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Much like “leveraging synergies”, Gamification has become an overused buzzword over the past few years that many are growing tired of hearing and are ready to write off. But, do Gamification techniques actually provide added benefits of engagement and loyalty, or should they be discarded as quickly as green-washing? Gartner certainly thinks that the use of Gamification is only going to grow, forecasting that “by 2015, 50% of all innovations will be gamified.” Before we quickly dismiss gamification as just another buzzword to get marketers to spend their money, we need to better understand what gamification is, and what its capabilities truly are.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, gamification is “the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service.” Although gamification has been around for decades in the form of in-store loyalty programs and airlines’ frequent flier miles, the use of the word gamification to describe these techniques, particularly for engagement on websites and software, has only been popular for the past five years.
Naysayers of gamification say that game mechanics hide larger user interface and product flaws, and that your audience will abandon you as soon as your rewards stop. However, proponents of gamification say that game mechanics will provide the necessary early engagement tactics to get your audience to use your website or software to discover engaging content. And, gamification techniques play perfectly into human nature; we are competitive and want to win or be the leader at a given task, even if there is no tangible reward.
One great example of this is fantasy football; the average fantasy football player spends 3.8 hours per week – approximately 4% of their waking hours – online researching and managing their team. Their goal is to “win”. Some leagues may have monetary awards for the top players, but the primary goal of these players is to win bragging rights within their group. If a company can use the innate human competitive spirit to engage a consumer with their product or brand and build a relationship, it is really a bonus for them, possibly with only minimal additional cost in development and potential tangible rewards.
No matter what you call it – social loyalty, engagement techniques, game mechanics – Gamification as a way to capture your audience’s attention will only become more important as technology becomes more embedded in our daily lives and attention spans grow shorter. And while “Gamification” may be the buzzword currently chosen by marketers to develop interest, the techniques of engagement underlying gamification are more than just buzz. When these techniques are put to use by the right people - our client AARP comes to mind - and community members are rewarded, recognized, and promoted for behavior that is socially, organizationally, or commercially desirable, gamification ultimately enhances the user experience and helps the company achieve its goals.
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