7 secrets for smart use of gamification

Enterprise gamification — the application of social gaming theories and techniques in business environments — is taking off, with Gartner projecting that 70% of Fortune 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application by 2015.  However, Upstream recently reported that, while 78% of marketers believe that customers are more likely to respond to game-based marketing, only 27% have actually deployed the strategy. Reasons for this disparity include a reluctance to embrace new technologies and processes, as well as the lack of a blueprint on how to create and roll out such programs.

However, we are now seeing a broad range of firms from many industries deploying gamified programs to educate customers, train staff, introduce new products or service, as well as building greater engagement with customers, prospects and employees.  Some recent examples of gamification in action include:

  • Health care benefits provider Aetna teamed up with Mindbloom to offer the premium Mindbloom Life Game to improve personal wellness for customers and employees.
  • Extraco Bank of Texas used the Bonus Banking Game to promote benefits and improve conversion rates for a new checking account.
  • GM’s Buick created a series of smartphone games to educate consumers on e-Assist, its fuel-saving technology.
  • Verizon Wireless gamified its online entertainment and lifestyle portal, Verizon Insider, which resulted in significant increases in traffic on the site.

Based on EMI’s experience in developing and deployment gamification programs for our clients, here are a few best practices to guide your success:

  1. Clearly define your game objectives, or you’ll find it gets lost in chutes and ladders. Articulate your goals and make the desired changes in customer/employee engagement measurable. And don’t limit yourself to education…product testing, employee recruitment and customer acquisition can all be addressed with gamification.
  2. Remember the technology baseline and limits of your audience. User experience is key to success; if your audience is all mobile, test on the full spectrum of devices and keep the real estate and graphic limitations of smartphones and tablets in mind. If you’re targeting employee audiences in locations far and wide, download speeds can be a limiting factor.
  3. Make it fun, but not too easy. Everyone loves to win, but make it too easy and boredom will drive users away. Make winning too hard, and the game will also fail.
  4. Positive feedback is required. Who doesn’t like encouragement? Let players see their wins early and you’ll encourage longer sessions, more attention and greater learning.
  5. Mix up the rewards. Choose incentives based on the desired behavior changes and their value to you, and use “soft” rewards like badges and leaderboards to increase ROI. Of course, real incentives like miles, points or virtual currencies up the ante.
  6. Ensure that players understand the ultimate aim of the game. Players may view the knowledge or experience they gain from the game as additional incentive to play. For instance, if the ultimate purpose of your enterprise gamification program is to enhance customers’ financial literacy, players may be just as motivated to play by the education they will receive as they are by the points they earn along the way.
  7. Keep score on user engagement. Get feedback from users on their experience, and use it to improve future programs.

SuperBanker: The making of a gamified conference experience

Compared with traditional training and marketing strategies, gamification – the application of social gaming theories and techniques in commercial contexts – can dramatically increase audience involvement and the degree to which communications actually change audience behavior. Firms across all industries are becoming increasingly aware of the power of gamification for business objectives, such as motivating and training a sales force or connecting with customers.

This week, EMI launched SuperBanker, an online mobile game, at SourceMedia’s 17th Annual Best Practices in Retail Financial Services Symposium. SuperBanker demonstrates the use of gamification for business purposes, and was designed to enhance attendees’ conference experience. Players could create their own superhero alter ego, and earned points for answering questions about the session presentations, networking with other players, or visiting the exhibitors at the conference.

Almost 200 top-level banking executives and service providers played the game, which culminated in an exciting fight for first place in the final hours of play. It wasn’t easy to make SuperBanker the success that it was – a delicate and detailed strategy lies behind the colorful graphics of the game.  Here’s a peek behind the curtain:

  • Fitting the imagery and tone to the audience – can a game be too fun? The theme for the game had to balance fun with seriousness, because conference-goers would be in a professional mindset while playing the game.  Rather than the traditional superhero tights, the game avatars were dressed in business suits; rather than playing through an animated world of villains and crises, players answered conference-related trivia challenges.
  • Walking the thin tightrope between engaging and too involved: A game that is too demanding will discourage participation; too easy, and it won’t be fun to play.  In a conference setting, there is an additional layer to setting the difficulty of a game: the goal of the game is not to engross players, but instead, to allow them to engage with the game and the conference itself simultaneously.  SuperBanker play was designed to be accomplished in between conference  activities; what’s more, it rewarded active participation in the conference with game points.
  •  Bringing the game into the physical world: Because a conference audience is physically located in the same place, it was important to bring the game into the physical setting in which the players were interacting via stickers, life-sized cutouts, and other things, in order to connect the game experience with the conference itself and generate continued participation.  Perhaps the most important example was a large leaderboard screen that displayed the top ten players’ scores – even though players could instantly access the leaderboard from their own devices, many walked back over to the screen to see it displayed there.
  • Creating a sense of progress and the attainability of winning: At the conference, one player pulled ahead early and maintained a solid lead throughout.  This could have discouraged others from signing up or continuing to play, but SuperBanker was designed to create a sense of accomplishment for everyone playing the game.  Players could win smaller prizes throughout the conference; every member of the team with the best average score was awarded a prize; and for the highly engaged group, there were also prizes for second and third up for grabs.  And indeed, attendees played the game to the bitter end – resulting in a last minute upset!