As brands experiment with consumer engagement tactics online, gamification is a rising trend that, when used correctly, can lead to positive business and behavioral results.
Adena DeMonte, marketing director at social loyalty and gamification platform Badgeville, says gamification - the use of game mechanics in a non-game context - should be deeply strategic and tied to all of a company's Web and mobile platforms.
"The more valuable you make it feel across your user experience, the more engagement you'll see," she says, adding that communications pros should think of engagement beyond typical social networks and bring social experiences to their own sites. This allows brands to measure and influence behavior through social rewards incentive programs.
"Gamification, done right, is very much an analytics-driven marketing program," she says. "It sifts through big data for you, providing meaningful insights, an ability to change audience behavior, and, ultimately, make more money or exceed business goals."
Tac Anderson, VP and head of digital strategies for EMEA at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, says that, like social media, gamification will overlap into marketing, partner communications and internal communications.
"It will blur the lines because a lot of product development is really interested in gamification to engage customers," he adds, "not just to sell stuff, but to get feedback to learn things about them to develop better product."
Gamification can be utilized across almost any industry, as long as the correct techniques are applied so the experience is tailored to meet business objectives and the situation exists in an environment where the consumer already wants to engage.
"Some experiences lend themselves to competitive programs, such as gamifying customer-related management systems or having an audience compete to be a music artist's top fan," says DeMonte. "Meanwhile, other experiences, such as a retail community where you are trying to reward a large amount of loyalists and contributors, may wish to employ a more collaborative style of gamification."
Badgeville has helped various companies use gamification to engage consumers. For Samsung Nation, it designed a program to reward brand loyalists for inter-acting with Samsung before and after large purchases. Consumers are rewarded for reviews, registering products, answering questions, and watching videos.
Beat the GMAT, an education blog, has used Badgeville to integrate gamification onto its site to get those preparing for the test to compare themselves with other students to prompt better scores.
The competitive social aspects and reward systems of gamification make it ideal for the healthcare setting, says Birju Shah, CEO of SugarCrew. His company works directly with clinics and accountable care organizations to get doctors on board who then get their patients with various chronic diseases involved.
SugarCrew, which launched in July 2011, provides targeted one-day to months-long challenges to patients. It also provides rewards, including cash, gift cards, lunches, or dinners with doctors, and vendor giveaways, such as free medicine or a free glucose meter.
Gamification is also gaining popularity as an internal communications tactic. Many companies, IBM and Deloitte among them, use gamification to train and retain staffers, as well as increase performance and engagement.
However, gamification can't cure internal issues such as a morale problem, say industry experts.
"If you're not willing to fix those basic problems, gamification won't fix it for you," says Tac Anderson, VP and head of digital strategies for EMEA at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. "Slapping points and badges on something broken won't fix it."
"People are very used to paying for reactive care," he adds, "so once you start incentivizing or gamifying their health so they can actually be rewarded, they will sign up and use it every day."
In addition to pulling quantitative data based on a patient's behavior, such as challenges they participate in and the effect on a certain metric, SugarCrew also takes a qualitative approach. This allows it to create a behavioral map for healthcare providers to gain further insight into driving successful outcomes for patients.
The combined analytics help SugarCrew develop future challenges and contribute to weekly behavioral reports sent to doctors on how patients are doing.
"When doctors and their medical staff see patients getting healthier - and it's not necessarily due to their treatment, but to their education - they find that very fulfilling," Shah says.