If you think gamification for business means playing video games on the company dime, think again.
The assumption does have some merit. Gamification could refer to a video game-type game, but that’s an external application of the concept. What gamification means is using the mechanics of games in everyday life, generally to drive a desired behavior or otherwise serve some purpose—in this case, business goals. Gamification essentially takes advantage of a person’s innate desire to participate and compete in games to get them to buy products, sign up for a newsletter, communicate with the company or each other, perform better at work and so on.
If you’ve ever seen or participated in McDonalds’ Monopoly sticker game or the Starbucks Rewards program, you’ve seen gamification in action. Collecting game pieces and earning points are both examples of how gamification can be used by a business to encourage a customer to do something—in these two cases, buy more products.
If you’ve ever participated in a sales competition or office fantasy football league, you’ve experienced gamification firsthand as an employee rather than as a customer. Businesses can engage and interact with both customers and employees using gamification.
Gamification uses a variety of tactics, including social psychology and behavioral economics, to tap into certain feelings and motivations that are psychologically natural for people:
To tap into these motivations, gamification employs various game mechanics:
For businesses, using game mechanics and psychology is one way to encourage certain behaviors from both customers and employees. But before jumping in, the first thing to do is to think hard about gamification in the context of their own business.
Gamification sounds fun, right? And maybe even kind of easy? Before launching into a gamification campaign, there are three questions businesses need to sit down and consider, or the whole effort could be a waste of their time, energy and money:
Without concrete answers to these questions, it would not be wise to try to implement gamification for a business.
The first, and perhaps more important, question, is what purpose(s) businesses think gamification would actually serve. Are they trying to encourage customers to buy more products? Write more reviews? Create a community? Do they want to boost their employees’ productivity or sales quota? All of these can be good reasons for implementing a gamification strategy, but businesses need to be sure before they get started or risk inventing a business-related game that serves no purpose.
The next question to ask themselves is why they think gamification would be the way to go in terms of achieving this purpose or serving a goal. If there are other cheaper, faster, less involved ways to accomplish the same purpose, they may want to consider those options instead. What aspect(s) of gamification specifically could move them toward that goal? Is it the sense of competition? The rewards? The community participation? Businesses don’t want to create a game that can’t achieve the purpose or goal that they’re after.
If businesses are having trouble wrapping their heads around these questions, here are 10 ways that they could use gamification to promote and improve their business.
From start-ups to multimillion-dollar corporations, businesses have a rough world to compete in. With so many different businesses vying for their attention, customers don’t always know who to turn to for the products and services they need.
If a business wants to grab the attention of its customers, nowadays it needs to do more than simply make a product announcement or host a product launch. Those happen all the time. Instead, that business can seize the interest of its clients with some sort of game that makes that business the more compelling choice over its competitors.
Gamification may work to not only attract customers, but to pique the interest of a business’ employees as well. If a business finds its employees becoming lackadaisical at work or detached from their jobs, injecting a little fun and competition into the workday through gamification may be just what the business needs to get the spark going once again. Turning certain tasks or achievements into a competition of sorts can regenerate employees’ interest in the business.
Whether a business is targeting its customers or its employees, acquiring their interest is the first step in encouraging a behavior.
Once a business has its customers’ or employees’ attention, then it wants them to actually engage with the business. This means finding some clear and concise way to explain the game to them, including what benefits they can get out of playing—the classic “What’s in it for me?” approach.
This could mean a landing page on the business’ website that explains the rules and rewards of the game. In the case of Starbucks, it can involve an actual card (like a gift or credit card), or in the case of McDonalds, a Monopoly game board. For employees, this could mean calling a staff meeting or having leaderboards postings placed clearly somewhere in the office or break room.
As soon as the business has found a way to promote general engagement with its business through encouraged participation, then it can move on to more specific behaviors that it wants to drive from its customers and/or employees.
In the office, owners and managers are always looking for ways to boost productivity. Gamification can inject enough competition and fun into the workplace and its everyday tasks to make the days, weeks, and months more interesting for employees.
One example would be to create a point system with rewards for completing certain tasks, such as generating a new lead or making a sale. Managers could post a leaderboard in their offices somewhere that everyone can see it so that people take pride in their scores and become more competitive with each other. At the end of a predetermined time, the top contender could receive a badge (i.e. Employee of the Month) or reward (gift card).
Encouraging employees to complete more tasks than their coworkers inspires more tasks to get done overall, which ultimately boosts productivity and achieves other beneficial outcomes.
Gamification can work to increase sales in two ways:
Customers are ultimately driven to make purchases based on what they get in return. This means not only the benefits of the product or service itself, but what extra rewards they may be able to enjoy.
This would explain the plethora of credit cards with different rewards points programs, for example, which encourage customers to use that credit card to earn those points and use them toward more products and services in the future. Another example would be the Starbucks Rewards program, in which customers earn points by buying Starbucks products that add up to be enough for more free Starbucks products. Both of these business examples encourage customers to buy more products to earn their rewards more quickly, and thus increased sales are driven as a result.
As for employees, increasing the sales they make could involve creating a points and rewards system based on their ability to make sales on their end rather than actually buy the products. This sense of competition can encourage employees to work harder to make the sales that earn them the benefits, such as an actual reward, badge or top spot on a leaderboard.
Gamification might work for a business’ current customers, but what about the customers it hasn’t attracted yet? Similar to increasing sales, gamification can also inspire increased lead generation.
By creating a game with certain challenges and rewards at the end, customers may be drawn to that particular business over another that does not have any sort of rewards program. For example, a customer might choose a credit card that earns them airline miles rather than a card that does not, even if the annual fee for the rewards card is a little higher, because that customer feels that the rewards will ultimately be worth it.
Before even creating the sale itself, gamification is a way to attract new customers to a business to have a chance of making that sale at all.
Gamification boosts customer loyalty by always giving them a reason to come back for more, whether that means coming back for more of a business’ products to earn more rewards or to return to a community of fellow customers/game participants that they enjoy.
For example, why would a customer turn to another coffee company when they can get the same product from Starbucks and earn rewards at the same time? Even if Starbucks has more expensive coffee, the customer could deem the rewards a fair trade-off.
Offering customers a bonus in exchange for their business encourages customer loyalty and drives more sales and customer engagement for your business.
Using gamification can also boost social media engagement if a business rewards customers for using social media in some way. For example, a business can offer a free product to a customer chosen at random out of whoever comments on or shares a certain Facebook post, or it could be for leaving the best blog comment out of all who responded.
Plus, for employees, if businesses want them to use social media more for the business—not for personal use while at work—they can initiate the same kind of competition as they did for sales, only this time for how many times employees post something on social media or answer a comment on social media or a blog.
Businesses can use the same logic for boosting social media as they would for boosting sales and find ways to engage both their customers and your employees along the way.
Another aspect of businesses’ customer interactions that they can reward is improving product knowledge. A business could create a badge, level, or points system that rewards customers for watching and/or sharing product videos and writing comments. As a customer watches more videos and writes more insightful comments, his or her status could be raised to positions such as “Genius” or “[Business Name] Expert.”
This encourages customers to learn more about a business’ products and thus may also encourage them more and more to buy and tell their friends and family about that business. With customers understanding more about products, this could also lead to supplemented customer service.
The more customers and employees know about a business and its products and services, the easier and less frequent those interactions will become. For customers, allowing them to earn badges for making insightful comments means that they themselves might answer a question that another customer might have had, which would reduce the need for the direct business-customer interaction, a task that could take time away from a business and the spark away from a customer’s enjoyment of that product.
Another way to encourage both employees and customers to engage in supplementing customer service is by having a questions and answers page on a business’ website that both parties can contribute to. Having these questions and answers clearly on a website can help other customers with answers to their questions before ever having to reach out to the business directly.
What’s more, customers sometimes trust the opinions of other customers even more than the business itself, because those comments are usually based on real experiences with the product or service they are looking into.
As customers may sometimes trust answers from other customers more than from the business itself, so too will customers turn to other customers’ reviews of the product or service in question. A great deal of product and service research is now done through online reviews—think Yelp and Angie’s List—so it’s important for businesses to encourage customer reviews whenever possible.
Gamification offers one solution for encouraging these online reviews. Similar to encouraging more comments through social media engagement, businesses could offer a reward, such as a free product, for a customer chosen at random out of everyone who writes a review on the business. Or they could have a rating system for comments and badges or rewards for customers who leave reviews that are the highest-rated by other customers. This encourages them to leave more reviews in hopes of earning such a badge or reward.
Gamification is a viable solution for many businesses looking for ways to spice up their sales, engagement, and operations. They just need to be sure that gamification serves a direct purpose and is constructed in a way that takes advantage of game mechanics to achieve those ends.