Let me start by defining Gamification: Gamification is changing something that already exists by integrating game design elements and principles to motivate participation, engagement and loyalty.

Why Gamification? It is a proven and powerful strategy for engaging, influencing and motivating diverse groups of people.

Let me explain with an example, Starbucks: The world’s biggest coffee chain is using gamification as a concept to provide a fun tool to get people to visit their stores and buy more products. Starbucks reward their users with virtual points and badges for visiting their retail outlets. When they complete quests, for example “visit five different Starbucks,” they are rewarded with points. The points have no real world value, and the badges don’t have any real-world payoff. (Source:

Gamification has the power to enhance customer interaction, build loyalty and incentivize employees and partners – a fact that the business community has just begun to realize.

Gamification as a concept has the potential to solve a variety of obstacles in areas other than the traditional business environment, such as Public Policy and Government, Education & Training and Health & Wellness.

Gamification Defined

Gamification is applying game mechanics into non-game activities and processes to prompt specific behaviors.

In a business context, gamification can be used to drive participation and engagement by their target audience. This can be achieved by integrating game mechanics and dynamics into: a website, a business service, the online community, the content portal, the marketing campaign or even the internal business processes.

A well designed, dynamic and sustained gamification experience can be put to use in accomplishing a variety of business goals.

The Building Blocks of Gamification

Gamification uses key concepts from related areas which include – game design, behavioral economics, community management and loyalty programs to influence behavior.

Using game mechanics individually or together, a highly motivational user experience can be created around the website functionality and content that is already in place.

Adding game mechanics to a website or application lets you create more compelling user experiences within the existing activities, which in-turn create addictive experiences that model the target behavior to take specific actions and to return more frequently.

Game Mechanics & Game Dynamics

To gamify an activity one uses game mechanics. Game mechanics are the basic actions, processes and control mechanisms used to create a compelling, engaging user experience.

Using game mechanics make the activity challenging, fun, satisfying, or whatever the developer desires. Game dynamics are the compelling desires and motivations of these experiences.

  1. Points – Points are an incredible motivator as people love to earn and achieve points, even when they have no monetary value. Points can be used in many ways – status indicators, use to unlock access to content, or on awards. People love being rewarded and feel like they’ve gained something.
  2. Levels – Levels are an indication that you’ve reached a milestone, a level of accomplishment, and that you should be afforded a certain amount of respect and status.
  3. Challenges, Trophies, Badges and Achievements – Challenges give people a set goal and the feeling that they need to work towards something. Using Trophies, badges, ribbons, etc. can be the visible indicators of having reached a new level or completing challenges.
  4. Virtual Goods – Virtual goods, mostly, are purchased for use in online communities or games. Using purchased virtual goods like clothing, weapons or decorations the users can create an identity for their virtual self and show off and compare with their friends.
  5. Leaderboards – In this context, leaderboards can be used to track and display desired actions, using the resulting competition to drive desired behavior.
  6. Competitions, Gifts, Charity – Competitions enable players to challenge each other for the high score at some activity.

Game Dynamics Satisfy Desires: By applying an appropriate set of game mechanics with your site, app, or community, one can create an experience that drives behavior by satisfying one or more of the following human desires:

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  1. Reward – In the context of gamification, satisfaction of users desires are achieved primarily by a reward mechanism that can be through – earning points, obtaining virtual goods, leveling up and completing achievements.
  2. Status – Almost everyone desires fame, recognition, prestige, attention and respect. All the elements of game mechanics can be seen to drive these dynamics, leveling-up being the primary motivator.
  3. Achievement – People who are motivated by achievement will seek out challenges and will set for themselves difficult but achievable goals. The most satisfying reward is being recognized for your achievements.
  4. Self-expression – An individual can use virtual goods to model or create their own version of avatar and this can act as a focal point for expression. Virtual goods allow players to create their own identity.
  5. Competition – Everyone love and is motivated by a bit of competition. By comparing our performance to that of others, we gain a bit of satisfaction. Using of leaderboards to display competitive results and celebrate winners can be a great motivator to all players.
  6. Altruism – In gamification, gifting has been seen as a powerful acquisition and retention tool. Getting a gift from someone pulls you into the game, and will make you to send gifts back, creating a loop. Each time you get a gift, you go back to the app to redeem it, serving as a retention vehicle.

The Business Value of Gamification

Using gamification to engage and make people return frequently builds lasting relationships.

When you get people participate and engage, they learn about your business, your products and your services.

Your brand then makes it to the top of their minds. They will then spread the word around and introduce your business to friends, family and peers. They will become your customers and they will remain your customers.

Repeat purchasers act like a billboard for your brand. Gamification can drive participation and engagement of every kind, including:

  • Watching videos and photos, listening to audio and visiting repeatedly
  • Creating content, voting on content and posting to forums
  • Rating products and recommending affiliated sites
  • Opting into email communication, answering questions and taking quizzes
  • Reading articles and taking a poll, filling out registration data and participating in discussions
Tracking and Statistics Drive Participation

Another way to drive users to participate continuously is by using statistics. Communicate the user’s standings, and reward their accomplishments.

Once the initial excitement wears off, each episode creates a desire to make return visits in order to better their performances and reach new goals.


Two people play a game every day; they tend to lose interest pretty soon. By capturing and displaying statistics — the experience becomes more interesting. Using statistics this way create another level to the game, motivating people to play more.

The Audience for Gamification

Gamification can be used to influence and motivate the behavior of people – any people; customers, employees, partners, students, fans, constituents, patients, and so on.

The audience for gamification is virtually anyone you want to engage repeatedly in order to elicit a particular behavior.

Wherever there are people, there are people to be motivated. Gamification can be applied across a broad spectrum of situations where individuals need to be motivated or incentivized to pursue specific actions or activities.

  • Service based organizations can be motivated to deliver superior customer service through a customer feedback mechanism or other metrics
  • Sales and marketing people can be incentivized to grow revenues and focus on desired product mixes via competition and challenges
  • Employees can be motivated to pursue optional training initiatives that enhance their careers and make them more valuable to the company
  • Patients and health insurance customers can be incented to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle choices that extend their lives and reduce healthcare costs

Business Use Cases of Gamification

A key goal of business is to attract and engage a group of people with a common passion or interest and then “activate” them to purchase.

Through gamification, organizations can take control of their brand experience by engaging users, encouraging them to join a community, drive active participation, share with friends outside the community and even recruited friends.

Gamification enables you to turn customers into fans, and fans into evangelists. Source for the examples below is


Global Technology Company

A leading computer manufacturer recently launched a Facebook campaign to build a community of tech-focused college students, with the goal of promoting their educational computing site and selling more student laptops.

To drive growth, they created a gamified Facebook application that offered students a chance to win a $5,000 scholarship and a free PC.

To win, students had to earn points for doing things like registering for the contest, inviting a friend to join, creating a team, registering on the company’s educational computing site, and posting contest messages and awards on their Facebook wall.

Six weeks after the launch of the gamified application, they had increased program participation by 1,000%. Other success metrics from the campaign:

  • 1 in 3 checked out the student laptop reviews
  • 1 in 3 promoted the Facebook application
  • 1 in 3 posted their award and a new level
  • 1 in 3 visited the educational computing site
  • 1 in 4 recruited friends to help them
  • 1 in 5 made the laptop their Facebook profile picture for a day
  • 1 in 6 participants wrote and submitted an essay
Major Entertainment Company

One of the largest entertainment companies in the world wanted a loyalty system that not only rewarded purchases but also rewarded participation and engagement with their content.

This program gave points for purchasing Blu-ray and regular DVDs as well as movie tickets. Buyers then redeemed those points for dollar-value products, like more DVDs.

In addition, members can earn credits for engaging with their content, like watching movie trailers, visiting movie websites, playing games, and contributing content.

By combining offline purchase data with online engagement and participation data, they can now build a detailed profile of each of their customers. The resulting gamification campaign has:

  • Increased consumption of promotional content
  • Increased user-generated content
  • Increased traffic to the individual movie sites
  • Increased sale of products
  • Developed a 360-degree view of their customers

Gamification: Key Questions for Best Practices

Is your Product Compelling?

No matter the quality of the gamified experience, it’s only a wrapper around your core offering.

Gamification cannot make an inferior product successful, but it might provide the tipping point that helps a good product find a larger audience, or turn a hit into a cross-channel smash.

Gamification works best when turning an exciting, attractive product into a richer, more participatory one.

What is the Context?

Will your audience discover your campaign on TV, in real-world stores, through social media channels, in print ads, or somewhere else?

How will your early users help to grow your audience and through what means? Just as savvy advertisers connect TV, online, print, and other campaigns consider how to extend the reach of the gamification process into other avenues.

What is the Timeframe?

Gamification should be thought of as an extended process – the most engaging games offer an experience that unfolds over time.

This can be accomplished by making a deep and rich experience from the outset, or by evolving the experience over time, building its audience and drawing experienced users deeper into the game. Gamification is a long-term strategy, not a launch-and-leave-it one.

Is it time to Market?

How soon do you need to gamify your site or application? What level of effort will be required to do this?

Do you have the necessary resources to support, operate, and enhance your gamification solution over time? What kind of expertise do you have in-house to make this happen?

What is Success?

Most important is to have a clear sense of what your business goals are and how you’ll go about determining if you’ve achieved them. This can be measured as strictly ROI, but there are other measures equally as valuable.