Can Gamification constitute the winning solution to incentivize customers’ purchases, create loyalty, improve a company’s internal processes, enhance employees’ efficiency, motivate students or even change the world?

Gudrun Vandenbussche (Nubess srl)

Gamification was initially used as a tactic to solve engagement and motivation problems within organizations, but today it has become a veritable business strategy, a way to interact with consumers and with employees. And indeed, state-of-the-art organizations have begun to use Gamification techniques in order to be ready for the coming of new “digital” generations (Gen Y) and to succeed in attracting their attention and interacting with an increasingly distracted world.

WHAT IS GAMIFICATION. The term Gamification describes an innovative tactic whose basic principle is the use of the mechanics (points, challenges, rankings) and the dynamics (rules, entertainment, participation) of a game in real life contexts.

Gamification applications vary from simple techniques such as points collection like Millemiglia and the different membership levels such as silver, gold and platinum, to systems that resemble a true videogame.

The most popular example is certainly Foursquare, a social network based on the geo-localization of commercial establishments and of people, available on the web for mobile devices. Through a mobile phone, users look for establishments in the neighborhood and check-in to share their transfers with their friends and to rank these shops. Check-ins and comments are remunerated through points and sometimes with virtual badges that spur users to “play” more. The establishments, in turn, can reward those persons who check-in more frequently with real gifts.

WHY DOES IT WORK? WHY DOES IT SUCCEED IN MOTIVATING US? Because it uses our basic psychological impulses such as competition, challenge, the desire to always reach new goals, entertainment, reputation and status. Web portals or social media can substantially increase users’ involvement and encourage specific behaviors by introducing some elements of Gamification.

By granting badges and the possibility to earn points, Gamification plays on our innate drive to win prizes (real or virtual), often conditioning our actions. Besides gratification, at the basis of this business strategy also lies the concept of challenge: by placing one user against the other, it is possible to increase involvement and condition people’s actions to augment their activity. Also not to be underestimated is the importance given to the user’s status. For this reason, the tactics of Gamification reward the person most active in commenting, sharing and participating in the initiatives. The user is gratified through recognitions visible to the other members of the community, and this aims at enhancing his or her importance and status.

THE IMPORTANCE OF HITTING THE MARK. In a system of Gamification, it is important that the objective we want to reach be clear. Let’s take the example of a call center. We want to increase the operators’ performances and consequently, the company’s profits. We decide to assign points for the number of phone calls made in a given lapse of time and extra points for the first-ranked. This would surely lead to an increase in the number of phone calls managed, but it could have a disastrous effect on the quality of the calls and on the ambience within the company itself. In this case, a system of badges and points based on customer satisfaction would certainly be more appropriate.

MARKETING EXAMPLE: NIKE FUEL. Nike Fuel’s slogan “See how active you are and get motivated to move more” perfectly fits the main objective of the company to sell more products. Basically, Nike+ products connected with websites and applications allow keeping track of the many activities performed by the participants and to compare results in the course of time. The user can set objectives to improve his or her performance or challenge fiends in order to rank first. Nike+ rewards successes with points and badges and allows sharing them with friends. This action undertaken by Nike is a classic example of a system that motivates a person to move faster and at the same time helps the company to reach its main objective: sell shoes.

Source and more info: www. http://nikeplus.nike.com/plus/what_is_fuel/

ECOMMERCE EXAMPLE: TELEFLORA. Exploiting the latest research* that say that users of an ecommerce are strongly influenced by the reviews of other users when purchasing a product, Teleflora has set up a Gamification system with the aim of increasing reviews (and consequently purchases) on their website. The idea is to offer something for every comment, review and recommendation entered by users and to reward those who help diffuse the brand by sharing its contents.

Participation is rewarded through virtual points. Obtaining points helps the user climb levels in the community, becoming - in the course of time - easily recognizable as a top “influencer”. The most active persons are also given the chance to obtain “real” presents such as the personalization of a gift pack or something else.

*Weber Shandwick: “Buy It, Try It, Rate It“

Sources and more info: www.gameifications.com; www.teleflora.com

BUSINESS EXAMPLE: MICROSOFT - LANGUAGE QUALITY GAME. The techniques of Gamification are not just useful to increase consumers’ involvement, but they can also be applied to employee management and to the improvement of company processes or products.

Microsoft distributes software such as Windows and Office in hundreds of countries and in many different languages. Avoiding errors in translation is a veritable challenge. The quality control team has developed a game called “Language Quality Game” that is used internally by Microsoft to verify the localization of Windows 7. The game contained dialog boxes that the employees, individually or in teams, could check and correct in their own language. For every error found and corrected, a score was assigned. At the end of the challenge, an updated classification chart decreed the winning team.

The results were surprising: 4500 Microsoft employees participated free at the initiative, more than 500,000 dialog boxes were sent and over 6700 bugs were detected.

All this was possible thanks to Gamification! Probably the employees would have participated in the checking process anyway, but thanks to this strategy, everything was rendered more pleasant, fun and stimulating.

Source and more info: http://keepexploring.hubpages.com

GAMIFICATION TO CHANGE THE WORLD: TERRACYCLE. The objective of TerraCycle is to eliminate the idea of waste. To do this, a differentiated collection system for waste that is not easy to recycle was created. Anyone can sign up for this program - Brigades - and begin sending in waste.

Once received, TerraCycle converts the waste into new products and materials. With over 20 million people participating in over 20 countries, TerraCycle has recycled billions of waste units and used them to create over 1,500 different products available in several retail chains and, of course, on line.

To enhance participation, TerraCycle introduced a Gamification system based on challenge: those who collect more can win the several “real” prizes or use the points earned to make donations to charity organizations.

Source and more info: www.terracycle.com

AN EXAMPLE FROM LUCCA: RERACE. ReRace is a Tuscan start-up based at the al Polo Tecnologico Lucchese exhibition area that has developed the first datalogger for all motorsports fans capable of sharing the data acquired on the track through a dedicated social network.

ReRace One, developed for an amateur audience but used in professional race competitions by the Ambrogio moto3 team, is installed on the motorcycle, car and go-kart and allows recording data such as lap time, speed and above all the bending and wheelie angle. Furthermore, the device can acquire position and speed data with extreme precision, thus allowing to record trajectories.

The characteristic that makes ReRace One more interesting for the amateur audience is the possibility of loading the data acquired on the race track on a true social network, where the user can create a virtual garage with the images and other material and where he or she can share driving performances.

Thanks to a Gamification system integrated with the social network, the user can compete and virtually race with other participants who have shared their performances on the same track. The race can take place on the circuits of the ReRace database or on any other track. The system displays the performances on the track with graphic references of the acquired dimensions.

Source and more info: www.rerace.com

ONLINE COURSES AND GAMIFICATION: COURSERA. Coursera, supplier of an e-learning platform, collaborates with the main universities on a global level by making some of their courses available free of charge. These courses vary from science to engineering to literature to business. The courses entail video lessons and homework on a weekly basis to be done in groups or individually. Improvements are measured through software that assesses the correctness of the homework done and of the online tests. The results are immediately sent to teaching staff and to the student, supplying feedback and useful tips to improve his or her academic performance. In some cases, also badge and reward systems are used to involve and motivate students to always give their best. *

Source and more info: www.coursera.org

Main sources:

www.coursera.org University of Pennsylvania: Gamification


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