Now more than ever, consumers like to be entertained. In response, industries like pro sports have added show business elements to their customer experience and popular music concerts have evolved from a group of people singing and playing instruments on a stage to multimedia extravaganzas. The next step in the adaptation of the business world to the insatiable consumer desire for fun is “gamification,” and CIOs need to prepare for it now.
Gamification is a broad term used to describe how emerging technologies such as social media are used to make an online consumer experience more like a game. As detailed in a white paper from M2 Research, “Gamification in 2012,” market spend on gamification solutions, applying game mechanics and behavioral analytics in non-traditional applications will reach $242 million by the end of 2012, which is more than double from 2011. By 2016, this figure is expected to reach $2.8 billion.
As obviously indicated by the amount of money gamification efforts are generating, creating fun, engaging online environments for customers is a lot more complex than throwing a simple challenge or contest onto a website. Properly applied, gamification enables companies to get consumers to interact with their brand, product or service, individually engage for self-expression or exploration on the site, and finally to form a community with other online consumers.
To generate this kind of deep interaction, CIOs need not only to design games engaging enough to keep consumers coming back and promoting a site to their friends, but also to design them in a way that promotes their company’s branding message and still serves more meaningful consumer needs than the need for entertainment. So in addition to designing game elements that are fun and challenging, CIOs also must employ extensive analytics to determine demographic/sociological/psychological profiles of their customers and add elements of marketing and possibly even direct e-commerce. It is also worth noting that gamification can be used as a tool on internal corporate sites to incentivize employee behaviors and boost company morale.
In addition to signaling the complexity of gamification, the exponential growth in gamification spending also indicates how popular this consumer engagement IT strategy is becoming. Today, gamification could still be considered an “emerging” or “leading edge” technology. But in four short years, when spending is expected to approach $3 billion, gamification will have become a standard element of the online consumer experience.
So now is the time for CIOs to start investigating gamification, if they haven’t already. One important factor to consider is whether the proper resources to apply game mechanics to the online consumer experience exist in-house. If not (and most companies not in the video game industry probably lack in-house game design staff), the next question becomes whether to hire in-house staff or to use a third-party outsourcer.
Many ITO providers offer extensive gamification experience, and outsourcing may also prove beneficial to help efforts in analyzing customer data to help guide the path of design. Whether design is accomplished in-house, out-of-house or through a mixture of the two options, CIOs need to get in the game now if they don’t want to finish last.