Humans are hard wired to enjoy games. We start playing from a very early age to entertain and stimulate ourselves and we continue to play games into later life to challenge ourselves, compete against or work with others and feel the rewards of effort and (hopefully) victory.
Games in essence make things more fun, so it comes as no surprise that there is a growing idea out there – gamification – that aims to utilize game mechanics in non-game scenarios to make things more engaging. Reward, competition, achievement and status are the key elements that transfer from traditional gaming to non-game scenarios, and it’s these elements that marketers, and market researchers, are trying to leverage.
Enhancing your marketing through gamification
Some brands are already using gamification to increase customer engagement. For example, Starbucks developed a ‘My Starbucks Rewards’ app to touch on all the key elements of gamification. It rewards its customers with gold stars after each purchase, which allows them to ‘level up’ until they can achieve gold level status. As customers complete ‘levels’, they are rewarded with loyalty treats such as discounts or free upgrades. Starbucks also offers discounts to customers who check in the most at each individual location (introducing a competitive element). Starbucks now estimates that one-quarter of all transactions are made using the ‘My Starbucks Rewards’ app.
While many other household brands have embraced gamification – McDonalds, Heineken and Nike to name a few – there is currently little evidence to suggest that specialist b2b brands have joined the party. We may expect this to change, as b2b brands tend to ‘borrow’ ideas from their consumer cousins. It could be that in some form or another (particularly rewards for loyal / high volume customers), b2b brands have already been engaging in gamification techniques, without explicitly calling it so.
The challenge however, is that there are few details made publicly available about such initiatives. It seems that those brands stealing the march of the competition are keeping their cards close to their corporate chests.
Applying gamification to market research
Implementing gamification processes can add significant value to market research studies, and B2B International has successfully engaged such techniques in various ways. Gamified survey questions have been shown to increase the volume and depth of responses and to increase response rates. Examples include:
Asking respondents to spend shares in a shortlist of brands, as an alternative to gaining a ranking for which brands they think will grow in the future.
Reframing questions as a mental puzzle, such as asking respondents to name the top 5 brands in a market, as opposed to asking which brands come to mind first when they think of a market.
Engaging respondents in a focus group by asking them to imagine themselves as an investor on ‘Shark Tank’, and asking which product(s) they would invest their money in, as an alternative to gaining a rating for interest in various products.
Drawing out a brands image and most salient associations by asking respondents to write a lifetime achievement award speech for a brand, rather than asking for the top 3 or 5 words that people associate with the brand.
Participants have reported higher enjoyment in a range of studies, including online surveys, telephone interviews, focus groups and ethnographies. In an age when it is increasingly difficult to with motivate respondents and drive engagement with their insights, gamification (when used properly) can empower researchers and clients alike. As Thomas Goetz put it:
“Gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun—just sprinkle a little videogame magic and suddenly a burden turns into bliss.”
Considering the clear benefits of gamification, it may come as a surprise that only 20% of research suppliers are using it in some form (according to the 2015 GRIT report). Suppliers may be holding back due to perceptions of increased complexity or an aversion to risk, i.e. doing things differently. Our view is that applying gamification can be simple, resulting in slight tweaks to a research program rather than wholesale changes.
Gamification has a time and a place in research, and as with all projects, the most effective approach is to use gamification to meet specific client challenges. It is also very important that in manipulating traditional questions, the data still relates to the original objective.
Used carefully and correctly, gamification certainly has broad and applications in marketing and market research and in marketing. Is it time to ‘level up’ your marketing and research strategies?