Gamification In Business

Written by: Sufiz Suffian, Head of Business Development

Gamification is quickly gaining traction all over the world, including Malaysia and can be seen just about anywhere.

In fact, you may have already interacted with elements of gamification numerous times over the past couple of hours, whether it was through social media, e-commerce sites, or while purchasing groceries at your local supermarket.

So before we dive deeper into how gamification has invaded our lives, it is best to first understand what gamification even is.

What Is Gamification?

In my career, I have come across many misinterpretations of gamification. Although the name does include the word "game", it is often not as simple as that.

Gamification is the concept of using game design elements in non-game applications to make it more fun and engaging. In short, it is essentially behavioural psychology in human-centric design that you can interact with just about anywhere.

Gamification has the capability to motivate an individual to display a particular behaviour or undertake a series of actions for a specific goal or purpose. This is accomplished by encouraging users to engage in these behaviours by showing them a scaffolded path to mastery, and by taking advantage of our human psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

Gamification involves identifying "player types" and their corresponding motivational drives.

By understanding who your target audience is, you are able to include motivational elements to spur your audience to act in a particular manner that would benefit you and possibly your business.

Moreover, if these motivational elements and desired behaviours occur frequently enough and in the right order, users will begin to develop habits that will keep them coming back for more.

After all, everyone loves games, so why not turn everything into one?

Why Gamification?

Whether it's collecting points to unlock discounts or prizes during your next purchase, or to earn higher cashback rates by making a transaction at certain business establishments, with the right motivation and the right "reward" (be it intrinsic or extrinsic), businesses have got you right where they want you.

For instance, Facebook alone uses endless elements of gamification, from collecting likes on your recent status update, or having your friends share an article you posted on your page. As of 2017, daily social media usage of global internet users amounted to 135 minutes per day, up from 126 daily minutes in the previous year!

Unsurprisingly, the world has also taken notice of gamification. In 2014, the global gamification market size was approximately USD 960.5 million and is expected to reach USD 22,913.0 million by 2022, at a CAGR of 41.8%.

There is even an increased interest in gamification globally as shown by significantly improved Google search trends for gamification over the years, including in Malaysia.

Google Trends for gamification worldwide.

Google Trends for gamification worldwide.

So what sort of gamification is already out there and what can you learn from them to potentially inject some of it into your own business?

Examples of Gamification

The e-commerce giant Lazada is among many businesses that frequently uses gamification to drive their sales revenue. By shopping via their mobile application, you can access an array of gamified promotions and vouchers. Most have elements of scarcity and/or time limitations to spur users to quickly take action on their purchases.

Example of Lazada’s gamified promotions and vouchers.

Example of Lazada’s gamified promotions and vouchers.

What's more, after getting your first good deal via Lazada, you'll be motivated to open the app again and again just to chase the next great deal.

Lazada also has "shake rewards" which has become a growing trend among businesses in Malaysia. This includes implementation by mobile wallet Boost, and multinational banking and financial services company Standard Chartered. By using your mobile device's motion sensors, users can shake their device to gain random rewards or vouchers which they can then redeem during their next purchase.

Example of Lazada’s Shake-It Campaign.

Example of Standard Chartered’s Shake & Win Campaign

Example of Standard Chartered’s Shake & Win Campaign

Another example is DooIt, an online live trivia game show where participants log into their mobile application at certain times of the day to answer a series of questions to win a share of the daily prize money. Yes, actual money.

Advertisements are peppered in between questions and pleasantries by the game show "hosts" while the participants are concentrating hard on their screens to quickly select the correct answers to each question within the limited time. What you have here is a fully engaged audience that have made time in their busy schedules to participate in a game with other like-minded participants (which normally number in the thousands at least) just to win a small share of the prize money.

This creates a unique platform for businesses to advertise their products and services to an audience that is fully listening during an age when advertisements have cluttered every public and virtual space available (think advertisements on billboards, television, radio, websites, etc.).

Gamification has also been used in fields of medical research, particularly AIDS.

For 15 years, many experts in the world were hard at work trying to decipher a crystal structure for one of the AIDS-causing viruses known as the Mason-Pfizer Monkey virus (M-PMV), but were unsuccessful.

The University of Washington's Center for Game Science collaborated with the Biochemistry department and FoldIt, an online puzzle game about protein folding, was developed. Over 240,000 players all over the world registered for the game and competed against each other. As a result, a solution to the structure of the M-PMV was found in merely 10 days!

This was a major breakthrough in the AIDS research field which these experts could not accomplish in 15 years, while a game did it in a fraction of that time with the help of many competitive gamers.

Image of FoldIt online puzzle game for AIDS research

Image of FoldIt online puzzle game for AIDS research

The simple act of shaking your device, opening a mobile application at specific times of the day, answering trivia questions, or competing against strangers to solve complex puzzles for any kind of reward, be it big or small, creates a feeling of satisfaction, success, achievement or victory for the user which can trigger the release of endorphins (the feel good hormone) in the brain, which makes the user feel better about themselves. It's no surprise how this can quickly turn into a habit for the user.

It is clear that gamification is nothing to sneeze at and it will continue to grow in relevance throughout the world, including the business world.

Business owners have often been stumped with the problem of generating more revenue, customers, and market share. Just as these PHD-wielding scientists had spent 15 years of their lives trying to solve an equation to the Mason-Pfizer Monkey virus. Perhaps the formula they have been seeking all this time was right under their noses.

The formula was most likely, the often underestimated: gamification.