Startup Gamification

You’re probably always thinking about how you can make your Startup or online business grow faster or your application more “sticky” so users become increasingly active and more of them convert to sales, right? One popular method which you may be considering is this:


There are plenty of reasons why you may be considering gamification such as these killer benefits it could bring to your business:

  • More customer engagement
  • Boosted conversions and sales
  • Growth in customer loyalty
  • Improved customer data gathering
  • Increased collaboration
  • and much more…

You won’t earn any points here for reading on, but hopefully you will at least learn a thing or two about how you can use gamification in your business, so let the games commence!


What is Gamification?

The widely used definition of Gamification goes something like this:

The use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and to increase engagement.

The users can be customers or even employees and gamification (sometimes also written as gameification) can be applied equally successfully to either.

Gamification is a very popular technique used in the education field these days and educational games are to be found everywhere including as a part of so called “edutainment”. However, education is not the only field where game mechanics or game theory are built in to increase user engagement and in fact it is commonly used in business, particularly in Web/SaaS applications and of course in mobile apps and it can actually be a great growth hacking tactic.

Outside of business and educational fields you can even find many tools and services dedicated to personal gamification!


How does Gamification Work?

The general purpose of games is to have FUN because of course everyone likes to play and have fun, even grown ups and presidents of rather large countries. People also like instant gratification and the feeling of accomplishment when completing a task well and also being recognized for doing so, even if only by a computer! The mechanics typically used to gamify an application can include a variety of tactics such as rewards, prizes, karma, reputation points, badges, goals, status, levels and unlocking of extra features and even leaderboards which encourage competition with other “players”.

Such rewards or points can be awarded when a user completes a certain action, for example by completing their profile, reaching milestones, adding your widget to their site or posting a tweet about your business or whatever else you can think of. These actions and rewards can then form a key part of the on-boarding process as they encourage new users to actually complete the critically important tasks required for successful on-boarding.

It is important to ensure that any rewards your system awards your users, actually have some kind of value to your users though, even if only online, otherwise they will be fairly ineffective. Also a common mistake is to offer big rewards which are basically impossible to win or so infrequently awarded as to have little to no motivational or engagement value at all – smaller rewards offered more frequently can often be far more effective.

When building your app, whatever the platform, you may want to save yourself a lot of hassle and work on a game or incentive-centered design from the start, rather than trying to bolt on gamifying features later on. This needs careful planning and usability testing because sadly many games are, to put it bluntly, crap! So if you plan to gamify your app you need to be very sure that you are not building crap into your app. You must strike that very tricky balance between games which are too hard and frustrating versus those which are too easy, boring or pointless (no pun intended) and in which users will quickly lose interest. Additionally you must also ensure that your game features don’t end at some point leaving users with nowhere to go and less motivation to continue.

80% of gamification risk failure is due to bad design.” (StartupPirates)

With both games and gamification these days not only need to not be crap, they also need to be social because people like to share their successes (and even their failures) and when you provide effortless ways to share their achievements you naturally benefit immensely from the increase in social signals while at the same time providing them with attention and content for their own social channels, so it is a win win.

However you need to ensure that the game features which you design, actually align with your business interests and are not just there to look cool – they need to provide value and usefulness to you as a business as well as to your users. Ultimately the end game is to get your users to do what you really want them to do while you also give them what they really want.

The following slideshow by video games researcher and developer Dudi Peles, covers more on using gamification techniques in startups:


Gamification Examples

All the gamifying tricks mentioned above are no doubt familiar to everyone and I’m sure you’ve come across them countless times on your travels across the internet, but if you don’t remember any right now, here are a few well known examples:

Stackoverflow is a popular community site for developers to ask for and find help with every imaginable tech problem and if you’re a member then it’s safe to say you’ve been gamified! You can see on member profiles which show a classic feature of gamification in the form of reputation points, as well as another common one – badges which you can gain by being helpful.

In Reddit they have a similar system but reputation points are called “karma” instead and earned for your comments or links posted. You can also be gilded with the coveted gold star and you get various badges for activity and length of membership.

Waze is a really cool GPS navigation app which features crowd sourced data such as traffic conditions and users who submit data earn points and rank for doing so, as well as just driving and various other activities within the app.

Popular social app Foursquare is another one famous for successfully implementing gamification features and removing them.

Forums or boards have been around forever in some form or other needless to say they commonly use various gamification features such as karma points, levels and leaderboards to engage members and community involvement.


Gamification Products & Services

Fortunately you don’t have to start from scratch these days to design and build gamification solutions as there are a number of gamification platforms which you can use to help gamify your business or application, such as Badgeville, Big Door and BunchBall.


Learn More

If you want to learn more about gamification, what it all means and how you can implement it in your business, then you should have a close look at these great gamification courses which can be done online right now:

Gamification at Coursera
Designing Gamification from Udemy.
Designing for Engagement also from Udemy.

Complete the excellent courses above and not only will you be a gamification guru, ready to win the interwebs, you might even get a badge as well! 😉

Have you used gamification in your business? Which methods worked best for you and which ones failed? Answers on a postcard or in the comments below…



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