Mother Teresa once said, "Life is a game, play it!" For children, life is just a game. Unfortunately, as we become adults and enter the business world, it gets more serious…until now, that is.
Playing games has become mainstream in business marketing. It started 30 years ago with American Airlines rewarding frequent flyer points and establishing Gold, Platinum and Executive Platinum levels. Additionally, a few years ago, social media applications started to integrate gaming functions. Foursquare offers badges and LinkedIn has a progression bar for completing a profile.
This "gamification" of business is now one of the leading marketing techniques to get prospects and customers engaged in building loyalty. For example:
- Open Forum Crash Course: Gives IQ points as you answer questions correctly. The user can see how they rank against others.
- SalesForce: With Engage, users activities are tied to various game mechanics and offers direct competition with other users within their organization.
- Mint: The site calculates a Financial Fitness Score that is based on completing tasks.
- Hallmark: This company has incorporated many game mechanics into it's Facebook application called the Hallmark Social Calendar.
- Microsoft’s Ribbon Hero in Microsoft Office: By completing tasks and challenges, the user can integrate this tool with their Facebook account to compare skills with their friends.
In 2012, this trend only gets bigger. M2 research forecasts that the gamification market is “expected to reach over $2.8 billion in direct spending in the US by 2016, and some vendors are expecting revenue growth of nearly 200 percent in 2012.” The consultancy firm Gartner predicted in a April 2011 report that “by 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify and foresee that by 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon.”
With so much information rushing at any prospect all the time, it is critical for content now to educate and entertain. Marketers use gamification to increase awareness and engagement. The more their prospects and customers interact with their site, the more loyal they will become. In the long run, loyalty means more sales.
The keys to driving participation are to capture statistics, communicate standings, and reward ac complishments. The most popular gaming elements can include:
Points. People love to earn them and they turn out to be an excellent motivator. Studies at IBM Research and the University of Chicago describe the dramatic effect that earning points can have on user behavior, even if there’s no monetary value associated with them. They can be used as status indicators, unlock content, buy or gift goods.
Levels. They are very common in business with higher job titles, frequent-flyer programs and colored belts in martial arts. It shows a level of accomplishment gets a certain amount of respect and status.
Trophies, badges and ribbons. We get these as children, but there are less opportunities as adults. People feel like they are working toward something and can proudly display their achievement to others. According to a white paper by Bunchball, “One of the keys to making levels and challenges effective is providing a forum for users to show off their achievements, like a trophy case or user profile page that displays their badges. These have counterparts in the real world as well, as in Scouting merit badges, colored credit cards that indicate high spending limits, or colored frequent flyer cards that indicate member status.”
Virtual goods. Give users a place to spend their points over time and it will give them incentive them to earn more. Bunchball states that virtual goods are non-physical objects that are purchased like “clothing, weapons or decorations to create an identity for their virtual self while comparing and showing off with their friends. Virtual goods can also be used as a revenue center, by selling users virtual goods for real dollars.”
Leader boards. Small business owners want to be at the top of the heap to show to their friends and competitors. This is no different than the “high score” in the first pinball game every played!
What types of activities can companies have prospects do to participate?
- Watching videos, viewing photos or listening to audio
- Answering business questions
- Taking a brand related quiz
- Rating or commenting on products
- Participating in discussion forums
- Voting on content
Games are in every small business owner's future. How will you add gaming elements to your marketing strategy in 2012?