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Gamification - An example of how to effectively use gamification to address a business problem

By Ajay Sharma

Apr 29, 2014

The new buzz word in tech industry, or for that matter in a large number of consumer driven industries and sectors like retail, public/ government sectors, e-commerce, telecom, sports, digital media, so on and so forth is ‘Gamification’.

The concept of gamification is based on the age old principles of games and in particular that of video games from the more recent times. It is however only the correct understanding and implementation of the concept that is helping organizations drive more customer satisfaction, higher employee engagement and productivity and increased revenues.

Gamification by definition is ‘the implementation of game (in particular video games) principles and game design techniques in non-gaming situations’. A somewhat crude but very easy to understand analogy of gamification is the ‘grading system in education’. Just like while playing ‘Angry Birds’ you have scores and you progress through various levels, in education system also you have grades and progression from once level to the next. The game elements that are present in this analogy are scores, levels, progression and final goal or accomplishment.

Though there is a lot of research still being done on the topic and lot of experimentation is being undertaken in various fields, there is not much literature that really defines ‘how to gamify’ and ‘why to gamify’, but a good argument for these two questions can be the underlying principle of all games, which is, Games are fun! And Games are engaging. Make it more fun and engagement will increase.

It must be noted here that gamification is not just randomly implementing game elements like scores, levels, rewards, leaderboards etc. in a non-gaming problem like increasing traffic on a website, and saying “aha! Now my site is gamified and by magic the traffic will increase”.

The clearly visible gaming elements visible here are – scores, levels, leaderboards (social graph of high scores from other players). These are some of the most common game elements. The laundry list of such elements could be:

Points/ scores Levels
Badges Quests
Challenges Leaderboards
Avatars Rewards

But in no way is this a complete list. Also any implementation of gamification does not need to have all these elements. Again it’s not the use of all game elements or most of the game elements that defines the success of gamification. It is rather the best or optimal use of game elements that is important.

To understand this let’s look at an example of gamification that employs the elements depicted above in the ‘Angry Birds’ screenshot to address a non-gaming problem.

LinkedIn, the hugely popular social network website had a typical problem. LinkedIn requires users to fill in their complete profiles. This allows LinkedIn to give better search results and also enables them to better ‘target sell’ their various paid services to users. But the problem is that filling out the complete profile information is somewhat boring and users don’t really fill out the information completely. What LinkedIn did was something very simple and interesting which took only about an hour of coding by them. They just added a profile completeness bar on the profile page of users. Look at the screen shot below.

What it did was that it notified users about the percentage completeness of their profile. Just as in ‘Angry Birds’ you can see your score, here you could see by how much percentage points your profile was complete. So it gave instant graphical feedback to the user just like games do. And it also gave a small hint telling the user that how he could go from a 90% profile completeness to 95% by just doing one more action. That is, it provided a progression mechanism for the user from Stage A to Stage B.

This one simple step of gamification resulted in increasing the overall profile completeness by 20% on LinkedIn. With time the same idea has now been implemented in many other social networking sites and sign-up processes of other sites.

As you can see that simple use of game like techniques can result in achievement of serious business objectives. But one must tread with caution. Trying to gamify everything or throwing in various game techniques and elements in a process without clear and indepth understanding of gamification can produce negative results as well.

So, gamification can be a novel way to approach the problems in non-gaming contexts and can surely lead to gaining competitive advantage if applied with proper understanding.