- Gamification—taking game design elements and applying them to the real world—can be beneficial for any company because it encourages consumers to have fun with a brand.
- Companies like Konica Minolta and HP are developing toolsets for creators to easily add AR experiences onto printed content, supplementing the printed material with a digital element.
- When it comes to gamification, an enjoyable experience must be a priority. If experiences are not fun or require too much effort, users will not want to engage with them.
By Colin McMahon
For many print service providers (PSPs), video games probably seem like the polar opposite of everyday business. After all, gaming is a leisure activity whereas the business space operates on products, investments, and profits. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned in watching how the general public interacts with video games—a roughly $140 billion dollar industry that exists simply because people like to have fun. By bringing elements of game design into their companies and products, PSPs can create better, stronger training practices for their employees while also developing more engaging versions of their products. All of this can be accomplished through a process called gamification.
What is Gamification?
Every game, no matter how outwardly diverse, exists on several basic principles. There are rules that cannot be broken, there is a competition that must be won, and there is almost always a social mechanic. Even a solo experience like solitaire can be shared with others with high score boards. When applied in a video or board game setting, these elements help create an engaging experience that makes users want to interact in the product.
At the same time, however, these elements can also be applied outside of a video or board game setting. After all, gamification really just involves taking game design elements and applying them to the real world. This practice can be beneficial for any company because it is essentially encouraging the user to have fun with a product or brand, so they want to engage with it again and again. Gamification elements can be simple (like Coca-Cola’s “Share-a-Coke” campaign) or more intense (like McDonald’s Monopoly sweepstakes) as long as they follow some basic principles.
It’s All About Engagement!
Right now, augmented reality (AR) is opening doors for what PSPs can do with printed content. Companies like Konica Minolta and HP are developing toolsets for creators to easily add AR experiences onto printed content, supplementing the printed material with a digital element. While this provides added value in and of itself, imagine it paired with gamification. If you need an example, look no further than AR-phenomenon Pokémon Go. This app leveraged a well-known brand and the almost ubiquitous presence of smartphones to create a collecting experience that has engaged hundreds of millions of people. While these individuals are out collecting Pokémon, developer Niantic is harvesting data—and gaining insight into consumer behaviors and habits.
According to an article from Forbes, Pokémon Go has provided a wealth of geolocational information. Niantic has also secured its users’ e-mail addresses. Furthermore, through in-app purchases, the company has earned additional millions as some users freely spend money on in-app purchases. All of this came from a smartphone game that is so simple, anyone can play it—and that was no accident.
Creating the next Pokémon Go may be impossible for the average PSP, but a product does not have to be a worldwide smash success to be profitable. Effective gamification begins with understanding who the target audience is and then developing ways to better communicate with said audience.
Building “Fun” into an Experience
Any gameplay experience is only as effective as it is fun. For example, a company that uses gamification to train employees will need to ensure that their game is fair and functional. A broken experience that teaches workers the wrong way to perform a task or does not reward correct behaviors will not be a helpful tool.
Meanwhile, things are a little different with consumer-facing gamification experiences. Let’s consider an upcoming trade show, like drupa. Thousands of people will come to this event, which is held every four years. The show organizers take pride (and profit) in its continued success. drupa might be able to enhance its experience with an app—for example, with a game that is specific to drupa. Many trade shows have begun implementing apps just like this. By placing barcodes on badges, show organizers give attendees an identity. This identity can then be activated with a smartphone, giving the attendee access to more information about the show’s visitors. Some shows have positioned stations at various locations of the event. When an activated user is near a station, they can check in. This experience might enable that user to enter a sweepstakes, obtain more data, or simply give them “points.” It also tells the showrunners who is going where and how often, helping them to create a more engaging show.
Of course, user engagement will be driven down if the app is not fun, if it costs too much money, includes too many ads, or is simply non-functional. When it comes to gamification, an enjoyable experience must be a priority. If experiences are not fun or require too much effort, users will not want to engage with them.
Other Benefits of Gamification
Gamification can accomplish a wealth of tasks. In addition to convincing users to provide some of their personal data, gamification can collect immediate feedback and encourage more positive behaviors. To go back to the drupa example, the presence of an app would encourage attendees to travel more around the show. This can promote interaction, helping vendors to make deals and enabling buyers to find relevant products. Putting a station in HP’s booth, for example, will help promote foot traffic. While HP may not need this extra attention, newcomers and smaller companies will likely appreciate it.
For PSPs looking to convince users to use their products more frequently, building in a reward system to an app is a good way to encourage this. Gamification is not a magic bullet for success—it is simply another tool that is now possible due to the widespread proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
The Bottom Line
Strictly speaking, games are not an essential part of life. People certainly don’t have the play them to live—yet billions do, and some do so on a daily basis. Gamification is all about the power of wanting, and this is the potential of an engaged audience. By utilizing gamification practices effectively in their products, PSPs (or any other type of company, really) can promote brand interaction and create more meaningful relationships with their clients and customers.
Colin McMahon is a Research Analyst at Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends. He primarily supports the Business Development Strategies and Customer Communications services. In this role, he creates and refines much of InfoTrends’ written content, including forecasts, industry analysis, and research/multi-client studies. He also assists with the editing and formatting processes for many types of deliverables.