, reading books, or engaging in other entertainment-related activities.
In return, users get relevant recommendations, exclusive stickers (like badges), discounts, and other rewards, such as goodies from their favorite shows or movies.
Mint.com wants to help members get a handle on their finances, and it uses subtle gamification — primarily in the form of progress bars and fun feedback — to make it happen. Members can also post details about their financial goals online to increase their chances that those goals will be met.
This site is a great example of a less-overt form of gamification. There are no badges or prizes, but the game mechanics in place are effective nonetheless.
MuchMusic, Canada’s MTV equivalent, gamified its site with its MuchCloser program. Members of MuchCloser get points for doing all the stuff they normally do on the site — watching videos, reading blogs, leaving comments, sharing content, and so forth.
As the points pile up, users unlock rewards and trophies and become eligible for prizes and giveaways. The most active users are flagged as key members of the MuchMusic community.
Nike+ is a fitness-oriented service that enables you to log your physical activity using a mobile app or other Nike gear. When you do, you earn NikeFuel, which is a super-cool alterna-word for points.
As you earn more NikeFuel, you unlock awards, trophies, and surprises — not to mention a banging physique. And if you’re in the mood to brag, you can share your accomplishments with your friends and with other Nike+ members.
Recyclebank gives members points for engaging in “everyday green actions” such as using less water, recycling, making greener purchases, using energy more efficiently, or even walking to work instead of driving. For even more points, members can take online quizzes about ecology and share information from the site with friends on Facebook, Twitter, and mobile applications.
Users can redeem points for goodies such as gifts and flowers, books and magazines, health and beauty items, and music with participating local and national partners.
Samsung’s social loyalty program, Samsung Nation, makes excellent use of gamification to recognize and empower the company’s most passionate fans. When you join Samsung Nation, you can earn points, level up, unlock badges, and gain entry into various contests and promotions by performing such behaviors as watching videos, commenting on articles, reviewing products, participating in user-generated Q&As, and more.
Top users appear on the Samsung Nation leaderboard, and an activity stream keeps users up to date on the site’s goings-on.
A retail site, sneakpeeq offers discounted goodies including gourmet foods, home products, accessories, apparel (from big labels like Kate Spade and Puma to smaller brands), and more. The twist? The site is gamified to make shopping more fun.
The more you buy, share, love (similar to liking an item), and peeq (viewing an item’s price), the more badges and rewards you unlock, and the more incentives and surprises you receive. Leaderboards make the experience more social and competitive, kind of like throwing an elbow at a sample sale.
Xbox Live (www.xbox.com).
First came Shakespeare with his “play within a play.” Now there’s Xbox, with its “game within a game.” That is, Xbox, itself a game platform, uses elements of gamification… within its games. (Is your mind blown yet?)
Specifically, users can earn achievement points, referred to as gamerscore, by performing specific tasks or actions in a game. This gamerscore is separate from the player’s score in the game itself and is a way of conveying the player’s reputation across the platform, including its social spaces.
Smart use of gamification is a big win for everyone. Once it’s put into action, it helps customers enjoy interacting with companies. The more they’re recognized and rewarded, the more loyal they’ll be… and the more your organization will grow.
According to Gartner, Inc., by 2014, more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application. Some experts even project that the gamification market will grow to $2.8 billion by 2016! So don’t wait — get in on the gamification action now.
Kris Duggan is CEO of Badgeville and the coauthor of Business Gamification For Dummies. He is a thought leader of innovative ways to incorporate game mechanics and real-time loyalty programs into web and mobile experiences.