Lots of people claim 2011 was finally the year for the world of gamification, but I disagree. It's safe to say that gamification gained some traction last year, but ask around, and the term itself is still vaguely understood.
Oxford University Press defines gamification as the "application of concepts and techniques from games to other areas of activity." Did you know that? Likely not.
In 2011 mainstream brands such as AOL and Dell adopted these techniques and the first ever gamification conference was held. Still, those that have heard of the concept will churn different definitions of it. And few will cite real-world examples of where they've seen business use of gamification in practice.
So perhaps 2012 will be the year gamification goes "mainstream." Meaning, it will be the year where more than a handful of businesses finally understand that adding game mechanics to digital experiences can drastically improve engagement, participation, and loyalty. If that happens we'll see more industry momentum as businesses start to generate meaningful results from it. I'm not alone in my prediction of 2012 as the true breakout year for gamification, either. According to Financial Advisory firm Deloitte:
"The next 12 months will see several technologies...grow, while a topic like gamification is just starting to emerge at the enterprise level..."
So what will it look like for gamification for business to take form this year? Here are some key industries and functional areas where gamification can shine.
Gamification for Human Resources
Gamifying incentives for employee loyalty and contribution. Most organizations have incentive programs, but not all are engaging. Games can be used to distinctly differentiate employee brand loyalty the same way they are used to build the loyalty of customers. If HR functions begin adopting gamification strategies it will be a mark of a big year for the practice.
Brand Marketing through Gamification
Through gamification, brands can reward users who propagate their name. Users who use social media to consistently post informative, valuable information about a brand can be given rewards based on favorable comments and sharing. Conversely, users whose posts receive negative reactions (or worse, no reactions) can be penalized in a gaming environment, receiving a demotion to the bottom of the leader board. If you're a brand in 2012 and you want the quickest, most influential promotion of your name, let your users do it for you, and reward them through games.
New Product Promotion with Games
Exclusivity sells. Just look at Pinterest and Fab, both are online properties who require strongly coveted "invitations" for users to participate. The same game can be played with releases of new products. A primo opportunity awaits for businesses to use gamification as part of their product strategy. Encouraging and rewarding customers to compete for and attain "pre-sale" or "advance preview" of a highly anticipated product can build a treasure trove of buzz around it. Gamification has a place in product placement.
So, will gamification continue to grow in 2012? I think so. But the ultimate measure of it will be if come 2013, a conversation about gamification won't require recitation of the Oxford University Press definition.