In the last three years, gamification has established itself as a strategic staple when it comes to audience engagement. Look at the world around you! Almost every aspect of the media wants to involve you in their product.Even advertisements have become an interactive experience. The consumer has more control than ever before, and everyone wants a piece of what promises to be a multi-billion dollar industry in the next five to seven years.
The Key to Success
The most successful of versions of the gamification model are those which use rewards based incentives, but keep in mind that they may not be the rewards one would traditionally expect. The psychology of the consumer is evolving and developers need to adapt in order to stay relevant. The key to the most successful gamification implementations rely on a hierarchy of concepts; status, access, power, and last (and certainly least) stuff.
Gamification relies on one essential idea: incentive. The user needs to feel that the time they invest in an application is worth it. Building customer loyalty through incentive is a classic model, but now with gamified content, users are coming to expect a more sophisticated form of benefit. A business that thinks they could succeed by offering t-shirts and novelty pens to dedicated users will not last very long in a market that craves more then cheap goods. Customer loyalty is key. You want the consumer to choose your service over the sea of others available. Loyalty should be rewarded with power on the site. Whether it is a moderator position or even special access to exclusive content. The fact that the user is privy to something that not everyone else is strengthens their dedication.
The main focus should always be reaching the user emotionally. My SocialTV application, Insticator, bases its entire premise on the assumption that people deeply care about the television shows they watch. TV narratives lend themselves to in-depth speculation andinsticator.com gives users an outlet to validate their theories.
Positive reinforcement also plays a substantial role in user retention. For example, Insticator offers users a wide array of achievements to motivate them to come back to the site again and again. Achievements are measured by points, badges, and leaderboards, filling the consumer with a sense of pride. The addition of real world prizes bolsters that incentive but should not be confused as the primary motivating factor. In reality, the prizes are secondary to the feeling of prominence in an online community.
When the Stuff Matters
The importance of tangible rewards is entirely dependent on the ecosystem of the environment the consumer is engaging in. If the execution of the product is weak then the importance of the stuff increases dramatically, but that is not a model that any product/service should rely on. What a start-up should take the time to establish is a sense of community. The status gained by achievements and rewards means almost nothing if the user does not feel a connection to the application.