1. Leadership
  2. Women in Business
  3. Managing
  4. Strategy
  5. Personal Growth
We are here for your business - COVID-19 resources >
Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.
Lead Your Team Strategy

What is Gamification?

image for AntonioGuillem / Getty Images
AntonioGuillem / Getty Images

Gamification is the application of game playing elements to non-game environments, which allows social media users to earn rewards for everyday activities such as ordering coffee or watching a movie.  As businesses put game elements into marketing campaigns, consumer products and online applications, they increase customer engagement and loyalty.

Gamification provides businesses with a wealth of customer behavior data and valuable insights into customer activities. This information is part of the Big Data stream that can help business improve operational practices and identify new marketing opportunities.

Rewards can take shape in a number of ways, whether it's earning a badge for checking in to an event or gaining a higher standing on a virtual leaderboard, against both friends and total strangers.

One popular gamification app is Foursquare, which allows users to "check in" to locations that they're visiting, from popular restaurants to more everyday locations, such as parking garages and barber shops. By checking in so often — and to certain places, like Starbucks — users can earn badges or become the "mayor" of a location, if they check in enough times, adding to their virtual popularity.

GetGlue is another site that rewards users who "check in" through gamification, whether they're watching a movie or TV show. They earn virtual stickers as a result, which in turn they can redeem for actual stickers, which are received by mail.

Gamification introduces a competitive edge to everyday life, and also creates more customer engagement. Starbucks, for example, offers special deals for people who check in on Foursquare.

Gamification can also occur in real time. At a Gamification Summit in 2011, Geoff Lewis, co-founder and chief executive officer of Top Guest, described a scenario where an American Airlines traveler had just updated his online Twitter status about getting through airport security and having two hours to spare before his flight.

"Immediately after that tweet in real-time, we would send the absolute right response message to that loyalty program member," Lewis said. "In this case, 'here's an access pass to try out our Admirals Club.'"

But gamification faces limits as different innovators try to gamify classrooms , healthy living initiatives and even government innovation programs. Gabe Zichermann, chair of the Gamification Summit and author of “Gamification by Design and Game-Based Marketing,”and others have warned that no amount of gamification can save a company that has no good content or product to offer. Similarly, gamification can't automatically engage customers who have no interest in the content being offered.

Critics even say that gamification efforts have learned the wrong lesson from game design by overemphasizing points, badges and levels as rewards that motivate people. They argue that game features serve as benchmarks for players in traditional video games to measure their progress; the real motivation and joy comes from the challenge of gameplay and story.

Regardless, gamification is here to stay. Research firm Gartner claims that by 2015 half of all the innovations in the world’s largest companies will be gamified and 70 percent of the companies will be using some sort of gamified application.