Gamification: Can It Help Your Brand?



Traditional wisdom says that anything worth having is worth working for. However, we live in a world where more and more items are available to us free or at low cost in a digital format, so much so that consumers are spoiled by having easy access to too many choices. Welcome to the new economy where anything worth making is worth gamifying to attract users and encourage their interaction.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the high-tech version of something your dad used to tell you to do when you had to perform a dreaded task like mowing the lawn or raking leaves: “make a game of it.” Built into humans’ primal nature is a desire to compete, even if it’s against ourselves, and to be considered a winner. Gamification applies these simple challenge-and-reward systems into the tasks you need to accomplish, turning the experiences into more pleasant ones.

Learning new tasks is often frustrating. Enter Duolingo, an app that adds self-challenge rewarded with “life hearts,” and in-app currency that you earn along with high marks and completion – all praise and encouragement to the otherwise boring and typically rote method of learning a new language. The result is that Duolingo has quickly become the top language-learning app in the app store. Can your company benefit from the mechanics that caused Duolingo to become so popular?

How to Leverage Gamification

Gamification works because humans are hardwired to move in the direction of reward, and they have a natural need to compete. If you can figure out what part of your business directly fits into this paradigm, you could be a candidate for gamification. You don’t have to turn everything into a game; you just have to think about how you can remove the tedium in the sales process or user experience of your product.

You have probably experienced gamification if you have a LinkedIn account. Most people are on LinkedIn looking to increase business leads or to get their next job. LinkedIn sends out reminders via email and in-app for you to “be found by more people,” encouraging you to provide more information to them.

Find an Area Your Business Needs Help With

Every business has pain points, and these are usually things that have some barrier associated with them, which might involve a third-party service or process that need standardization to make the vendor’s job easier. But those are factors that don’t necessarily contribute positively toward the end user’s experience. Often, these pain points have a direct effect on a business that you can measure, such as a too-complicated shopping cart that has a high rate of abandons. Identify these pain points.

Figure out What Would Be a Cost-efficient Reward for Completing this Activity

Gamification isn’t about bribery or unearned rewards; it’s the opposite. Sometimes, the reward is just fun, or something unexpected. Think about ways you can entertain users while they wait, or make it enjoyable for them to see their progress toward earning future rewards.

Find a Way to Make Getting to that Reward Fun or Validating

Perhaps instead of a cart completion, you’re looking for a customer to fill out more information about themselves on your site. This is one of the most tedious activities for a customer. Figure out a way that you can make this interesting, or how you can make the experience one they are willing to tolerate. Maybe it’s the promise that if they fill out their profile beyond a threshold, they can unlock “kitten mode” on the form, and kittens will randomly appear every time they finish a new section. Think about the things that people enjoy doing when they’re not working, such as playing casual games or looking at funny pictures.

Test and Execute

See how your changes will work by conducting an A/B test that compares two versions (A and B), which are identical except for one variation that might impact a user’s behavior. If you get more of your desired result from the test group, you’ll know it has worked. If you get many fewer completes with your changed version, you’ll know that you have made incorrect assumptions.

Plan For Super Fans

This might seem strange, but in any gamified situation, there is the potential for superfans, both good and bad. If your “game” includes real rewards, make sure you’re building in traps for automated bots, so that you don’t experience losses due to automation.

On the other hand, you might have real superfans who love what you do. Don’t make the mistake of making too few “levels” or dampening the surprise for super users. Plan ahead to add more levels or complexity to your game to keep engagement high.

It’s not a magic bullet, but by adding game elements to engaging parts of your sales cycle or user experience, gamification can help your brand overcome some of its pain points. It takes planning correctly, making informed assumptions about your potential customer base, and rethinking methods of attracting customers.


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