Simply put, gamification is the use of game thinking or game mechanics to enhance user experience with a product, process or procedure. The word has been cropping up with more frequency as the popularity of social gaming continues its meteoric rise through mainstream society. But what’s all the fuss about?
A quick google trends search suggests that gamification is a new field. I mean, look at all those hits post-2010. Surely this is a new industry riding the current popular wave of Web 2.0? Wrong. Gamification has been around for a long time. In fact, its highly likely that you’ve been interacting with gamification for some time.
Example 1: loyalty programs. Enjoy a 5% discount off your next purchase when you join today. Collect five stamps and get your sixth cup of coffee free. These programs encourage your custom by rewarding multiple purchases. When you’re only one cup away from a free one, it’s a great incentive to steer clear from a competing coffee company. Multiple purchases or actions also help to instill a habit into your daily routine, for example picking up a cup of coffee on your way to work.
Example 2: frequent flyer points. Most airlines offer a reward program where you can earn points for every mile you fly. Earn enough points and they can be redeemed for free flights. Pretty simple gamification. But how about all those other gamified features like cabin bonus, status bonus, status credits and lifetime status credits? Airlines know the power frequent flyer points and status credits can have in influencing a person’s future purchasing decisions. They even team up with other related services such as car rentals to help you earn more points while establishing aligned brands. Up in the Air is not only a great movie but also provides insight into the obsessive journey of one man to claim the ultimate frequent flyer status.
Example 3: Klout. A way of measuring a user’s overall influence within their social community on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, Klout also offers rewards for reaching different peaks in the social sphere. Demonstrating the power of influence, a minimum Klout score was recently used as a VIP entry pass to an exclusive fashion event!
The world of gamification is evolving rapidly, taking advantage of new technologies and expanding social media networks. But beware, this is not a fad or gimmick. Gamification will be THE way brands will engage with their customers in the future. As companies begin to appreciate the breadth and scope for gamification, existing programs will be enhanced. Coffee loyalty programs could offer incentives for buying multiple cups of coffee at one time, encouraging users to do a “coffee run” for their office, claiming the extra stamps or bonus rewards for themselves. Bonus points for referring friends to the program. Special achievement rewards for flying to exotic destinations, while filling those empty seats.
However, gamification is not just a tool for corporate organisations to gain more customers. It will also have a significant impact on the ability of governments and non-profits to attract, retain, inform and advise their constituents and supporters respectively. The potential for gamification is far reaching, limited only by our imaginations and willingness to try something new and innovative. For anyone involved, these are exciting times.