Brands need to think like gamers to benefit from gamification opportunities

Game over? Gamification is increasingly popular but not that new. The business case for giving it a go is increasingly tempting and companies that have not yet dabbled need to get to understand the concept to drive real company benefits.

Gamification is the combination art and science of wrapping simple gaming elements in to your marketing and customer engagement. An early example would be a retail website awarding stars to reviews left by customers. The incentive for customers leaving quality reviews is simple but effective psychology: public recognition, to be winning.

In recent months we have seen more engaging, more sophisticated and even more game-like elements being introduced to websites, digital campaigns and experiences.

To promote its 3D TVs, Sony orchestrated a treasure hunt around participating blogs. The hunt was powered by widgets, little bits of code, that the blog owners installed which caused virtual tennis balls to bounce into the corner of the screen. The game was part promoted by Unruly Media; a company more normally associated with connecting bloggers with branded video content.

Companies like BigDoor provide widget code to their brand clients who wish to add game-like functionality to their own website. OneTrueFan offers something similar, easier to add but with a simplified gaming aspect. Both BigDoor and OneTrueFan offer badges and points to visitors who interact with the website by sharing content via social media for example and getting others involved.

OneTrueFan can also provide useful analytics into the sharing and content consumption habits of website visitors. This is a look at insightful business information that traditional web analytics platforms cannot provide.

The business justification starts with the visitors that gamification helps sites retain. And one major benefit of this is that it can be far more cost effective to retain a community of customers than recruit the same number of customers over and over again.

Success in social search is incredibly important to businesses these days. Critical business life support channels like Google are now richly integrated into the landscape of social connections housed online. Web sites with more followers, fans and with more peer to peer recommendations will do better in search.

Gamification often encourages sharing and recommendation of content and therefore naturally grows the number of positive social quality signals associated with a brand or businesses’s presence presence. It is these social signals that Google or Bing may recognise and reward with more prominence in search rankings.

So increasingly businesses and brands need to think like gamers and use this knowledge to solve the puzzle of user engagement, understand why a visitor would talk about or recommend them online or even come back to the website at all.

By bringing in elements of gaming; the imperative to win, to participate and to enjoy an immersive experience, companies will be able to benefit significantly from the growing number of gamification opportunities.

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Andrew Girdwood is Media Innovations Director at Bigmouthmedia. He's a search and digital marketing geek, and is on the bleeding edge of technology for marketing - and that's where he's going to stay.