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Gamification in Enterprise Apps: A Boost to Engagement

“Engagement” is a keyword when it comes to creating and releasing apps.

You put a lot of work and creative thought into building an enterprise app. You follow best practices of UX design and accessibility, and you put effort into ensuring you’ve created something that caters to a need for users and optimizing your app as far as possible.

So, what about engagement?

If all of the above conditions are true and user numbers still aren’t taking off as you’d like them to, or you’re having trouble keeping users engaged once you have them, perhaps something needs to change about how your users interact with your app. Something which encourages better engagement…

Gamification is something you’ve probably heard more and more in the last few years, but it’s been slow to be applied to enterprise apps. Why should you consider it? Let’s take a look:

Why Gamification?

Perhaps the slower uptake of gamification among enterprises has to do with perception. Many people still look at the word and think it’s a concept more in line with casual gamers rather than the professional environment of the enterprise.

This means that if you’re going to suggest gamification be included in your enterprise app design and you’re required to convince others, you need to be armed with some research. How do you explain that game mechanics should be applied to a professional, business context? You don’t want stakeholders to think you’re talking about child’s play.

John Boitnott described it well in an article for Entrepreneur:

“It’s the practice of synthesizing the best ideas from gaming, loyalty programs and behavioral economics, with the aim of driving user engagement over indifference.”

If you’re the one pitching gamification to stakeholders, perhaps emphasize the engagement and motivation pieces over the “game” word. Gamification takes into account human nature and applies game mechanics to the regular activities which an app might feature.

We have an inherent pull toward game play which goes back to childhood. Give someone a challenge of some sort where they might be able to earn rewards, recognition or a sense of competition and these can be strong motivators.

Researchers from Wharton point out that research into gamification is still young, so it would be taking it a bit far to claim that it “works” as a general statement, but it has been shown to be effective to work under the right application and appropriate conditions (such as applying it where it will be of genuine interest to the user).

Know the End User

The identity of the end user of your app is a very important factor as to whether or not gamification will work. Who is really the target of the app? What are their preferences and motivations?

With enterprise apps, a lot of the time if you’re pitching them, you’re not actually pitching to the end user, but to someone further up the chain who has decision-making authority when it comes to purchasing the tools for the business.

How will you make a case to them for your gamified app? You’ve got to understand who they are trying to get to use it and be able to make the connections between using your app and the overall goals of the business and those for its team members.

The personas of your typical users will matter when you’re planning the types of game mechanics you need too. For example, do they like to win, achieve, explore or socialize? These are all foundation aspects of gamification which may hold different weight depending on the target user.

You may find it helpful to be able to categorize your user type/s such as Andrzej Marczewski does with his “Gamification User Types.” He identifies six basic user types and their motivations, as seen in his model below:


Establishing a Strategy

Gamification of an enterprise app could go in a number of different directions, so a good place to start is by doing some research and gathering data on the common behaviors of your target users. You may be able to do this via an early iteration of the app if it’s one you already have in place and are looking at gamifying, otherwise you’re going to need to establish a profile of your target audience and the jobs they do, and gather insights as best you can (perhaps by surveying).

An important point here is that if you’re trying to make a case for gamification in the very traditional corporate world, you’d better have some good data behind you. Stakeholders and buyers will want to know why they should justify the expense.

A good way to do this is to always relate it back to the key goals of the business. For example, if that game mechanic encouraged sales staff to make more sales, where could sales KPIs go? The advice here would also be to make any kind of points or rewards that are built into the app directly related to those key goals. People should be encouraged to do the things that matter.

This is echoed by Gartner’s Brian Burke who says: “companies like DirectTV and NTT Data use gamification to teach employees about company processes. The key, he says, is to make sure the gaming elements are tied directly to company goals.”

The other point here is what system will you have in place which facilitates reporting? This should be for both users and any other interested stakeholders in the app. People always want to know about their ROI, was the investment in a gamified app worth it? What difference has it made to results?

Choose Your Game Style

Based on the goals which gamification of the app will serve, what types of game mechanics will you choose? Here are some examples:

  • Leveling up – this would appeal to achievers. For example, perhaps users level up with time using the app and tasks performed. 
  • Earning badges or rewards – again, appealing to achievers! Badges or rewards could be earned for completing tasks related to the goals of the company. (For example, “you had 7 interactions today which were rated at a 5 by the customer.”) 
  • Leader boards – these appeal to social or competitive people. How well are they doing compared to others? They might think 7 interactions rated at a 5 by the customer was cool, but their teammate had 9, hmm. 
  • Building something – this might appeal to anyone who is motivated by purpose. For example, the Forest app encourages focus by planting a tree at the start of a time period you elect for work. If a user leaves the app to do something else, the tree will die. Users can add to their “forest” every day by maintaining focus. 
  • Visual and/or audible feedback – most users would like some kind of feedback. Game mechanics might include things like breaking the pińata (like the Swarm app), sounds of applause or feedback indicating where something might be lacking.

Using gamification in your app

What do you think? Will gamification be something you consider for your next enterprise app? It’s definitely something that is taking off and, if used well, can provide a good boost to engagement in the app and results for the companies that need them.

Engagement and motivation are really the key points when it comes to convincing enterprise stakeholders, along with a focus on achieving the goals the company needs. How can you justify something which on the surface, doesn’t sound “corporate” at all?

Know your customers’ needs and know your end users – this will help you to create a winning, gamified app.

Koombea designs engaging enterprise apps and can help with your gamification needs. Ask us how today.

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