Let’s backtrack a second. Gamification is the process of using game-like elements into business and marketing strategies.
One of the simplest forms of gamification is getting a stamp every time you buy a coffee. Collect ten stamps and you get a free drink. It’s like completing a level and getting a reward.
Online, it could be the use of gaming elements like leaderboards, progress bars, and loyalty points. These tricks tap into our natural instincts: competition, exploration, curiosity.
In fact, it’s a very clever use of psychology.
Who’s using gamification?
Well, in 2016, just about everyone. In fact, 50% of startups recently polled said they were integrating gaming elements into their strategy this year. But who’s doing it best?
Nike’s running app, Nike+ is one of the world’s standout gamified products.
Why? It taps into our natural competitive spirit. The app tracks our running statistics and measures our progress towards goals. It compells us to go out and beat our record next time around.
Not only that, but it hooks up to social media so we can compete with (or show off to) our friends. The advantage for Nike is that it gets more people out and running which – ultimately – drives Nike sales.
Gamification works especially well when your content is dense or complicated. Learning code is particularly tricky, so Codecademy uses gamification to make it fun and addictive.
Check out this dashboard below. It looks more like a Legend of Zelda dashboard than a tutorial website.
Duolingo does a similar thing but for language learning.
As you can see, the app uses multiple choice questions and mapped out stages to keep users interested. You can also set goals, pick up badges, and earn points to buy power-ups along the way.
Mint Money Manager
It doesn’t get much more dull than managing your money. Mint tries to make it a little easier with some simple gaming elements.
The app tracks your spending and measures your progress against personal finance goals.
Starbucks runs one of the most successful gamified reward and loyalty programs out there.
Using ‘My Starbucks Rewards’, users get a gold star every time they pay for their coffee using the mobile app. Five gold stars grants you ‘green’ status which entitles you to free refills.
When you reach 30 stars, you unlock ‘gold’ membership, and you get a customized gold card. It’s an ingenious gamified move to create exclusivity and elevated status. Obviously, we all want the gold card!
The psychology: why does gamification work?
Okay, so these examples show what gamification looks like in the real world. But what makes it so powerful?
Quite simply, it triggers emotions that are linked to positive user experience. And if you followed our series on user experience, you know these emotions are very important indeed.
1. It gives the user control
We’ve talked before about getting your visitor from point A to point B.
Leading a potential customer towards your desired goal is all part of the user journey.
However, simple psychology tells us people don’t like to be forced or dragged to the destination. They like to be the masters of their own destiny. Most people like to feel in control.
So make it seem like they’re in the driving seat. That’s the core of gamification.
It’s like a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ book or picking which level to play in a game.
Online courses do this very well, like Codeacademy, as we looked at earlier. Another example is Udemy, a site that hosts courses on all sorts of topics.