Get Your Business Game On with “The Gamification Revolution”

business gameCircuses were meant to draw the audience’s eye to various clowns, acrobats, trapeze performers and artists meant to bedazzle and delight.  With more people spending time online, companies can feel as if they have to run Barnum and Bailey rather than a company.

One entertainment concept that has spread through the last few years is gamification – connecting to customers through implementing design concepts from games and loyalty programs based on behavioral economics.  The concept is the study of a new book The Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics to Crush The Competition.

The authors, Gamification.co CEO, Gabe Zicherman, and Joselin Linder, wrote the book believing that long term customer value awaits those business that make engagement rewarding for the customer.   I discovered the book via NetGallery and requested a review copy.

This book is not meant to explain check-ins and game app code planning. But the book is an opening round in understanding how to engage a company and customers with gamification techniques — techniques that have arisen with the age of mobile computing and app development.

The process of implementing these games and strategies into business is called gamification.  With it you can build experiences that will provide built-in meaning and trigger the motivation of employees and customers.

The cost for not developing interest can be severe. Zicherman and Linder outline an example from Fox Meyer, once the fourth largest drug distributor in the United States:

“Without employee and customer engagement, the best laid strategies and tactics are doomed to fail…. [Fox Meyer] began a project with the software management firm SAP and the business management firm Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) for the purpose of transitioning to a new enterprise resource plan (ERP), which would serve as the back-end system for the automation of its warehouses. Despite an aggressive 18 month rollout program, the company did one major thing wrong. It forgot to engage its employee base…. By 1998 the $5 billion company went bankrupt.”

The value derived can be significant as well.  Companies are using gamification to change their businesses and to drive behavioral economics. In fact, the best businesses figured this out even before the dawn of jQuery.  A mention of McDonald’s success with its Monopoly reveals the author’s penchant for context from history:

“According to the company, the game itself was responsible for 5.5 percent same-store revenue lift in a single month for the 4th quarter of 2011. This equates to approximately 350 million dollars in incremental revenue over 60 days of the promotion.”

Jump to today’s gaming environment, where even console games are being challenged (my Atari 2600 is weeping as I write this!);

”What’s more, mobile games, especially social and casual games (like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Tiny Wings), are rapidly taking over where consoles and MMOG once were king. A recent study from MocoSpace found that while 80 percent of social gamers play while commuting or waiting to begin appointments, 96 percent admit that they are playing these games at home from their couch, bed, or front porch…. These hundreds of millions of players and their numbers are growing all the time — are changing the way we think about games and the gamers, and they are demanding a more games like experience from the rest of their world.”

The World According to App

Game terms such as game mechanics, points, badges and leaderboards are introduced.  But do not look for code or discussion about best programming development.  Instead the book focuses on ideas best meant for brainstorming.  You’ll learn why rewards are popular – they lead to status, access, and power.

The main process that makes games possible are laid out in six motivations – desire incentive, challenge,  achievement, reward, feedback, mastery.  To make these motivations real, goals are established in the game, but most games are now designed such that winning is not the main objective.

Readers who own small businesses can benefit by paying attention to the behavior shifts mentioned in The Gamification Revolution. The author delves into the behavior economics and gets to the heart as to what is on the customer’s mind.  Cultural attitudes towards automobiles is highlighted here. In previous generations, teenagers dreamt of getting a driver’s license and the perceived freedom that would come with driving where they want. Recent research has discovered that today’s young adults are ambivalent about driving. The fact that automobiles include more technology as a selling point is an affirmation of the shift.

Topics like this are supported with the author’s questions meant to help the reader think about how behaviors are shifting.

Your Move

The text can feel like a word version of the game RISK.  Zicherman and Linder provide interesting historical facts that give context to how gaming has really been a part of how things get done.  Did you know refrigeration came from Napoleon offering a prize for better food supplies for his military campaigns?

“In 1795 he offered 12,000 francs to the invention that could solve the food presentation problem.”

The historical factoids help drive home the point that much of gamification is not brand new – it’s been around for generations in different ways.

Of course, a book about gamification should demonstrate gamification, right?  The Gamification Revolution includes an app that supports the text in the book. It includes video collaboration tools with friends to see your ideas and a social media link for the company’s profiles in the book.

All in all you’ll learn that the best way to beat the competition is to let your employees and customers experience as much fun as possible.  The Gamification Revolution will show the way to what fun works – while still having fun all the while.

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Pierre DeBois - Associate Book Editor


Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.

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