Getting to Business Value Through Gamification

Everyone wants in.

Organizations want to do something with it and they think it can change the world; if you go by their word every organization in the planet is doing something with it.

I am talking, of course, about Social’s latest craze tool: Gamification.

Although it has been around for quite some time, behavior modification– the theories behind it – have been around for some 50-60 years in current format, we are still in the early infancy of using it for business.  And, as it always happens in the early infancy – the value propositions behind the implementation are being missed.

Not purposefully, mind you – but yet still being missed.

The gaming dynamics or mechanics of gamification (the game part, playing to retain interest of participants) is not what brings value.  We can definitely see an increase in repeat visits, maybe even tie that to an increase in sales or reduction in costs if we do a decent job correlating KPIs and gaming metrics; but that is not the end game.

Bringing people back to your site is not what Gamification is all about; nor is it about playing.  It has to deliver long-term business value to remain past the initial stage.  Business value that we have to define well enough to measure it – or even recognize it and track it.  That is what we need to figure out in the next few months.

Thanks to my friends at Badgeville (one of the Gamification vendors) I am going to spend the rest of the year investigating and researching that business value that provides long-term justification to the idea of “playing games”.

This is the first of a series of posts and webinars I am going to be doing with them this year.  I want to use the series to introduce ideas, research, and what you need to know to leverage Gamification in business.

It is not about Using (or Playing)

The most common misconception about using Gamification is that it is about enticing and incenting the usage of features or functions.  While at face value this may be true, there is limited value in bringing customers back merely to use the specific features (yes, even if said features are revenue-generators).

The purpose of Gamification is far different, both for the user as well as the organization.

While we may have, initially, placed more emphasis on the gaming mechanics and how to make it more fun for the user and enticing them to return to – well, play some more (we call it engagement, to make sure we think we are doing more than just bringing them back for our purposes), the value for both of them lies in the other part of Gamification: behavioral sciences.

For the organization it is definitely not only about bringing the user back through play to participate more – it is far more valuable to be able to study the actions and outcomes while users are in the site. Indeed, the value of identifying a user, their knowledge, their likes and dislikes, then follow them in their online work, and use that information to create better profiles, better knowledge, and better experiences is nearly invaluable.  Until now, we had to rely on focus groups or tracking tools (none of them very effective or timely to provide information) to learn part of that information – and even then, we never knew how reliable it was.  Timing of the events was conditional to when users agreed to do it, within limited time events we setup, and their actions were biased and influenced by them knowing they were being observed; it was not natural behavior.

It is far more reliable to observe a person at play (or work, or acting out) than to ask them how they do it.

The ability to understand not only the actions in the site, but the reception from other users, the value they bring to the community, and to aggregate all this information into a reputation score is far more valuable that simply bringing them back.  Observing and learning from users as they “play” is what brings the value of learning and understanding about the user to life for the organization.

On the other hand, the user can be certain that not only is the organization willing to bring them back – they are also interested in learning more about them, how they work, what they want and say, and who they are – and turn this information into more personalized, better experiences for them.  They also get instant feedback, via many of the gamification mechanics like badges, rewards, and scoreboards, and learn quickly how valuable each action is to their communities – and eventually even the organization.

This, however, is not simple to do – not easy to track.  The requirements for a gamification engine to work properly, and deliver value to both participants, are multiple and most of them very complex.  This is why a gamification engine is not only needed, also necessary.

Throughout the next few months I will take the time to explore in more detail all these concepts of exchanging value, increasing and using reputation, and delivering the ultimate goal of Gamification: changing habits.

If you join me, both here and in the webinars, we can explore it together. You can start by registering for the first webinar on March 27th.

What do you say?

Disclaimer: in case you did not figure it out by reading above, Badgeville is a client and we are working together to broaden the definition of gamification throughout this year.