Deeply coded in our DNA is a need to compete. Our species has evolved by being stronger, smarter and more adaptable to change. It is human nature to want to be better than the person beside you and often we cannot articulate why. It’s just a feeling.
The fact that the gaming industry is bigger than the film and music industries combined demonstrates our competitive nature…and our love of online digital experiences. Businesses can leverage from the gaming industry to influence customers to buy a product or engage with a brand through a technique called gamification.
What is gamification?
Gamification is the process of putting gameplay-like elements into non-gaming applications such as infotainment websites, mobile applications, enterprise software, e-learning platforms, social networking applications, video OTT platforms and more. It takes the data-driven techniques that gamification strategists use to engage digital consumers and applies them to non-game experiences to motivate employees and customers to perform specific actions. The result is greater participation, engagement and loyalty from your audience, which increase revenue and add value to your business.
The gains are substantial once you get your gamification strategy right. Interaction with your customers increases, as does their loyalty. The knowledge retention of your product improves because the users are not just passive; they are actively involved. You are also now more engaging to them, so they are increasingly motivated to participate in and complete tasks. Gamification elements can make customers feel like they are part of a more social and connected community. And lastly, all these customer touch points give you the ability to collect data that can then be used for audience targeting and re-marketing.
How it works—the eight core drivers
You can bet there’s a lot of science behind trying to influence and motivate human behaviour. Why do people do what they do? Gamification uses this science and the eight core drivers that keep humans hooked and not wanting to “leave the game”.
- Meaning: We believe that we are contributing to something greater than our own personal goals.
- Accomplishment: We are making progress, developing skills and overcoming challenges.
- Empowerment: We have power over our actions and feel in control of our gameplay.
- Ownership: We have a sense of ownership over something and we want to protect it.
- Social influence: There is a number of social elements that drive our interactions and behaviour within a community. These include positive elements, such as mentoring, acceptance, social feedback and companionship, and negative ones, such as competition and envy.
- Scarcity: We get a sense of urgency when we want something that we don’t have.
- Unpredictability: We have a sense of anticipation and feel curious when we don’t know what’s going to happen next.
- Avoidance: We want to avoid losing progress or points, which prevents us from quitting.
Science helps us understand how these core desires drive our actions. A gamification strategy may not incorporate all these elements, but the brands that spend a lot of time focusing on consumer engagement use as many as possible. One good example? How about Starbucks…
Getting it right sip by sip
Starbucks has a knack for getting things right—from making coffee accessible to the masses to eco-conscious business operations. So, when the largest coffee house chain in the world embraces gamification, you know it’s not just going to be an afterthought.
Starbucks has a gift card rewards scheme called “My Starbucks Rewards”. As soon as you register your card, the game mechanics start:
- Meaning: By being involved with Starbucks and their brand’s beliefs, you are contributing to a more globally conscious way of operating a multi-national business.
- Accomplishment: Points, in the form of stars, track your progress on a progress bar.
- Empowerment: You build up your stars with every purchase and use them when you wish.
- Ownership: As stars accumulate in your account, value is created with every purchase.
- Social influence: You can be involved in a coffee-loving, points-spending community by following specific Starbucks Rewards accounts on social media. There are almost 80,000 posts from fellow coffee-lovers on #starbucksrewards on Instagram alone.
- Scarcity: Starbucks creates urgency with deadlines. Want to stay at the Gold level? You have to collect at least 300 points a year.
- Unpredictability: You can be notified at any time about surprise options on how to spend points.
- Avoidance: People want to be consistent. When you’ve been a Gold member once, you’ll want the free birthday drink and other benefits again.
You can see that Starbucks’s gamification strategy ticks all the boxes, making it sure to succeed. The millions of registered members are evidence of that.
How to get started
So, the decision is made and you are ready to go. How do you start bringing gamification to life in your content or product? Do you want, like Starbucks, to use it in a rewards initiative on social media to get customers to help with your marketing? Or in your internal systems, using HR software and intranet portals so that your employees have an incentive to engage more? Whatever your goal, here are six steps you can take to get started with gamification.
- Define the objective. Identify exactly what you want to achieve. Do you want to improve productivity? Increase customer engagement?
- Determine target behaviour. What behaviours need to be adopted to achieve that objective? Do they differ across target cultures?
- Identify processes to be gamified. Which process can you gamify for the behaviour to be adopted, and how do you quantify its returns?
- Design gamification elements. What game mechanics can be brought into play to drive the desired behaviour? What are the technical considerations?
- Roll out. How are you going to launch the solution so that the audience understands the objective and feels excited about getting involved?
- Feedback, learn, improve. How can you learn from reviews and adjust game elements to make them stronger?
Going global with gamification
Now that you have built gamification elements into your target website or product and you’re growing into new markets, you’ll want to make sure these elements work as well in your target market as they do in your home market.
But first, it’s important to know that the psychology of gaming mechanics—the “how and why” certain concepts work to influence your audience—doesn’t change. Though cultures may be vastly different, interestingly, human psychology is much the same throughout the world.
What is different? Gamification elements using any of the eight different drivers might need to be adapted for different markets. For example, take the driver of “meaning”. In western European and North American countries, the focus might be biased towards capitalism and individualism, whereas in Asian or Latin and Central American countries, the focus might be more on spiritual well-being and harmony. It’s important to assess what achievement looks like to the people you’re targeting because different cultures attach different meanings to achievement. They have different motivations and goals and go about reaching them in different ways.
Proper due diligence should be done to make sure your gamified solution won’t be banned in the region you’re entering because of cultural insensitivity. A “party animal” badge might be fine in San Francisco or Stockholm, but the translation of “animal” can be offensive in Hindi, so in Delhi, it’s “party premi”, which is Hindi for “party lover”. Subtle changes, but they show you are in touch with the region. Of course, having a robust localization program in place would flag these issues quickly.
Another thing that changes from region to region is the look and feel of the gaming elements. National colours, badges, avatars and on-screen content should be adapted to reflect the new market you’re going into. For example, baseball is as popular in America as cricket is in India and Australia, so avatars and badges would be changed based on the country.
And then there’s the language element: with creative translation of the text, gamification elements can be made very local. If both your audience’s native language and local culture are accommodated, gamification can be a very engaging tool.
The more gamification elements you use and the more accurately localized your on-screen content is, the more culturally relevant your initiative will be. Obviously, this will lead to more users being motivated to get involved.
Wise brands take note of the increases in sales and user engagement that arise from gamifying elements of their product. Designing elements that hook into those eight psychological drivers and localizing them appropriately for each market can create new audiences in new markets who feel excited about engaging with your brand. Take care to make sure you’re not committing any cultural faux pas and adapt the look from one culture to the next to customize the experience. Understand what achievement looks like in each culture and set your reward system accordingly.
Get it right, and everyone’s a winner.