Over the past several years, there has been much hype around gamification and its raft of potential uses. Peddled by slick Silicon Valley startups as well as multinational bigwigs, the use of gamification has been hailed by many as the solution to hook an ever more fickle consumer base.

Put simply, gamification is the use of game-like mechanics in a non-game environment. Research firm Gartner has predicted that 40% of Global 1000 organisations will use gamification as their primary mechanism to perform business operations this year. Interestingly, Gartner has also forecast that up to 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives.

Locally, a number of major brands and businesses have been applying gamified thinking and strategies. According to Phil Barrett, Associate Director, Experience Design at Deloitte Digital, Discovery is the ‘South African master of gamification’. He cites the company’s Drive and Vitality programmes, which reward safe and healthy behaviours. Another example, he says, is eBucks Rewards, the rewards programme offered by FNB and RMB Private Bank.

But is this really ramification?

“That all depends on your definition of a game,” says Barrett. “These games use money as the points system, directly or indirectly. And money is clearly and inherently valuable, which makes for a compelling game. Many would call these loyalty schemes…but a loyalty scheme is a kind of game, where desired behaviour is rewarded with cash.”

He adds: “When you’re playing one of these “games” you can feel the game dynamics at work on you. Ever thought “I’ll buy that now because then I’ll earn more bucks?” That’s a strange bit of behaviour… Spending more now, in order to earn back a far smaller sum.”

Yet the goal of maximising your ‘eBucks balance’ can start to obscure the non-gamified goal of not overspending. So from this point of view, the bank is definitely winning with its gamification strategy – whether it calls it gamification or not.

“If you do it right, gamification can get people to use your product more frequently and do more of the activities your business wants them to do,” adds Barrett.

Internal Applications

Yet these strategies don’t necessarily all have to be consumer facing.
Bruce von Maltitz, Director of 1Stream, a provider of cloud based call centre technology, says there is massive potential for the internal business application of ramification.

“Advances in technology over the last decade have made it possible for businesses to leverage game dynamics to guide employee behaviour and boost motivation,” he explains. “In the same way that video games get players to complete certain tasks by unlocking rewards, businesses can reward employees when they behave in positive ways…”

Within the contact centre industry, notes Maltitz, employees ‘could advance to higher levels by completing a certain number of training modules, resolving calls within a set time, or even just by taking the time to share their knowledge with junior members of the team.’

“If we look at it from the business’s perspective, gamification can dramatically shorten the onboarding process for new recruits,” he adds. “And results can give management a snapshot of how each employee is faring, how engaged they are and can even help identify negative trends or address potential problems very quickly.”

Keep it Simple

So how does a business that is new to the concept go about creating its own gamification tools and platforms?

“If you are designing a gamified service keep it very simple,” insists Barret. “Complex games are hard to make and will tend to confuse your customers.”

In addition, identify a few key metrics that people can compete on, and make sure those metrics are in the users’ interest and the companies’ interest. Then publish those metrics, and provide clear ways for people to maximise them.

“Consider Twitter,” says Barret. “They want to encourage you to tweet, and to follow people. So when you look at a Twitter profile it tells you how many tweets and how many followers. People feel compelled to try to improve those numbers…and when they do, they have more fun and Twitter makes more money.”

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