Anjana Srikanth, Marketing, Communications & Research, TCS BaNCS

You must have heard of Quirky, a crowdsourcing product innovation company that uses game mechanics to predict and evaluate ideas and develop successful products. Quirky users can log in using their Facebook credentials and submit their innovative ideas. This “social product site”, as it is called, leverages collective intelligence to gather ideas onto a social platform. What’s more, a Quirky University guides users about their idea submission, including providing guidelines on the art of perfecting a 140-character pitch statement for a successful product description.

Most of us have a Linkedin account these days. You must have noticed that Linkedin encourages you to complete your profile and shares a progress bar on its edit profile page, making it a visual representation of your profile’s completeness. With this, it hopes to trigger behavior that will drive you to complete your profile.What are Quirky and Linkedin doing here? These are two varied examples of gamification in the world of business (not World of Warcraft). One uses gamification as a tool to breed innovative products while the other spurs you on to doing something about your profile.

Is gamification a mere buzzword?

Are we talking of an extension of the 70-billion dollar industry spawned by video gaming in the last 40 years here? The answer is an emphatic no. Coined in 2004, gamification meaning the “ification” of a “game,”, the term moved up the popularity charts in 2010, and has now taken on greater significance  with The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania beginning an MBA course on Gamification this fall.

Why has gamification become so relevant today?

Made popular by two Wharton professors in their recent book, For the Win, gamification is the subject of massive debates and conferences today. It is the application of game principles to non-game business scenarios to make them more fun and engaging. It is increasingly being used by companies to change user behavior, extend brands and solve real-world problems.The oldest example of gamification is the Frequent Flyer Program of FFP that airline companies offer as part of their customer loyalty programs. The movie Up in the Air in 2009, had George Clooney playing the role of someone who targets being the seventh person in history to collect ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines. For this effort, this frequent flier would receive a special card with special privileges from the company.

Microsoft’s roll-out of achievement points for its Xbox Live game was probably the start of the popularity of games. Brands took note of the trend and the loyalty that users developed in their pursuit of gamer score, not to mention bragging rights. Foursquare, Foodspotting, Nike+, Mint, Epicwin and a host of others offer innovative games associated with the completion of tasks and achievements. Foursquare stands out among these brands with 10 million users on its gaming platform. What all of them are doing is taking an ordinary exercise (eating food at a restaurant in Foodspotting) and creating a casual gaming experience to drive user acquisition and peer recommendations in a creative way.

Gartner has termed gamification as a “powerful tool to engage employees to develop skills and drive innovation”. It predicts that by 2020, with the emergence of technologies such as gesture control and augmented reality, gamification will become commonplace in our daily lives.

Why has gamification caught on so fast?

With customers constantly being bombarded by “push” communication from marketing teams, gamification works better as it engages with users through the medium of play. Players (customers) can comment on articles on your websites, check in to the specific locations you want them to, refer their friends on social networks, all the while notching up points (rewards). Now, add to this the competitive element of any game.

Why should companies use gamification in their customer experience strategy? A simple answer: Because gaming is addictive. When customers become players working toward a purpose or goal with others, they stay on longer and remain engaged with your brand.

In this article, we illustrate how you can use gamification to foster goodwill, extend your customer engagement cycle across multiple channels, enhance your social media presence and educate your customers about their investment portfolios and your bank’s products and services.

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