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Is Gamification Important in 2017?

Business.com / Sales / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Can gamification (and gamification platforms) really drive business and engagement?

You’ve decided to use gamification in 2017, and you want to choose the best platform. 

Gamification is actually a high-risk choice, because if you use it, you can’t afford to get mediocre results. You want to shine as the one who had the vision, creativity, and courage to use it and transform your business and engagement. Otherwise, it isn’t worth the effort. 

Gamification can look like this in your business:

  • For consumers, you want to get more engagement, brand recognition etc. 
  • For employee performance, you want gamificaiton to deliver real return-on-investment, not just some badges and points.

So, if gamification is strategic to you — regardless of whether you want to gamify learning, employee performance or to get teens to buy more of your balsamic onion ice-cream — you probably want to know what the best gamification platforms are for 2017. That’s a tough one, because, sometimes, you should not be looking for a gamification platform in the first place.

Before we begin, here are four prickly truths about gamification:

Gamification doesn’t always require a platform

I often get asked whether a gamification platform can be added to a mobile app, consumer website, etc. There’s a reason for these questions: people hear that gamification can drive engagement. They’ve heard of Pokémon Go and they want the same level of fun and engagement for what they’ve been working on.

The only problem is that points, badges and leaderboards don’t make engagement and aren’t a guarantee that users will be enamored with your product. Need convincing? Think about what would happen if you got 10 points for reading this article. Would you care? I don’t think so. Would you be annoyed? Maybe, but this is what many “gamification” platforms do. My advice? If you want to gamify your app/software/business, do something smart — use gamification as part of the design of the app/software/business, instead of just slapping it on like lipstick — it won’t work.

Gamification works when it is nicely integrated into the app and when it is gamefully designed. There are stories about how it works (and then didn’t work) for Foursquare, and how it worked well for Karma points and LinkedIn.

Gamification doesn’t equal competition

Most people think that the strongest driver in gamification is competition. However, research proves otherwise. While some people are driven by competition, many aren’t and the result can be disengagement. Competition is considered an extrinsic motivator, which doesn’t work in the long run. What drives people for the long run is intrinsic motivation — the feeling of a job well-done.

This is also the weakness of many gamification platforms. They take points and mix in some leaderboards and competition, or they allocate points and generate badges. They can be incredibly powerful when well designed and part of the platform, however, most often, they aren’t.

Gamification is not equivalent to a cash award

I once was asked whether it was worthwhile to use gamification. Logically, the person told me, you could hand out cash bonuses instead. However, again research shows that this isn’t true. People don’t work more when paid more (think of what this means to the paychecks of top CEOs…) and fascinating research shows that giving them a small cash reward can even backfire.

The future of gamification platforms is in employee engagement

If you’ve read this article and decided that gamification platforms are useless, you’re wrong. True, gamification platforms that just coat consumer applications with points, badges and leaderboards can be useless. However, gamification designed correctly with a natural tie-in with the application at hand has considerable rewards and measurable business return-on-investment.

In the case of employee gamification — be it learning gamification, sales gamification or customer service gamification, the story is 100 percent different. 

Why? Because 2017 is showing us that gamification for employee engagement can and does work. The reason is that it isn’t about slapping a video game or points on working. In the workplace, it can achieve a great deal. It can drive better employee performance and uses real-time feedback and goals (personalized ones, where employees “compete with themselves”) to reflect performance — like a Fitbit for work. It can also do wonders for learning gamification since it drives completion.

Any comments? I'd love to hear from you.


Photo credit: Tashatuvango/Shutterstock

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