How To Gamify Your Business In 5 Simple Steps

Whether you're familiar with the term or not, gamification has become the online buzzword of choice over the last few months.

For those who are unsure what gamification is, it's placing gaming mechanics such as scores and badges into concepts that wouldn't be regarded as fun or games. Gamification adds incentive that would convince people to complete tasks they wouldn't usually do.

What it aims to do is make tasks that aren't fun enjoyable, either through competition or accomplishing tasks and purposes. As people who enjoy tasks are more productive and that people like playing games, the two have been combined for businesses and brands. This can come in the form of gaining rewards for completing tasks, such as points or badges, discounts and special offers for products and prizes among many other things.

In short, gamification allows businesses and brands to engage with their customers beyond the usual buy and sell relationship. Of course social media has changed this engagement but gamification, when done successfully, will make those people want to engage with you

For those of you unsure how you could get started, here are a list of steps to get you thinking and planning ahead:

1) What is the purpose?

Obviously for a company, the aim is to increase but if you don't know who you're aiming for it's not going to work out very well. Is it a way to reward loyal customers or do you want to entice new customers to try out your product? Is it to build up awareness of your product and get people talking or do you want to give people a reason to use your product better?

Just be warned that if you create a competition that focuses solely on new customers coming in (eg every new fan is entered to win a prize), your regular audience will understandably feel a little peeved for supporting you and getting nothing in return. So make sure that your competition includes everyone, new and old.

One example is DevHub, a website development site, who wanted to encourage its users to use all their tools to build their own website. Before they introduced gamification elements such as progression bars and badges, only 10 per cent of users finished building their site. That figure jumped up to 80 per cent after gamification was introducted.

2) What is it that you're promoting?

Exactly what kind of business, group or brand you're promoting will be dependent on how you engage your audience. Are you a retail store? Is your business technology focused? Are you a restaurant or cafe? Are you promoting a service or goods?

Answering these questions is vital as an idea that worked for a electronics store will not work for a restaurant. Create the idea that fits the premise as you're looking for it to complement your business.

Also take into consideration what the tone of your brand is as promoting a lighthearted competition will come across as jarring if the company is seen as serious.

In most cases, your reasons for introducing gamification is to improve business but it's also important to engage with customers as well. The best way to achieve all these aims is to place your new idea on Facebook or Twitter as there's already a large userbase there to connect with.

You can place the competition on your own site but normally, Facebook or Twitter is featured in one form or another.

3) What are the mechanics of your 'game'?

Now that you have your audience sussed, you need to tackle the question of what exactly the mechanics are and what players have to do. The points mentioned earlier should have given you a good idea as to what you can link the competition to and how you can gamify it.

If you're a cafe, do you give points everytime a customer purchases a coffee or beverage? If you're a local tourism company, do you give badges every time someone checks-in at a landmark or historical monument?  Games require participation from both sides and participants must be gaining something from taking part (prize, awards or completion to a specific goal)

Keep it simple so that your audience can easily understand the rules and requirements and can get started immediately.

4) What's needed to get involved?

Like the last step, keep this one as simple as possible. For someone to participate, do they require the player to take photos? Purchase goods? Collect products or goods? Retweet a message? Use a smartphone?

Keep these factors in mind as for obvious reasons, fewer people will engage if there are some or many specific requirements. Leaving it open will allow the max number of people to get involved

Also does the require more than one person to take part creating a social element to a competition and can gain new fans and customers in the process. One example is from Miller Beer who, as part of their 'Coolest Job' campaign, required users to invite at least ten friends to their Facebook page to prove their social credentials, resulting in many more people liking the page then before.

5) What are the goal(s) and overall prize for taking part?

Unless you create a fun and immersive product - which let's face it, is much easier said then done – then chances are your audience will quickly get bored before moving on and will need incentive to stay one. Having an overarching goal is required to help maintain engagement with your audience.

This can be a standalone prize or it could be something long term like discounts, deals or special offers for those who reach a certain score or gain enough badges.

If the overall goal is a prize, then ideally you would want the competition to last for at least two weeks. The reason for this is to allow as many people to join up and be in with a chance of winning as some campaigns take a bit of time to gain momentum.

If you want to extend the competition any longer than that, then you would be recommended to add secondary goals and tasks to your competition to maintain interest and engage with fans. You could have a scoring system for different tasks or mini-competitions that work towards the main prize.

For example, if you were a company specialising in photography, you could have a image competition where users submit photos relating to a specific theme. Whoever gets the most likes wins a prize, while the person who gets the most likes overall prize wins a high-spec camera with associated gear.

Keep progression in mind if it's a campaign that will last longer than the two weeks mentioned earlier

The aftermath

So you've created your competition, through word of mouth and links people joined up and But remember, just because the winner has been announced, the prize handed over and the competition done and dusted doesn't mean that your work is finished.

The new audience you got from the last few weeks is still there waiting to be engaged so you don't have to create another competition but instead just engage with them, ask them questions, get their thoughts, make jokes.

You gave them a reason to join, now make sure you're giving them a reason to stay.