Gamification: Why Play?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how people spend their time online. The post contained an infographic that predicted the most popular online activity and trend of the future to be location-based services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places. In order to entice people to “check in” as often as possible these services have to “gamify” the process, and one of the main reasons location-based services have become so popular is exactly their gamifying elements.

Last week, I wrote a blog post about Facebook’s new app center. In its announcement of the launch Facebook also released the following statistics that reveal exactly how many people actually want to play games on Facebook:

  • More than 230 million people play games on Facebook every month.
  • More than 130 games on Facebook have over 1 million monthly active users.
  • More than 4,500 timeline apps have launched since f8 in September 2011.

So, what is gamification exactly?

According to Wikipedia, gamification “is the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, in order to encourage people to adopt them, or to influence how they are used. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviours”. Take Foursquare as an example. Users can claim mayorships, unlock badges, receive special offers and rewards such as discounts to specific retailers while also competing against friends via a leaderboard. This gives the user positive reinforcement for undertaking an action and offers an incentive to interact further. Foursquare’s entire concept and business is built around gamification.

Benefits of gamification

For companies and brands the benefit of gamification is that it engages people in the kind of reward-seeking behaviour that can lead to increased brand loyalty and increased profits. If you integrate it in your social media marketing campaign, you might find it easier to get people to engage with your brand, spend more time on your page, contribute with more content and help you spread your marketing message in a fun way. By tracking the online activities of people who sign up, companies will also be able to gain a huge amount of detailed information and metrics about every single user.

The Three F’s of gamification

The Gamification Blog writes about the “Three F’s of Gamification”: Fun, friends and feedback. Brands or companies interested in gamifying a product or a service should always try to incorporate these 3 touch points. Firstly, a gaming element has to be fun. The Facebook statistics show us how many people want to play games but also how many apps they actually have to choose between. If the game is not fun then no one is going to want to participate. While big prizes will help, they will not be the only point of success. Giving players feedback on their performance offers an additional way to keep them engaged and ensures an on-going dialogue and thus longer interaction with your brand. This will hopefully increase the user’s positive perception of and experience with the brand meaning they will be more likely to recommend or share the application with friends.

A small example

YO! Sushi, a British sushi chain, created their own small branded game called YO! Gotchi. The game is based on the virtual pet toy Tamagotchi. Players could sign up via Facebook and create their own YO! Gotchi pet. The game is very simple – the players need to keep their YO! Gotchi alive for four consecutive days in order to receive 20% off their next food bill at YO! Sushi. Even though the game is very simple it’s engaging, addictive and most importantly rewarding and fun.

Have you seen any great examples of gamification recently?

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.