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article imageOp-Ed: The Spread of Gamification to Many Industry Verticals

By Gabe Zichermann     Mar 25, 2014 in Technology
User engagement is a top priority & challenge for nearly every business right now and gamification is one solution used to conquer this engagement crisis.
Companies pursuing gamification fall into two main categories: 1) Consumer-facing brands that are looking for improvements to their loyalty solutions to increase consumer engagement and 2) Companies that want to increase employee engagement and effectiveness in the workplace.
When looking deeper into the marketing side of gamification, many of the consumer-focused brands involved are coming from finance, retail, media, services or travel. They’re looking for insights into how they can best incorporate or expand upon gamification to drive engagement, action and ROI. Why are they headed this way? One reason is that the classic loyalty program of “1 point per dollar or mile” is a 40 year old model that doesn’t provide the necessary frequency of rewards. Also, the world is 1,000x more distracting than it was when the traditional loyalty program was created--which equates to more competition for the consumer’s eyeballs and time.
Consider a hotel loyalty program for someone that travels two or three times a year. They might earn a reward once every few years. They receive emails about new partnerships, news, and updates, but those messages are passive. There’s no interest from the user to engage with the brand because the emails are boring and only filling inboxes with spam. In this distracting world we live in, this model simply doesn’t work anymore. Companies need to reboot customer loyalty through fun campaigns that blend social status with access rewards, instead of free stuff that most people don’t want and that costs the brand real dollars. The brand experience needs to be more emotional and send the user on a journey in order to keep them engaged.
JetBlue has a great example of mixing a tradition loyalty program with gamification in an innovative, low-cost way. If you fly JetBlue, you’re familiar with their frequent flyer program, TrueBlue. They took something based off old loyalty program design, added a gamification element, and called it TrueBlue Badges (created by Comarch). It’s a more personalized experience that allows users to earn rewards and recognition for completing activities. TrueBlue Badges is based on ticket purchases, travel history, social sharing, leaderboard ranking and badge collecting. Each individual user builds an interactive “map” from their travel, which can be easily shared via social media (Facebook or Twitter). All users are added to a leaderboard which shows their rankings versus their friends and other people in the system--a great use of status within the community. Badges are also rewarded for travel and sharing achievements. These user activities go way beyond just flying and are creating a new form of customer engagement & brand loyalty for this industry. Many of the world’s top airlines are now realizing this and creating their own gamified loyalty programs (see Aeromexico’s Club Premier).
Nissan’s GT Academy is another industry-favorite example of gamification done well. It’s a contest developed by TBWA Chiat Day, Sony Entertainment and Nissan that enables the best Gran Turismo videogame players a chance to compete and become a real-life professional driver--the ultimate reward for any racing buff. This annual academy is a great example of a company taking a very popular and immersive game such as Gran Turismo and making it even more engaging, attaching a real-world experience. Which racing or Gran Turismo fan wouldn’t want to compete for a spot on the Nissan racing team? It’s gamification at its finest, where fun, competition, engagement, and rewards are combined together to reach marketing goals.
Let’s put on our HR hat for a moment. We’re seeing that companies seeking to boost their internal training or employee rewards programs are also looking at gamification as a way to increase engagement and productivity. Again, frequency and small achievements are underutilized in most employee recognition programs. The traditional annual review and employee of the month award are great to have, but leave too much time in-between for no reviews & rewards--losing the employee’s interest and engagement. Properly implemented gamification techniques can complement these older initiatives by providing things like frequency, levels of achievement and even fun in some situations.
Our third example comes from GetTaxi and shows an employee incentive program that is transparent for customers to see. GetTaxi is an app that offers lower cost “black car” transportation in cities including NYC, London, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Moscow. Each car features a tablet computer mounted in the driver’s center console that displays a photo of the customer, their pickup and intended dropoff locations, payment info, and a map of the customer’s GPS location. While this on its own isn’t earth shattering, their use of game mechanics sets them apart from their competitors. The gamified component comes into play when riders can view the rating page of the drivers, rate the drivers, and see the driver’s status on a leaderboard. This review system & leaderboard along with the driver incentives, offer the rider insights into the driver’s popularity (status). This in turn incentivizes the driver to be the best driver--a more engaged & productive employee. Drivers are thus encouraged to greet passengers with enthusiasm and to provide details about their city, which in turn boosts rider satisfaction and better reviews. With this transparent system, GetTaxi also creates a new relationship with their riders, which in-turn promotes customer loyalty as well. The app also has incentives and goals for passengers to earn achievements and rewards based on their frequent use. GetTaxi is effectively blending employee incentives and consumer loyalty at the same time, combining for maximum impact.
Gamification can transform traditional loyalty programs & dated employee incentive programs from being flat, passive and boring to a multi-level journey where rewards can be earned through various actions. Gamification proves to be an effective strategy for companies to help reach their goal of increased engagement (consumer or employee) and to conquer this engagement crisis.
Consumer-focused firms looking for loyalty programs and companies searching for employee engagement tools are coming together at the GSummit gamification conference held June 10th-13th in San Francisco.
GABE ZICHERMANN is the chair of GSummit where top gamification experts across industries gather to share knowledge and insight about customer & employee engagement and loyalty. He is also an author, highly rated public speaker and entrepreneur whose next book, The Gamification Revolution (McGraw Hill, 2013) looks at how leaders are leveraging gamification strategy to crush the competition. His previous books, Gamification by Design (2011) and Game-Based Marketing (2010) have helped define the industry’s standards and frameworks, and continue to be key reference materials today. Gabe resides in New York City, where he is co-director of startup accelerator The Founder Institute, and a board member of
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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