Engagement is essentially the thing that makes the world go round. Today, we want to discuss the power of gamification with three real-life examples.
When you take kids to school you want them to be engaged in their studies, otherwise, they will get bored, learn nothing, start misbehaving.
When you go to work, you want your employers to be engaged with their tasks: dozens of studies have shown that people work better when they are engaged.
When you come up with a new product, a new app, a new anything, you want people to enjoy using it more than anything else, even if the app is about something as dull as keeping finances together. In fact, let’s stop here for a second. Some apps are naturally engaging: it’s fun to take pictures, chat on Facebook (well, mostly fun), play Candy Crush, or choose a nail polish. It’s not as much fun organizing your work, finances, trying to lead a healthier or more eco-friendly lifestyle, and so on. And that’s when gamification comes in.
What Is Gamification?
Gamification is a rather new concept in a grand scheme of things. New products get developed every day and brand loyalty is at its worst. It’s not enough that your product does what it is supposed to well: it has to make a user enjoy the process, maybe even become addicted to the product, in a way. The elements that are usually included to make the app more gamified are the following:
- Points or purchase-based rewards
- Social interactions and sharing
- Stories and choose-your-own-adventure plots
Let’s look at some apps that nailed gamification and became enjoyable and addictive – and break down the reasons for their success.
Uber has a task that’s twice harder than that of most apps. Ideally, it has to make the process gamified for both drivers and customers. Most of their effort is directed at drivers because the customer’s benefit of using Uber over taxi is much clearer.
First, Uber uses what is called a “ludic loop” to keep the driver working. Ludic loop creates a feeling of progress toward a certain goal that is always just beyond the player’s grasp. Just when the driver is about to log out, he or she is told that there’s only a bit left till they will earn X amount of money. This creates anticipation, the next goal, the urge to go on. Anyone who’s had to finish the book because the answer to the next mystery always seemed to be very close or binge-watched Netflix knows what it feels like.
An interesting piece was published by NPR.
Second, Uber drivers receive a new job before the current job is done. Seems familiar? Does Netflix also show you an image from the next episode that you can click on just a second before you feel like you’re done with the series for tonight?
In fact, it’s been working so well for Uber that they faced the problem of binge-driving: drivers working with absolutely no breaks. Uber had to take measures, of course, for the safety reasons.
And on top of that, drivers earn badges. A badge for “Excellent Service” or “Great Conversation” might not seem like anything, but they have enormous power in getting people to try and earn more. Just think of video games and you will be able to relate.
What About Uber Customers?
Remember how we talked about unpredictable rewards? Every time you open Uber, you don’t really know the price.
Nine out of ten times it would be what you kind of expect it to be, but sometimes it would be a low demand hour and the price would be just so much lower. You won! Two out of ten times it would be just a bit lower than you expected. Second place, let’s say, but you still feel like a winner. Then sometimes you will notably lose… But that’s what the game is all about, isn’t it?
Starbucks did very well with the Starbucks Reward app. Projections state that Starbucks will triple its revenue over the next five years. The rules of Starbucks’ Reward program are simple, clear, and don’t differ much from any game you’ve played around when the mobile phones just came out.
With every purchased Starbucks product, users accumulate stars. Stars look like cups that are graphically filled in: pretty and fun. The closer the customer is to the goal (e.g., becoming a gold member), the faster he or she spends. After becoming the next-level member, the customer is offered a range of benefits: an extra cup of coffee, a birthday gift, or offers designed specifically for the customer. Fun, diverse, personalized! 🏆 The user quickly forgets they would have spent less if they had just bought all of these “benefits” at some point.
Starbucks also uses deadlines. To stay gold, users have to collect a minimum of 300 points within the year. This creates a sense of urgency on one hand: you can’t just forget about Starbucks, quit coffee for a couple of months, and then get back to it… or not. On the other hand, this makes use of the people’s urge to be consistent: they’ve already been a gold user for one year, they won’t be willing to give it up. It is self-image, it’s prestige. It’s the “badges” they’ve earned.
As you can see, gamification isn’t just for the customer “to have fun”. It employs psychological principles and works on a deep level to make sure the user keeps using.
3. Forest App
And finally, let’s talk about the app that made me download it the moment I read the description. It’s a productivity app that helps you stay focused: ForestApp. It’s gamified around making the world a better place in a very direct way: every time you manage to stay focused, you plant a tree.
Let me explain. While the app is on and you’re focused on whatever you do and don’t touch the phone for a set time period (you set the time period) – the tree is growing. Once you close the app, the tree dies. Sounds horrible, right? You wouldn’t want a potential tree to die, you’ve got to stay focused! I don’t know, it worked for me, at least, and that’s something. Of course, first, you grow a virtual forest. But after growing a virtual forest you earn virtual currency to purchase real trees.
A number of reviewers pointed out that the app is not perfect. There’re troubles with design and it’s not easily understood. However, such thoughtful gamification makes it worth it. It almost takes the mind away from the fact that it’s a productivity app and its main purpose is for you to do your work and not get distracted. And fight the addiction to technology. And save the planet.
Lesser known examples can be found in another article detailing why gamification works. From feedback survey gamification with Feedier to SEO gamification with Morningscore.io, we got you covered. 👐
It’s important to understand that gamification uses the same motivational psychological principles that have always been around: self-affirmation, competition, peer support. The real magic and innovation are in the technology that makes it possible, in how motivation became digital and possible to apply to almost any product niche.
About The Author
Also published on Medium.