The Problem is Engagement (Mostly)
Engaged consumers spend 140% more time on your website, click 600% more often on your shop, and drive 2000% more sales through their friends. Meanwhile, engaged employees are 43% more productive, drive 23% more revenue[i], are 65% more likely to recommend the company’s offerings to others[ii], and are 87% less likely to quit[iii].
So it’s no wonder that business leaders spend so much effort to engage consumers and employees.
Yet today, lack of engagement has reached epidemic proportions, whether it’s website visitors, purchasers, or even employees.
For employees, only 30% of US employees (and 13% of employees worldwide) are engaged at work, according to Gallup.
So how do we engage consumers and employees?
One powerful solution is to gamify your offering. In other words, you can build-in game-like elements to make your offering more fun and enticing.
Gamification is the application of concepts that make games so engaging and motivating to non-game environments. This is not necessarily about turning your offering into a game. Instead, it’s about translating the concepts that work in games to a non-game environment effectively. Gamification does this through an understanding of both psychology and of gameful design.[i]
With gamification principles appropriately applied, you can guide customers to be more engaged with you and your offerings, and you can guide employees to be more engaged and productive.
Just think of how airline loyalty programs offer incentives if you travel with them, how eBay encourages sellers to act responsibly by asking buyers to rate them publically, how LinkedIn presents you with a “profile strength” meter to encourage you to fill in all of your data, how Dropbox gives you more storage if you tour their services, and how Foldit created a public game to address a decade-long quest to discover how HIV enzyme folding works, which they solved in just 3 weeks.
Gamification works to motivate users to want to do work that is otherwise not something users would want to take the time to do. And it turns out that it can work very effectively.
Gamification is working wonders for many organizations. That’s one reason why it’s been hyped for the last few years:
- Projected gamification growth will reach $5B by 2018 (Mind Commerce, 2012)
- Over 1400 organizations will deploy gamification applications for employee performance, healthcare, marketing, and training (Gartner)
- 50% of innovation practices will be gamified by 2015 (Gartner, 2013)
- 80% of global 2000 organizations “will have gamified applications or processes” by 2017 (Mind Commerce)
Any popular idea will have its opponents and challenges, and gamification does too. For example, Fortune published a piece listing how successful gamification strategies allowed Nike+, Bluewolf, and Candy Crush Saga to take off, while some projects like Marriott’s employee training app were less successful. And Gartner predicted in 2012 that 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily due to poor design.
Now that we know what it is, let’s talk about how to do it.
5 Components of Gamification Strategies
- Plan Effectively
- Make it Fun
- Focus on Users’ Desires
- Great Feedback
- Smart Mechanics
The Components of Gamification Strategies
- Plan Effectively
A good gamification strategy begins with good planning. Understand your users’ current behavior, decide on the user behavior you’d like to motivate (e.g., to lengthen your site visits, to contribute content or reviews, to act with integrity, to complete a course), and create measurable objectives.
Also, you will want to prepare to measure the results of your gamification strategy implementation.[i] Without measurement, it is difficult to know if your strategy is effective, and whether you should invest in a similar project. Without some measurement, it may even be more difficult to motivate your team.
Finally, you should also acknowledge the risks—including possibly demotivating your users—if your approaches are applied without the right understanding of human motivations.
More specifically, motivating users with only external rewards (like badges, points, or prizes) is risky. People respond only temporarily to external rewards in many situations. In fact, external rewards can actually result in demotivation if not properly used. For example, check out the overjustification effect which describes the demotivation of people who are rewarded for things they already enjoy doing.
But applied the right way and in the right situation, external rewards (aka extrinsic rewards) are not only effective, but are also psychologically beneficial[ii]. Read more below in the Focus on Users’ Desires section.
- Make It Fun
Next, understand that a solid gamification strategy should lead to a fun user experience. Using your product/service, pressing that “buy” button, the “like” button, or rating the product you just purchased should be fun and easy.
And if you offer achievement levels as part of your experience, then achieving the next level of rewards, badges, trust, or whatever incentive you are offering should be challenging enough so users can feel proud of their accomplishments. The most fun experience will neither be “too hard” (which could feel frustrating or confusing), nor “too easy” to gain achievements (which could feel boring).
|“Good game developers know that the emotional experience itself is the reward.” – Jane McGonigal|
Intrinsic Rewards: What People Strive For
- Feeling of…
- Avoid negative feelings
- Social connection
- Focus on Users’ Desires
Rather than leading your gamification strategy with external (aka extrinsic) rewards, you will want to lead with the feelings you want users to have. These feelings are called intrinsic rewards.
Focus on how you can maximize users’ enjoyment of the experience by giving them what they want. The result of getting what they want could be points or badges (external rewards), but you must understand that those external rewards alone are not what users will strive for. This is why the author and head of the Gamification Summit Gabe Zichermann says that “gamification is 75% psychology and 25% technology.”[i]
What do people actually want?
What will people strive for, and what do they actually want? Research seems to vary, but I boil it down to 7 things. People want a feeling of accomplishment. They want the experience of pride. They want the feeling of success, of power, and of satisfaction. They want to avoid negative feelings (perhaps as the result of lost points or progress). They want social connection. They want flow. And they want meaning.
|“Gamification is 75% Psychology and 25% Technology.” – Gabe Zichermann|
These intrinsic rewards are worth a separate article, and for now you can read about them on the Web. The important thing is that they are not to be confused with either game mechanics nor with extrinsic rewards.
- Great Feedback
Provide feedback on users’ progress as they move through the experience, so they can feel satisfaction as they move toward a bigger goal. This could be presented as points, a progress bar, badges, and many other ways too.
Users want to feel the satisfaction of progressing, and you can help them with that.
Game Mechanics Examples
- Visual cues
- Reward schedule
- Social feedback
- Smart Mechanics
- Smart Mechanics
Game mechanics are tools to further engage your users. Game mechanics comprise things like incentives, disincentives, storytelling, visual cues, reward schedule, social feedback, and access (to things like advanced levels or items). They are not the most important part of your gamification strategy, but are often an important component alongside the other components.
Keep it Simple
Your game mechanics should usually be simple, and their implementation should be targeted at driving the type of behavior you’re designing for. Complicated game mechanics will often work against your target behavior goals, as users are likely to be confused and give up.
Also, there’s no need to throw every mechanic at a problem – just choose the ones that make the most sense to your project.
Well-designed gamification strategies (and the more evolved gameful design strategies) are powerful tools for product designers, web designers, and marketing departments that can transform your offerings.
By appropriately applying the 5 components of gamification strategies to your business, you create a better experience for your users – one that is fun, satisfies their emotional needs, lets users know how well they’re doing, and that uses a few additional tools from the gaming world to help.
By implementing these strategies, you will dramatically increase your ability to delight users while they remain engaged in the tasks and experiences you are designing for them.
Good luck, and happy designing!
[i] Michael Fauscette is a fan of measurement in business, and suggests applying it to gamification too.
[ii] Plotnik, R. & Kouyoumjian. H. (2011). Introduction to psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
[i] McGonigal, Jane. “How To Reinvent Reality Without Gamification“. GDC
[i] Gallup State of the American Consumer 2014
[ii] Ipsos MORI/Improvement and Development Agency (2006). Lessons in Leadership
[iii] Right Management (2006), Measuring True Employee Engagement, A CIPD Report
[v] McGonigal, Jane. “How To Reinvent Reality Without Gamification“. GDC
Venice Consulting Group (VCG)
VCG is an interactive software and app consulting and development company. We specialize in process optimization and user experience. With a valuable combination of regulated industry experience & technical expertise, VCG applies the latest technologies to meet our clients’ objectives and improve their bottom line. VCG offers high value through its design, and offers low-risk cost savings through its “hybrid near-shore” approach.