What is Gamification and How Can It Help My Business?

what is gamification

Gamification is a business tool representing a whole new direction for achieving the goals you have set for your company. But small businesses have been shying away from it because of the emphasis on large, global enterprises deploying the technology. That’s too bad because gamification is a tool small businesses can easily implement to create innovative programs allowing them to compete with large brands.

So What is Gamification?

The simplest definition of gamification is:  a process for integrating game mechanics into something that already exists to motivate participation, engagement and loyalty. This can be almost anything, from your website to social media presence, day-to-day operations, customer engagement and more.

Gamification introduces game design elements into non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. It uses competition, points, achievement, rules of play, status and self-expression to encourage actions through positive feedback.

How can Gamification Help Small Businesses?

Gamification delivers proven and tangible results, which can be measured with the analytics tools most vendors provide. This one is from Bunchball.

What is Gamification and How Can It Help My Business?

Businesses have experienced an increase in engagement across social media, both internally and externally. This includes things like more website traffic, lower times for adoption and conversions from free trial to purchase, and reduction in onboarding time.

However, there is also a downside if not managed properly. Gamification creates high-levels of expectation, which can be responsible for a false set of incentives. Additionally, gamification should compliment any other systems you have in place and not replace it.

And last but not least, the motivation has to be more than money. This is especially true for millennials, who have different sets of motivation than previous generations.

Examples of Gamification

Samsung Nation is another example of gamification. The company rewards its users with badges as they progress through different levels of achievement. The badges and levels are given after users create content, watch videos, review products, engage with their community and other activities.

What is Gamification and How Can It Help My Business?

Again while Samsung is a large enterprise, it is important to note the vast majority of these solutions can be applied by a small business. This is because users are interacting with the same technology — a smartphone, tablet or PC.

It doesn’t matter how large your company is. Gamification can work both as a way to improve your team and engage potential customers

What is more, many small businesses are already using different aspects of gamification, without knowing it. If you give a coupon for an email address and have loyalty cards, those are forms of gamification.

More Examples of Gamification in Business

1. Retail Loyalty Programs

  • Example: A clothing retailer introduces a points system where customers earn points for every purchase, review, or social media share. Accumulated points can be redeemed for discounts, exclusive deals, or early access to new collections. This approach encourages repeated engagement and purchases, turning one-time buyers into loyal customers.

2. Employee Performance and Training

  • Example: A software company uses gamification for its onboarding process by creating a series of levels and badges that new employees earn as they complete training modules and pass quizzes. This method makes learning more engaging and allows managers to track progress in a fun and interactive way.

3. Customer Feedback and Surveys

  • Example: A restaurant chain offers customers a chance to spin a digital wheel for prizes after submitting feedback through their app. This not only incentivizes detailed customer feedback but also enhances customer experience by making them feel valued.

4. Health and Wellness Programs

  • Example: A corporate wellness program uses an app where employees track their physical activities, healthy eating, and meditation sessions to earn points. These points are then linked to health insurance discounts or wellness rewards, promoting a healthier lifestyle among the workforce.

5. Social Media Challenges

  • Example: A beauty brand runs a hashtag challenge on social media, encouraging users to post their makeup looks using the brand’s products. Participants are entered into a contest to win a year’s supply of products. This strategy boosts brand visibility and user-generated content, engaging both existing and potential customers.

6. Educational Apps and Platforms

  • Example: An educational app for children gamifies learning by awarding stars and trophies for completing lessons and quizzes in mathematics, language arts, and science. The app tracks progress and adjusts difficulty levels, keeping students motivated and challenged.

7. Sales Incentives

  • Example: A sales organization implements a leaderboard system where sales representatives earn points for meeting targets, securing new clients, or upselling. Rankings are displayed on a digital dashboard, fostering healthy competition and recognizing top performers with bonuses or rewards.

8. Community Engagement

  • Example: A non-profit organization uses gamification to encourage community participation in clean-up events. Volunteers earn badges and levels for hours contributed, which can be shared on social media. High-level volunteers receive recognition at annual galas, incentivizing participation and spreading awareness.

9. Product Development Feedback

  • Example: A tech company engages its user community in beta testing new features through gamification. Users earn status titles and rewards for reporting bugs, suggesting improvements, or writing reviews. This approach accelerates product refinement and builds a loyal user base.

10. Sustainability and Environmental Initiatives

  • Example: A city’s municipal services app gamifies recycling by allowing residents to scan items they recycle, earning points towards public transit credits or local business coupons. This initiative encourages sustainable practices while promoting local economy.

What is Gamification and How Can It Help My Business?

What is Game Mechanics?

The components of a game are called game mechanics. And as it applies to gamification, the right set of game mechanics are used to engage or motivate the user.

The following 10 game mechanics are used in gamification for applications in different combinations to accomplish the desired goal. They are:

  • Fast Feedback
  • Transparency
  • Goals
  • Badges
  • Leveling Up
  • Onboarding
  • Competition
  • Collaboration
  • Community
  • Points

What Gamification is Not

Gamification is not the creation of games for business application.  According to Bunchball, a leader in gamification solutions, it is “About amplifying the effect of an existing, core experience by applying the motivational techniques that make games so engaging.”

Gamification Solutions

Founded by Rajat Paharia in 2007, today Bunchball supplies solutions for companies including Warner Bro., EA, Adobe, SAP, T-Mobile and many more. But its services it offers can also be used by small businesses.

What is Gamification and How Can It Help My Business?

Some of the other companies providing gamification solutions are: MLevel, LevelEleven, Badgeville, and Intuitive. There are vendors specializing in different segments, including sales, education and customer loyalty.

Most of these companies and others have a free trial period with limited features. If you want a free solution you can also try OpenBadges. Developed by Mozilla, it is an open source platform for creating and issuing badges to your employees after they go through a training or achieve a milestone.

Implementing Gamification in Your Small Business

Now that you understand the value of gamification for small businesses, let’s explore how to implement it effectively. Here are some practical steps and considerations:

  • Define Clear Objectives: Start by identifying specific goals you want to achieve through gamification. Whether it’s increasing customer engagement, improving employee performance, or enhancing product adoption, having clear objectives is crucial.
  • Know Your Audience: Understand your target audience’s preferences, behaviors, and motivations. Tailor your gamification strategy to align with their interests and needs.
  • Choose the Right Platform: Select the platforms or channels where you’ll implement gamification. This could be your website, mobile app, social media, or even your physical store.
  • Select Appropriate Game Mechanics: Based on your objectives and audience, choose the game mechanics that best fit your gamification strategy. Consider elements like points, badges, leaderboards, and challenges.
  • Set Rules and Guidelines: Establish clear rules and guidelines for your gamification program. Ensure that participants understand how the game works and what they can achieve by participating.
  • Create Compelling Rewards: Design enticing rewards that motivate participation. These rewards don’t have to be monetary; they can include recognition, exclusive access, or personalized experiences.
  • Promote Engagement: Use storytelling and narratives to make the gamification experience more immersive. Craft a compelling story around your gamified elements to enhance engagement.
  • Monitor and Measure: Implement tracking and analytics tools to monitor the performance of your gamification program. Track key metrics such as user engagement, completion rates, and ROI.
  • Iterate and Improve: Regularly analyze the data and feedback from your gamification efforts. Use this information to make adjustments and improvements to the program over time.
  • Educate and Train: Ensure that both your employees and customers understand how to participate in the gamification program. Provide training and support as needed.
  • Avoid Overcomplication: While gamification can be intricate, strive to keep it user-friendly and not overly complex. A simple, intuitive experience is more likely to succeed.
  • Stay Consistent: Maintain consistency in your gamification strategy across different touchpoints and channels. This ensures a cohesive and seamless user experience.
  • Adapt to Feedback: Be open to feedback from participants and be willing to make changes based on their suggestions. User input can lead to valuable improvements.
  • Compliance and Privacy: Pay attention to data privacy regulations and ensure that your gamification program complies with relevant laws. Protect user data and respect their privacy.
StepDescription and Considerations
Define Clear ObjectivesIdentify specific goals such as increasing customer engagement, improving employee performance, or enhancing product adoption.
Know Your AudienceUnderstand your target audience's preferences, behaviors, and motivations to tailor your gamification strategy accordingly.
Choose the Right PlatformSelect the appropriate platforms (e.g., website, mobile app, social media, physical store) for implementing gamification.
Select Appropriate Game MechanicsChoose game mechanics (e.g., points, badges, leaderboards, challenges) that align with your objectives and audience preferences.
Set Rules and GuidelinesEstablish clear rules and guidelines to ensure participants understand how the gamification program works and what they can achieve.
Create Compelling RewardsDesign motivating rewards (not limited to monetary) such as recognition, exclusive access, or personalized experiences.
Promote EngagementUse storytelling and narratives to create an immersive gamification experience and enhance user engagement.
Monitor and MeasureImplement tracking and analytics tools to monitor program performance, tracking key metrics like user engagement and ROI.
Iterate and ImproveRegularly analyze data and feedback to make necessary adjustments and improvements to the gamification program.
Educate and TrainEnsure that both employees and customers understand how to participate, providing training and support as needed.
Avoid OvercomplicationStrive for user-friendly gamification; avoid unnecessary complexity, as simplicity often leads to better success.
Stay ConsistentMaintain consistency in gamification strategy across different channels for a cohesive user experience.
Adapt to FeedbackBe open to feedback from participants and be willing to make changes based on their suggestions for program improvement.
Compliance and PrivacyAdhere to data privacy regulations, ensuring your gamification program complies with relevant laws and protects user data.

Gamification Best Practices for Small Businesses

Now that you’re ready to embark on your gamification journey, here are some best practices to ensure your small business makes the most of this innovative strategy:

  • Start Small: Begin with a manageable gamification project, especially if it’s your first foray into this field. Starting small allows you to learn and refine your approach before scaling up.
  • User-Centric Design: Place the user experience at the center of your gamification efforts. Ensure that the gamified elements are intuitive and enjoyable for your target audience.
  • Foster Competition and Collaboration: Strike a balance between healthy competition and collaboration. Gamification can encourage individuals to excel while promoting teamwork and cooperation among employees or customers.
  • Feedback Loops: Implement real-time feedback mechanisms to keep participants informed about their progress. This instant gratification can be a powerful motivator.
  • Customization Options: Offer participants the flexibility to personalize their gamification experience to some extent. This can enhance their sense of ownership and engagement.
  • Regular Challenges: Introduce periodic challenges and updates to keep the gamification experience fresh and exciting. This prevents stagnation and maintains interest over time.
  • Gamify Training and Onboarding: Use gamification to streamline employee training and onboarding processes. It can make learning more engaging and efficient.
  • Celebrate Milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate significant milestones achieved by participants. Recognition and rewards for accomplishments can drive ongoing engagement.
  • Feedback Channels: Create channels for participants to provide feedback on the gamification program. Act on their suggestions to continuously improve the experience.
  • Cross-Functional Teams: Involve employees from various departments in the design and management of your gamification initiative. Their diverse perspectives can lead to more comprehensive solutions.
  • Transparency: Be transparent about the rules, rewards, and progress tracking within your gamification program. This transparency builds trust with participants.
  • Mobile Accessibility: Ensure that your gamification platform is mobile-friendly. Many users engage with content on their smartphones, so accessibility is key.
  • Budget Wisely: Allocate a reasonable budget for your gamification efforts, but be mindful of cost-effectiveness. The goal is to achieve a positive ROI.
  • Long-Term Commitment: Recognize that gamification is not a short-term fix but a long-term strategy. Commit to its ongoing development and maintenance.
  • Measure and Adjust: Continuously monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and be prepared to adjust your strategy based on data and feedback.
Best PracticeDescription and Considerations
Start SmallBegin with a manageable gamification project, especially if it's your first attempt. This allows for learning and refinement before scaling.
User-Centric DesignPrioritize the user experience, ensuring that gamified elements are intuitive and enjoyable for the target audience.
Foster Competition and CollaborationStrike a balance between competition and collaboration, encouraging excellence while promoting teamwork and cooperation.
Feedback LoopsImplement real-time feedback mechanisms to keep participants informed about their progress, motivating them along the way.
Customization OptionsOffer participants the flexibility to personalize their gamification experience to enhance engagement and a sense of ownership.
Regular ChallengesIntroduce periodic challenges and updates to maintain interest and prevent stagnation in the gamification experience.
Gamify Training and OnboardingStreamline employee training and onboarding with gamification to make learning more engaging and efficient.
Celebrate MilestonesAcknowledge and celebrate participants' significant milestones with recognition and rewards to foster ongoing engagement.
Feedback ChannelsCreate accessible feedback channels for participants to provide input, using their suggestions to improve the gamification program.
Cross-Functional TeamsInvolve employees from various departments in the design and management of your gamification initiative for diverse perspectives.
TransparencyBuild trust with participants by being transparent about program rules, rewards, and progress tracking.
Mobile AccessibilityEnsure that the gamification platform is mobile-friendly to accommodate users who engage with content on their smartphones.
Budget WiselyAllocate a reasonable budget for gamification efforts, focusing on cost-effectiveness to achieve a positive return on investment.
Long-Term CommitmentRecognize that gamification is a long-term strategy, committing to its ongoing development and maintenance for sustained success.
Measure and AdjustContinuously monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), ready to adjust the gamification strategy based on data and feedback.


In order for a gamification solution to be successful, it has to be well designed, executed and maintained. The methods have to be varied, and the information it provides has to be used to improve not only your business, but the application itself. Gamification is not a panacea that will magically make everything better. But it has proven tools for improving the engagement level of employees and customers can also be fun and engaging.

compete with large brands Photo via Shutterstock

Michael Guta Michael Guta is the Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends and has been with the team for 9 years. He currently manages its East African editorial team. Michael brings with him many years of content experience in the digital ecosystem covering a wide range of industries. He holds a B.S. in Information Communication Technology, with an emphasis in Technology Management.