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What Is Gamification? (+7 Examples to Help Inspire Your Business)

January 11, 2019

We have all played games; we all like games in some way, shape, or form; and we have all been hooked to something at some point.

Games are powerful. Games have the power to make us addicted.

This is the reason why we want to demystify gamification and help you understand how it can help you increase engagement and make your products easier to deal with.

TIP: For those ready to learn more about gamification tools, check out the best gamification software in 2019.

What is gamification?

In simple terms, gamification is about taking fun, compelling, interactive elements from games and applying them to productive, day-to-day activities.

The goal is to make the product or service less boring, more engaging, and, eventually, more attractive.

People don’t like spending hours on boring things, but they do enjoy spending hours playing and having fun.

Think about the last time you played Mario Kart. Even if you felt guilty for playing it, you still made it through the game, did your best, and stayed focus. Even better, if you won, you felt a surge of emotion and happiness that you accomplished something.

This is what games are about. They are powerful and make us feel like we achieve something.

Don't consider gamification as a game, though. This is anything but a game.

Gamification is a concept that involves picking the best part from games and applying them in our usual activities.

As Yukai Chou puts it, gamification is, “Human-focused design (as opposed to function-focused design).”   

What makes gamification successful?

“Good gamification doesn’t start with game elements; it starts with our core drives.”

These are Yu-kai Chou’s words in his TEDx Talk about gamification to improve our world

He came up with this design framework that is worth knowing about and particularly interesting when it comes to giving an extensive definition of gamification.

This framework is made up of eight parts; they are all interconnected and make up one slice of everything you do as a human.

octaysis-gamification-framework(Gamification Framework By Yukai Chou)

So, why do games drive human behavior?

Games have no other purpose than to please the individuals playing them.

Yes, there are often objectives in games – such as winning a race or getting as many points as we can like in our previous Mario example. However, “Those are all excuses to simply keep the player happily entertained.”

Games work because they appeal to certain core drives within us that push us to do something.

Core drives:

    1. Epic meaning & calling: Make people things bigger than they are.
    2. Development & accomplishment: Give something back to your users. Consider a reward, for instance. Numbers are more addictive; instead of simply stating that you won, we tell you that you won 800 points.  
    3. Empowerment of creativity & feedback: Get immediate feedback on what you do. Gamification is about teaching, not just entertaining. We ask you a question, you get an immediate response and additional resource.
    4. Ownership & possession: You own what you do, and you want to get better at it.
    5. Social influence & relatedness: Most games let you socialize and interact with other stakeholders. Addiction builds up as you grow your network. The more people that use the product, the more effective it becomes; this is a pure definition of the network effect. People are always eager to compete.
    6. Scarcity & impatience: This is all the marketing that will work to spark fears of missing out.
    7. Unpredictability & curiosity: We ask you to do something to discover more. We test your knowledge before you can dive deeper into the game.
    8. Loss & avoidance: Avoid something bad from happening. It will allow you to keep pushing to reach the end and make sure the progress all gets saved.

Benefits of gamification

Entertaining your users, or at least hooking them with elements inspired by games, has the benefit of building brand loyalty and deeper relationships.

Games motivate your users. They fulfill them, but keep them wanting more.

For instance, consider a case of giving something away in exchange for a task the user completes – such as filling out a survey. Besides delighting the user and valuing their time, it inspires them to do more. You’re hooking the users in by giving them skin in the game, creating more loyal users. This, in turn, builds up the retention of your users and reduces the risk of churn. Because your users are satisfied, you reap the benefits of increased acquisition through word-of-mouth.

Risks of gamification

As with any growth strategy, gamification comes with its own set of challenges and risks. So, don’t apply gamification because we tell you to or because it’s trendy.

Gamification is just one lever you can use to spark user engagement, but you must be aware of its pitfalls. It can work or fail. If done poorly, it can be a total disaster.

For gamification to work, you need three critical elements:

  1. Context: The gamification element should relate to your industry or even a very specific topic. You can’t give tokens if people can’t do anything with those tokens.
  2. Value: Users have to feel as if they are getting value from the activities they do –whether that's status, rewards, or knowledge.
  3. Success: If you make a gamification strategy too complex, nobody will be able to complete the challenge. Instead of creating engagement, you’ll create frustration. Goals and objectives must be achievable.

7 gamification examples in business

There are different industries leveraging gamification. We won't cover all of them, but we'll try to give you a clear overview of some, ranging from education to retail.

1. Gamification in education

We blame students for not being actively engaged with courses and always checking their phones, but, in reality, they're bored. Students are doing everything they can to entertain themselves

So, instead, we have to make them feel like they have the choice.

This is covered below in a TEDx talk by Scott Hebert.

When people have fun, they hardly remember that they’re learning. This knowledge can become particularly beneficial to small business owners who create online courses.

Duolingo is a perfect example. With its mobile application, the brand manages to make learning foreign languages fun and attractive.

Duolingo created a four-point gamification strategy that has turned out to be very effective.

Four-point gamification strategy:

  • Users can set themselves specific small concrete goals that they can achieve every day. Trying to learn an entire language is a huge goal that takes a long time to achieve. By breaking that goal down into smaller achievable daily goals or tasks, we encourage users to come back daily and stick with it.
  • Show progress toward the bigger goal.
  • Use external triggers to bring users back to the platform (i.e. emails and notifications to come back online every 23.5 hours).
  • "The Steak." Reward people for coming back and being consistent users.

2. Gamification in marketing

Marketing is another field that could benefit from gamification, particularly B2B marketing.

Before clicking publish on your next blog article and moving on, add a quiz to the bottom of the post. Ask users to answer questions about what they read in the post and provide them with something in exchange.

For instance, of the people who score 100 percent on the test, you could randomly draw a prize winner. You could also organize a contest for your blog readers – using gamification as a lead magnet.

One great software is LetX, with its easy-to-use spin-wheel solution.

3. Gamification in customer success

SaaS companies are always looking after their metrics (i.e. churn rate, NPS, conversion, etc), and they are looking for ways to spring them up.


By understanding their customers' needs and jobs to be done. (What better version of themselves do they envision?)

In order to find that out, companies often run surveys or interviews, but complain about bad response rates or low engagement within their feedback campaigns.

Gamification is a great way to get better feedback.

Engage Research and GMI found that gamified surveys produce higher quantity and quality feedback.

"We got two or even three times as much feedback to the more engaging questions, and participants consistently took more time providing their answers...We explored how rules that we all know from playing games could be adapted to turn questions into puzzles. A question such as, “Describe yourself,” yielded on average 2.4 descriptive words with effectively 85 percent of respondents answering. When that question was changed to present the challenge, “Describe yourself in exactly seven words,” the descriptors increased to an average of 4.5 and the response rate rose to 98 percent."

They also included game mechanics, like rewards and feedback. Their research shows that almost everyone responds to game mechanics, and these techniques give results. 

4. Gamification in social media

Let’s say that you own a productivity application. You could create a gamification system where people publish their latest achievements on social media using your contest as a hashtag and earn points or badges as they share.

5. Gamification in health care

Having resolutions is easy, but sticking with them is another thing.

Fitness and health-related resolutions are known for being lost in less than two months.

Lucky us, gamification can help.

People are more likely to reach their goals – fitness or nutrition, for instance – faster if they’re competing against a clock, earning victory badges, or beating their friends in steps walked, miles ran, or healthy calories consumed. 

Fitbit is a great example of this. Statistics are uploaded on the platform in real-time and users compete with their networks as they work toward weight-loss and fitness goals.

6. Gamification in the workplace

There are employee engagement applications using gamification to keep their employees engaged. A recent gamification in the workplace survey from TalentLMS revealed that 87% of employees agree that gamification makes them more productive at work.

For instance, hubEngage uses points, badges, leaderboards, quizzes, and other game mechanics. Each employee gets their own dashboard, which comes with a progress bar to indicate completion. There is also a leaderboard to create fierce competition between employees.

You can use a third-party app like hubEngage or create your own gamification strategy.

Either way, you can encourage employee participation by offering small, tangible rewards for reaching certain milestones. Gift cards, small gifts, and even a bonus on employees checks can provide powerful motivation to keep participating.

Gamification also plays a role in the new trends of referral recruiting by turning the act of employee referrals into a competition leading to prizes or bonuses.

7. Gamification in retail

Starbucks with its Starbucks Reward application is a great example of gamification in the retail world.

With every purchase, customers accumulate stars. Those stars are actually cups that are graphically filled in.

The closer a customer is to a goal (i.e. becoming a gold member), the faster they spend. After becoming the next-level member, the customer is offered a range of benefits (i.e. an extra cup of coffee, a birthday gift, or offers designed specifically for the customer), creating a reward program that is fun, diverse, and personalized!

This is a great way for Starbucks to boost its loyalty and increase average customer spendings.

Wrapping up

Gamification is not about simply adding points, rewards, and leaderboards to your products. Gamification is a strategy. It must be thought through and defined with clear SMART goals.

Gamification is on the rise, and it will help you engage with your customers and hook them.

If you haven’t used some element of game mechanics in your marketing or product strategy, now is the time to get your hands dirty.

Incorporate gamification into ultra-targeted campaigns using the G2 Buyer Intent + Terminus integration. 

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