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Program Design Key to Gamification Success

By Jan 07, 2013

When DocMagic, a mortgage loan document preparation services company, wanted to step into the social media world with a Facebook page, it deployed gamification on the page as its strategy to quickly build fans.

Each Facebook user who “liked” the page could “Vote for DocMagic” and be entered into a sweepstakes to win a trip for four to Washington, DC. As an incentive to get people to participate, the first 200 voters received “Presidential Doc” bunny mascots. The sweepstakes ended Dec. 31 and DocMagic’s Facebook page now has just over 1,000 fans, not bad considering the sweepstakes was restricted to mortgage lenders, mortgage lending professionals and others from the mortgage lending industry.

This practice of introducing game mechanics into traditionally non-game marketing and loyalty experiences has gained ground over the last few years. Verizon Wireless recently gamified their site and gained 30% more log-ins. Loyalty program Samsung Nation awarded badges for user reviews and forum participation, which increased user activity on the site by hundreds of percents per month. (Check out these7 Rules for Getting Started in Gamification)

“The key is to view the entire experience as a game in which the members of your audience are players, and your business objectives indicate the score,” said Nicki Powers, engagement strategist for Maritz Motivation Solutions. “Most businesses are already measuring sales, email open rates and website visits. But they fail to make those behaviors interesting and engaging for their players. Game mechanics can be leveraged to motivate the members of your audience to perform those behaviors repeatedly and often.”

So with this New Year upon us, here are a few tips and tools from Maritz Loyalty Solutions that you can use to tune up your programs.

1. View the program designer as game designer A game should be a simple fun experience with straightforward rules and goals. Take the time to make your program worth playing, not just a mish-mash of a few unaligned game mechanics that only create an empty experience. (When Building Loyalty, Think Like a Gamer)

2. Focus on the player See your channel partners as human beings and players. This view will change the experience of designing a program. Rather than focusing on rules, designers can focus on what will engage the program members.

3. Master game mechanics The mechanics let players know how to play the game and keep them coming back. Designers need to understand the myriad game mechanics options, and more importantly, understand the dynamics of bundling different mechanics together and when to add new challenges or throw in a surprise.

According to Gamificayion.org, there are about 25 different types of mechanics, but designers are also developing new ones. Here are a few suggested uses and benefits from Maritz.

Points Reward desired behaviors and achievements with virtual currency in the form of points. Think of points as “scores.” Create experience points—rewards for completing actions—and social points—given for contributing to the brand community—to complement redeemable points.

Leaderboards Provide a platform for players to compare scores. This keeps players returning again and again to see each other’s progression. Players who earn a high ranking feel more inclined to maintain it.

Collecting Group behaviors into sets, then reward players for completing the entire set. This taps into the human desire for collecting. Add a challenging behavior to a set of easier behaviors, and you will dramatically increase the likelihood of it being completed.

“Identifying behaviors that support your business objectives can be a challenging task,” Powers said. “It is helpful to group behaviors into categories and leverage gamification to drive them. In most cases, behaviors can be grouped into four categories: engagement, loyalty, monetization and virality.”

For example, she said, if engagement is your objective, behaviors such as program website visits, email click-thru rates, and time spent on your website can serve as good indicators. If virality is your objective, behaviors such as social sharing, referrals, and posting comments should be considered.

Personalization When gaming, players often create and personalize the characters they play with, which increases ownership in the experience. Allow members to personalize a selection of rewards, or how they earn points, or their online experience.

“We are beginning to see popular social networking sites integrating game mechanics into the core experience,” Powers said. “This serves as evidence that social experiences are no longer enough to sustain engagement, but other game dynamics are equally important. Over time, gamification will become an expectation for all marketers to comprehend.”