By Nick Johnson - September 23rd, 2011

This article was written by Alex Wilson What is gamification? Gamification is a growing aspect of business marketing, often making use of social media to engage existing and potential customers...

This article was written by Alex Wilson

What is gamification?

Gamification is a growing aspect of business marketing, often making use of social media to engage existing and potential customers - perhaps to increase public profile, or to market a new product.

The idea involves adding a 'game layer' onto company websites - for example allowing users to collect points and compare stats in leaderboards against other users. Gamification can also be used in by companies to ‘liven up’ existing competitions.

Some firms use gamification to ask users to complete challenges using Twitter, Foursquare or Facebook in order to win prizes. Companies are turning to it as an innovative tool to engage with customers who are used to the tricks of advertising and PR. Gamification can also boost traffic to websites and enhance 'stickiness', by making them more interesting for users.

Just a buzzword?

Gamification draws mixed emotions from many in the business marketing world, having sometimes been seen as a gimmicky buzzword with few real benefits for business. It has been talked up all over the web as a huge opportunity, and many are sceptical.

A lot of thought leaders are critical of the simplistic game dynamics companies are choosing to use - suggesting 'pointsification' is a more accurate name. There are too few examples of companies integrating game dynamics on a deep level, and too many examples of companies simply adding a basic point-scoring system to an otherwise prosaic website.

However, more and more companies are now moving forward and experimenting with the idea to draw in new customers and users. A great example being Buffalo Wild Wings, who has been adept at carving out their place in the social ecosystem. Through their partnership with SCVNGR they have created an engaging social persona that has served and engaged with over their 5 million fans on Facebook. Game dynamics are incorporated through feeding trivia regularly into their wall posts as well as incorporating online challenges tied to rewards for their end users.

Real results are starting to emerge which seem to prove the power of the new 'game layer'.The website ‘Allkpop’ claims it saw a 104% increase in link shares and 36% more comments when it introduced gaming services by Badgeville.

How has it worked so far?

The company DevHub allows users to build free blog websites, primarily aimed at small businesses. It last year entered the Gamification world by ‘Gamifying’ its site creation service using a points and awards system. As a result it saw the number of users who finished creating their sites rocket from a mere 10% to 80% according to website Venturebeat.

Gamification is also being used as an innovative tool to encourage people towards a healthier lifestyle. ‘’, uses a system of points that add up to earn rewards to encourage people to do things like flossing their teeth and eating whole grain. People use Facebook and twitter to ‘check in’ what activities they do and share them with family and friends. Veer Gidwaney, co-founder of the site, says they use the techniques as ‘‘if it’s fun then people will hopefully do it’’.

The future of gamification

These successes should give sceptical marketing executives food for thought. The consultancy Gartner predicted in a report in April this year that ‘by 2015, more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes’; and foresee that ‘‘by 2014, a Gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon’’.

Time will tell if gamification has what it takes to transform the way companies interact with customers or if it is just a temporary trend. But for the moment, many of the signs are positive.

This article was written by Alex Wilson

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