Gamification ups user engagement and ROI

Non-game apps and sites that add game elements find it increases consumer interaction, engagement and loyalty, ultimately delivering results and improving returns, note advocates.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Putting game mechanics into traditionally non-game user applications, such as software and online services, is gaining speed as a business strategy that not only increases user participation, but also results and revenue, say advocates and industry players.

Gamification can increase user participation because "the core emotion is empathy", sad Dru Wynings, founder of Reputely, a game mechanics platform for Web sites and mobile applications.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Wynings noted that when a business applies a game element to its product or service, this provide an instant feedback loop and a clear sense of progress, all of which are "inherently engaging", he added.

An example of a gamified product is Epic Win, an iPhone app that turns daily errands into an RPG (role-playing game), incentivizing users to gain points and level up by completing various chores such as laundry work or grocery shopping.

Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer of Bunchball, which provides online gamification solutions to businesses, said that people need reward, status, achievement, competition and self-expression in their lives--which most apps do not address.

Games take a company's core content, community or application, and wrap it up in a framework that meets these needs, hence it motivates users to engage in and participate with its content, Paharia added in his e-mail.

Monetary rewards for businesses
Keith Smith, CEO of BigDoor, which helps developers and digital publishers add game mechanics to their site or app, said not only does gamification help drive user engagement, it can also deliver results and revenue for companies.

He cited DevHub, a site makes a game out of Web site building, as a success story. The more the user adds to and completes his site, the more points he gains.

Geoffrey Nuval, CEO and co-founder of EVO Media Group, the parent company behind DevHub, wrote in his blog that one month after DevHub's launch, site-building actions on a per-site basis increased nine-fold. This led to a 90 percent completion rate of full-fledged sites created by users, he pointed out.

Gabriel Zichermann, author of the Gamification Blog, told ZDNet Asia that "gamification is a natural fit almost anywhere".

Almost all businesses can benefit from gamifying their user experience because "fundamentally, consumers respond well to fun and reward systems", said Zichermann. He is also the author behind the book, Game-based Marketing: Inspire Customer Loyalty Through Rewards, Challenges, and Contests.

Elaborating, Bunchball's Paharia said that various sectors, from banking to education and healthcare, can apply a social game mechanism to their services because the goal is to create loyalty, engagement and participation while driving business value, which typically means direct or indirect revenue and better ROI.

He continued that when brands can interact in more meaningful ways with their customers, they satisfy the users' fundamental need for reward, status and achievement within the context of a brand. This, he said, drives loyalty, brand affinity and revenue.

Furthermore, integration of games mechanics into the site encourages more pageviews as well as ad impressions, which will generate revenue, Paharia said. For instance, gamification apps on e-commerce sites could drive conversion rates and average order sizes, he pointed out.

Gamification the new social media
While Zichermann said that "gamification is a process, not an end goal, which means it is quite different in every situation, he also noted that there are some common components such as points, badges, levels, challenges, leader boards and rewards.

Reputely's founder Wynings said that gamification is the new social media, calling it "a new form of interaction that the Web has never seen before".

Social standing or status is one of the strongest game mechanics, and social media enables that in gamified apps, expressed Wynings.

Agreeing, BigDoor CEO Smith said that gamification is enhanced by the proliferation of the social graph. "Leader boards mean more to me as a user if they contain my friends from Facebook. Badges become more attractive to me if I can share them with my Twitter followers."

Bunchball's Paharia said that gamification and community go hand-in-hand. "If I have no one to compete against, a leader board isn't very compelling." He expressed that Web 2.0 and social media have really pushed social and community into all aspects of our lives, and they "absolutely enhance gamification".

He highlighted that the gamification market is currently in its infancy. But as more people and industries are exposed to and discover the power of game mechanics, they are going to want to take them and apply them to their own businesses, he concluded.

Zichermann had the same views on the emerging pervasiveness of game mechanisms in society.

"We are truly on the cusp of games everywhere. Just as with the 'design first' mentality unleashed by Apple with its products, I think we're now entering a protracted era of 'fun first', bringing consumers the fun and rewards they deserve," he said.

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