Gamification offers much more than game mechanics

When he penned the line “All the world’s a stage, and all of us merely players”, Shakespeare could have been predicting the evolution of corporate marketing, as the internet enables even the smallest organisation to have a global presence, and the battle for customer eyeballs drives the need for innovative and interesting approaches to customer acquisition and lifetime value.

One aspect that many organisations are now looking at is “gamification” – the use of game constructs in areas not generally considered to be a game such as to capture a customer and keep them interested.

Examples are generally around providing rewards to people for engaging with a brand – such as an airline reward programme, or something like the CokeZone, where users get points for typing in codes from bottles that can be exchanged for goods.

However, there is no reason why gamification should stop at just using game mechanics within relatively standard systems. Although rewards can create a level of loyalty, this can rapidly leak away if the experience is unimpressive.

The growth of location specific services, such as Quova and FourSquare, and the latter’s relationship with GroupOn, could lead to interesting developments. GroupOn’s offers can now be highly targeted as the user moves, using FourSquare’s location awareness.

Offers could be combined – and extra discount or premium offers made to those who oust another as “Mayor of …”, or can “battle” for the mayoral distinction through playing games that are highly targeted at the offerings made by the controlling organisation.

When combined with augmented reality (AR), the experience could be played out in real time overlaid directly at the point of use – and vendors could use product placement within such systems.

The growing acceptance of cloud computing adds new possibilities. In the same way that DoubleClick (a digital advertising broker) enabled adverts to be placed on sites from a database of possible content; games can be written that can pull in different “components”, depending on location, type of game and the player concerned.

Imagine organisations teaming up with the likes of Rovio (the developers of Angry Birds) or ZeptoLab (the developers of Cut the Rope). Vendors could become the targets of the game, adding further interest to people playing the game where they may have to play levels again and again to get all the pieces needed to qualify for a specific offer.

A teenager may get offers around downloading music files, while in the same game, a mid-20s person would get offers for going to a music festival, a mid-30s offers for dining-out – all based on a more complete knowledge of the person and where they are, while also building levels of loyalty based on the playing a game that they may well have decided to play anyway.

The use of gamification is only at an early stage as yet – those vendors who can think inventively and sign up with the right partners could end up dominating the stage, leaving other wanting to play.

Clive Longbottom is founder of Quocirca and is a highly respected and globally recognised industry analyst, covering a range of business and technology areas. Clive’s primary coverage area is business process facilitation. Clive has been an ITC industry analyst for over 15 years. Clive has worked with a range of large and small analyst companies, including META Group (now Gartner) as VP Europe. Clive has a B.Sc. (Hons) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Aston in the UK.