Gamification and the future of digital strategy
Early in April this year, we blogged about the value of designing digital strategies centred in rich human experiences that gravitate on basic human needs and motivational context; aligned with these design principles, a new wave of digital experiences labelled with the term ‘Gamification’ have emerged in the last few years as an innovative way to drive engagement and motivate behaviours based on our need to have fun. Gamification (or the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game context), has been a popular buzz word for digital strategist and loyalty specialist in the last few years. Although the concept is not new, its consideration as a serious business strategy gained significant attention some years ago when companies like Foursquare and Nike+ used Gamification to define digital strategies that successfully engaged their audiences and generated millions in profit along the way. Beyond the buzz word although not considered by many as a tool exclusive to the digital realm, Gamification has been in the agenda of the future of IT trends and digital strategies for quite some time; Gartner, the world leading IT research company, took interest in the phenomenon and in 2011 released a series of reports forecasting the relevance and future of Gamification. Some of the highlights of Gartner’s reports estimated that “By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon” and also predicted that by the same year “…more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organisations will have at least one gamified application.
Gartner’s 2013 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.
Since these predictions were made the world has witnessed a rise of gamified systems that have captured the mind of consumers and employees in all sorts of industries; some few examples of these include:
- OPower: Software as a service company whose mission is to motivate communities to save thousands of kilowatts through efficient home electricity consumption. To achieve this, OPower designed their service with game mechanics centred on epic meaning, friendly competition, achievements and feedback. (Currently reaching 22 million homes, through 90 utility companies across 9 countries.)
- Duolingo: Free language learning and crowd-sourced text translation platform that engages users using game mechanics such as challenges, mastery, feedback and leader-boards (Launched in 2012, Duolingo now counts with over 25 million members)
- DLA: the Deloitte Leadership Academy (DLA), is a gamified portal designed to train leaders in the competencies the firm considers essential for their success. The results obtained with this gamified learning indicated 50% Faster Course completion, 47% higher daily return rates and 36% greater weekly retention.
- Department of Work and Pensions: Idea Street, was a gamified system created by the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK to motivate employees to generate ideas and think about their work in innovative ways. The contribution of ideas became a pleasant and addictive experience and the results obtained where staggering: 4500 users captivated within 18 months of play, generating 1400 ideas, 63 of which became projects.
It is not as easy at it looks In spite of the pretty picture of great results and happy endings we might get from the cases above, gamified systems are not always successful and sometimes their poor design can even generate the opposite of the intended effect; the competition and leader-board strategy Disneyland created for their hotel staff at Anaheim or the highly criticized Google News badges are a couple of the most quoted examples. As most recently alluded by international speaker on Gamification Yukai Chou at the TEDx event in Laussane, cookie cutter gamified solutions relying only on the PBL paradigm (points, badges and leader-boards), stand no better chance to succeed than any poorly designed video games.
Designing gamified systems that effectively tap into the motivational core of an audience is not a trivial exercise. Professor Kevin Werbach (UPenn) explains in his celebrated Coursera MOOC that the fit for purpose gamification requires a combination of skills including business analysis, game design, psychology and digital strategy; professor Werbach also recommends that apart from a business-purposive, analytical and creative designs, gamified solutions should be above all human centred designed. For the future Taking aside the current perception of success or failure of some gamified systems (or even the challenges in designing them), everything indicates that Gamification is not going anywhere; in fact, in Gartner’s most recent hype cycle map of emerging technologies, Gamification is placed at the top of inflated expectations where apparently it will take 5-10 years for it to mature. Finally, another interesting fact about this version of the hype cycle curve is to observe the placement of Wearables and Big data next to Gamification. This triad of technologies has proven outstanding success in applications such as Fitbit, but with the rise of smart watches and Google glass one can only wonder if there is a limit in Sight.