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Cheat Sheet

Business Gamification For Dummies

From Business Gamification For Dummies by Kris Duggan, Kate Shoup

Using gamification in your business boosts customer loyalty and engagement. But you need to know how to motivate customers to do what you'd like them to by providing the right types of rewards and understanding effective modes of gamification.

Motivating Key Behaviors in Business Gamification

Business gamification is all about driving key behaviors. You can harness game mechanics to enable people to experience something they like. In general terms, here are a few things people like:

  • Recognition: Recognition, a foundational building block for gamification, simply means acknowledging desired behaviors. On a website, that could mean being recognized for expertise based on writing reviews. Inside a company, it could be an achievement for closing more sales in your customer management software.

  • Status: Status refers to a position or rank relative to others. Those with a higher position or rank are conferred a higher status. Status — and the rewards or privileges that come with it — is valuable to the player because of the sense of worth and pride that comes with an increased standing in a community of peers.

  • Identity: For some users, it’s all about identity. They want to be known. Recognizing who a user is, what expertise he carries, and what social standing he has is important. Ideally, the distinguishing character or personality of an individual is also showcased, leading to desirable engagement and increased community participation.

  • Specialization: Expertise in an area, or specialization, will typically cause users to perform actions that relate to that topic. For example, a vegan might start a thread on a forum about a new vegan product. This in turn should help to build his or her reputation as an expert in that field.

  • Positive reinforcement: Everyone’s heard of the ol’ carrot-and-stick approach — using a combination of positive (carrot) and negative (stick) reinforcement to guide behavior. Although sticks like punishment for an undesired behavior can be effective, most people agree that when it comes to motivating people to do what you want them to do, carrots work best.

  • Rewards: Rewards are valuable to all users. Rewards can be tangible (cold, hard cash or, free airline tickets, or a discount on your next purchase) or virtual (points, badges, levels, and so on).

  • Relevance: Nobody wants to look at a bunch of information that has no bearing on their area of interest. People want relevance. They want the material that satisfies their needs to be right there. And they tend to create and consume content that’s relevant to them.

  • Competition: Many people are motivated by an urge to compete. Indeed, competitions — whether for prizes, badges, or honor — are among the oldest forms of recreation. Tapping into this innate desire is a great way to motivate desired user behaviors.

  • Visualization of progress: With any type of journey — be it a literal one, like a coast-to-coast scramble, or a figurative one, such as losing weight — being able to visualize the progress made and distance still to go can be powerful motivators. Gamification offers a great way to keep users apprised of their progress.

  • Baby steps: Baby steps — breaking down larger, overwhelming tasks into smaller, easily accomplished micro-tasks — make it much easier to get things done. Each micro-task becomes a little victory, and the larger task is no longer overwhelming.

Types of Rewards Useful in Business Gamification

You can attract users to your gamified business website using various types of rewards. Arguably, business gamification rewards are in three categories, recognition, privileges, and monetary:

  • Recognition: Pretty much everyone wants to be recognized for their achievements. Recognition for completing a task or accomplishing a goal not only feeds this basic human need, it also encourages engagement and increases repetition — both of which are probably in your list of business objectives. In a gamified system, you can recognize your users by conferring reputation and status.

  • Privileges: Some users are motivated by the promise of privileges. These might include early/VIP access, moderation powers, or stronger votes.

  • Monetary rewards: Certain users may hold out for more tangible benefits. These benefits are typically monetary in nature, but could also involve free stuff. A few examples of monetary rewards include discounts, free shipping, prizes, and redemptions.

Effective Game Mechanics in Business Gamification

Any good gamification guru will tell you: You’re only as good as the tools in your toolbox. When it comes to game mechanics, various tools are available to you — each designed to elicit a specific reaction in players. You can combine these tools in nearly infinite ways to create a broad spectrum of responses and experiences. These tools include the following:

  • Points: Unless a player receives points during gameplay, he or she may not even be aware that a game is afoot. Points help users know they’re in a gamified environment and that many of the small behaviors they take along the way are being recognized at a system level. Companies running gamification programs use points to spur desired behaviors. To really drive desired behaviors, game designers can weight points — that is, award more points for those behaviors deemed more valuable or that require more effort. Gamification efforts typically employ a few different types of points, including experience points, redeemable points, and karma points.

  • Leaderboards: The purpose of a leaderboard is to show players where they rank. Those at the top enjoy the notoriety it brings; as for everyone else, the leaderboard shows them where they stand relative to their peers. Often, the very presence of a leaderboard can elicit the desire to play. The simple goal of rising up the rankings serves as a powerful motivator to continue.

  • Levels: Levels serve two important roles in gamification systems: They indicate progress and they convey status. In a gamified system, a level is effectively a rank that corresponds to the player. It’s earned through accomplishments and represents additional privileges or abilities. The change in level occurs when the user reaches a set point threshold.

  • Missions, challenges, and quests: Missions, challenges, and quests are essentially different words for the same thing. They require users to perform a prescribed set of actions, following a guided path of your design. A mission, challenge, or quest might involve a single step (for example, creating an account on your website) or several steps — even as many as 20. Often, they are about discovery or education.

  • Feedback: One game mechanic that helps to encourage engagement is feedback, or the broadcast of well-written, helpful, engaging on-screen messaging in the form of real-time notifications within the game system and/or via e-mail when users perform a desired behavior, level up, unlock a reward, or need to complete an additional behavior in order to earn their next reward.

Understanding Business Gamification Frameworks

A gamification framework is a holistic program designed to achieve a specific business objective. The framework you use depends on the outcome you want to achieve. Note that you can mix frameworks. As you might expect, you have many options in terms of gamification frameworks. We’ve identified six broad approaches, each designed to address a specific business need:

  • Social loyalty: This framework is for customer-facing experiences that occur in nonsocial environments, such as a traditional e-commerce experience. This framework focuses on rewards.

  • Community expert: This framework is for customer-facing experiences that rely on quality user-generated content and contributions. This framework focuses on reputation.

  • Competitive pyramid: This framework is for customer-facing communities that seek to motivate competitive behavior. This framework focuses on status and score.

  • Gentle guide: This framework guides employees through a process. This framework focuses on ensuring completion and compliance.

  • Company collaborator: This framework is designed to increase contributions by employees, developers, and partners in internal communities.

  • Company challenge: This framework is designed to challenge your staff to compete on teams to encourage high-value behaviors.

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