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Demystifying Gamification

Sandeep: Suds, what are you up to these days?

Suds: Gamification!!


Sandeep: ohh, Olympic mania, I understand.

Suds: Sandeep, my friend, am saying Gamification and not Games.


Sandeep: is it, i hear this term first time, what is it btw?

Suds: The use of gameplay mechanics for non-game applications is Gamification.

First, let me give you the oxford dictionary take of this,

"It is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, and rules of play) to other areas of activity to encourage engagement with a product or service" [1]

As you may know, this concept is long existent and tried and tested in some segments like,

·         Airline Frequent Flyer, Credit card spends, Superstore chain purchase cards

·         Co-creation mediums such as Knowledge Exchange Forums (stack overflow, MSDN)

·         Nike+ website for defining and tracking runner programs

Unique things that exists across these examples is, it tries to retain and build its user/customer base through various motivation techniques such as

·         Building loyal customers by encouraging more transactions through reward process in the case of airlines

·         Building collective intelligence  by encouraging contributors alongside establishing experts

·         By helping you measure and track your running schedules and ran miles and then share those achievements with your network

Leveraging this time tested and proven techniques along with selectively bringing in fun element of games and applying it in the context of Enterprise is Gamification.

You can practice Gamification through,

1.       Designing and applying reward programs around a specific program/initiative

2.       By designing not so exciting (boring/mundane) applications in a Game play manner e.g. learning while playing games, etc.

3.       Or by combining the above two


Sandeep: ohh!!, Interesting, so what kind of potential problems it addresses?

Suds: It addresses concerns around customer loyalty, engagement, motivation to name a few.

Sandeep you know, it's critical to build a loyal audience and keep them engaged; otherwise fickle users quickly find another site or property to spend their time and attention. With abundance of choices, stretch on time, engaging and seeking attention of a user is becoming more and more challenging.

Driving user participation is a challenge especially with activities needing collective intelligence or co-creation (e.g. ideation, innovation, and learning)

·         According to Gallup survey in US in Oct 2011, statistically, over 70% of employees are disengaged at work and are costing billions of dollars in lost productivity, poor performance, and poor service to their customers [2].

These challenges seek for a need of a process, technique to solve problems of engaging audiences by making things interesting.

And believe me; Gamification helps solve this to large extent.


Sandeep: You sound really interesting, btw, has it been tried anywhere, any results to speak?

Suds: Yes, a lot. Here are a few examples

·         PCWorld used Gigya to add a social layer to their site to connect readers with social networks to let them share the links with social sites. Additionally, it leveraged Social Login for simplifying access for Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. users. This resulted in 40% jump in registered account. Analytics was used to display tracking referrals, user demographics [3].

·         Samsung deployed it on their US website to improve user interactions/participations by awarding badges, etc. for the blog, video, QnA content on the site [4].

·         Everyday Health uses it on their site to make users stick to their fitness program, helped in increasing paid conversions and life time user value by 5% and 20% respectively [4].

·         Dell implemented Gamification in their Innovation conference to engage with B2B customers to check their products, download content, promotions on social media, provide feedbacks and share social contacts through earning points and badges [5].

·         Ebay -How do you motivate buyers and sellers to operate at highest standard level and ensure transaction quality? Ebay uses game mechanics to improve sales and service levels on their site. As a "seller" points and badges are used to identify top sellers on the site. As a "buyer", feedback mechanism encourages seller to give great customer service and communication [6].

·         Starbucks coffee application rewards user with the Starts and Status levels. It also gives user incentive to keep playing. On reaching Green level, users are entitled for free refills on brewed coffee or tea. Social loyalty keeps user coming back for more "I shall Starbucks golden in no time" [6].

And there are several more,

Sandeep: Examples are great, but in these tough times when clients are not investing, what's it potential?

Suds: The size of the gamification market in 2011 was about $100Million and expected to grow to over $2.8Billion by 2016 - M2 Research report [7]

Gartner says more than 50 Percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will Gamify those Processes [8].

By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application," [8]


Sandeep: Is it relevant in Enterprise?

Suds: Gamification can be applied to almost any industry through channels such as marketing campaign, website/content portal, business services, online community to drive participation and engagement. It can be leveraged across enterprise to deal with various user engagement challenges,

Internal to Enterprise

       Innovation management - idea banks, Improving team culture, etc.

       Education and Learning - eLearning, certification programs, vocational training.

External to Enterprise

       Customer Engagement, Customer Retention - cross sell, up sell opportunities

       Health and Wellness - obesity programs, smoking cessation

       Public Policy and Government - Carbon credits, climate change, welfare reforms


Sandeep: That's quite a few areas, any recommendation towards adoption or prioritization for an enterprise?

Suds:  Although internal to enterprise and external to enterprise are two independent streams and can be pursued in parallel; however we recommend the incubation to start from internal processes/ initiatives and then slowly move towards external facing interactions. This gives the opportunity to learn from any internal lessons.



Sandeep: Do you have a view in terms of which business will lead the adoption and which may wait and watch for some more time?

Suds: In my opinion, Entertainment, Media & Publishing, Retail is at the forefront of Gamification followed by Education. Other domains like Healthcare are slowly finding the relevance. Energy and Utilities, Manufacturing may watch it for a while. 


Let me elaborate this in relevance to Retail segment,

Gamification can help retailers differentiate their message, engage more users and provide more compelling experiences.

In Retail, molding typical retail customer behavior of purchasing, visiting a web site or store or signing up for a newsletter  - into elements of a game where customer receive tangible or symbolic rewards for their participation in the game.  Gamification can be used at store shopping experience, interactions on company blogs, build and nurture community for product designs, engage customers through product reviews and so on.



E.g. Reward, Incentivize for driving usage of a specific channel such as email, web site, or phone


Sandeep: Finally, is it one size fit all, or any specific care one need to take while practicing this?

SudsVery good question, this is not at all a one size fits all strategy, but very organizational culture specific. However some of the best practices that I can suggest one should be factoring in while embarking on Gamification are,

·         For intra-enterprise scenarios, Gaming philosophy and design must align with the Organizational Culture

·         Gamification must suit to individual user interest and context driven, hence understanding the motivational and behavioral aspects of your various user segments is very essential for the success of this

·         Gamification should have ability to track, measure, and reward every user interaction

·         User experience should be immersive and should generate nothing less than WOW!!

Last but not the least, Gamification of any existing application should be non-intrusive and seamless which means the user should be able to carry out his usual activities, or tasks without any additional overheads.


Sandeep: This is very enticing to hear, thanks for enlightening me on this new trend.

Suds: Thanks for patiently listening Sandeep!!



[1] Gamification definition:

[2] October 28, 2011, By Nikki Blacksmith and Jim Harter

 Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Jobs

[3] PC World case study

[4] Samsung and Everyday Health - featured customer

[5] Dell case study

[6] FEBRUARY 16, 2012 BY CARLOS GONZALEZ, Why the hype on #Gamificaiton? because it works!!!

[7] Wanda Meloni, Principal Analyst, Wolfgang Gruener, Analyst, M2 Research, Gamification in 2012,  Market Update, Consumer and Enterprise Market Trends

[8] April 12, 2011, Gartner Press Release,


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