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Let the games begin: Developing a digital strategy for gamification

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

As part of their digital strategy, one tactic financial services and insurance firms will contemplate is gamification. Given three billion hours are invested in gaming each week, one billion gamers are expected to join the market in the next ten years and $4bn in games are available in app stores, it’s not hard to understand why.   

Gamification can be used to engage customers and employees in a fun and interactive way. Grabbing the attention of customers in today’s heavily saturated marketplace is increasingly difficult, applying gamification tactics can allow firms to create exciting experiences that capture people’s attention in a memorable way.   

Firms can also take this approach in house, engaging employees and increasing participation in more mundane activities. This is especially compelling as Millennials, who have been classed as ‘digital natives’ having grown up with social media and technology and who spend on average 25 hours per week online, will soon become a much bigger part of the job market. Research shows that by 2025, three out of four employees around the world will be millennials, appealing to their interest in smart devices and social games can prove particularly efficient.   

Over recent years, financial firms have made a commitment to digital technology, in both the investment and retail parts of their business, and many have now realized if they can tap into this approach for everything from training programs to customer engagement strategies, they might just top the leaderboard.   

Given this, what should financial services firms and insurers consider when developing their digital strategy related to gamification? We suggest below six considerations for these companies if they are looking to expand their use of gamification. 

[Figure 1: Synechron’s approach to gamification]

[Figure 1: Synechron’s approach to gamification]

Have a measurable goal   

Gamification is the science of integrating game dynamics in application, website, community, processes, services or campaigns. For the game to be successful, businesses need to define the objective of the game with a clear and measurable goal in mind. What does it mean to win the game and how are players measured and ranked against one another?    

Furthermore, whether the game is delivered via an app, website or some other digital experience, when defining the objective it needs to solve a problem for the player. This might encompass learning programs where sales agents are required to learn more about products and services to do their job well. This can work particularly well if aligned with individual or benchmarked Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).    

Additionally, the game needs to solve a problem for the firm; poor employee participation in training, for example, can be the inspiration behind designing a game. Spotify and Living Well have gamified their annual review processes, making it mobile friendly in a bid to inspire voluntary participation. Such processes resonate well with millennial employees who appreciate adaptability and interaction, an approach which can be replicated in financial institutions.

Define a focused process   

Once the objective for the game is set, the company will need to understand the overall process (operations, workflows, technologies, etc.) that touch the game and create a path for players to get from point A to B. I’ve seen this work incredibly well in training programs for junior associates whose lack of attention span made it difficult for them to complete traditional training programs. The more dynamic and focused gamified experience allowed the financial firm to significantly increase training completion.    

Creating the right “gameboard” and defining the focused path toward the game’s objective can also benefit from conducting market research. If there is a certain demographic of employee or customer the business is looking to target with the game, collect data based on age group behavior, user statistics for popular games that they play (eg. Candy Crush, Pokemon Go, etc.) to understand what aspects they find compelling, and integrate them.     

Measure the change   

After you roll out your first release, you need to start verifying the goals to see if you’re meeting them or moving away. Collect all data you can about the program – attendance, drop-off points, trends, and use that data to adapt the strategy and continuously iterate.    

Reward incremental progress   

Data and iterative changes to the game will also allow businesses to tap into human psychology and use behavioral elements to reward good behavior. This is where badges, achievements, competitive leaderboards and more fit into the game. Simple initiatives such as LinkedIn’s progress bar encourage users to achieve ‘All Star’ status by fully completing their profile, whilst giving subtle hints about what users can do to enhance and strengthen their profile - a simple strategy but very impactful. To do this well, you need to sufficiently understand the social dynamics of the players, and the game data can help to continuously provide that insight.   

Make it social    

The game provides an opportunity for businesses to allow users to tap into four different types of behaviors: express, explore, compete, and collaborate.  The US based RMH Franchise Corporation, which operates more than 130 restaurants, have recently introduced a gamified website to create competitive spirit amongst employees. Employees can manage their own interactive profiles, reviewing performance-related data and participate in challenges; a tactic which has resulted in a 20 per cent reduction in employee turnover. 

[Figure 2: The Gamification Quadrants - Human Psychology Factors Affecting User Engagement]

[Figure 2: The Gamification Quadrants - Human Psychology Factors Affecting User Engagement]

Corporate gamification requires a strong knowledge of the business and how it operates to integrate the game into existing operations (learning management systems or customer relationship management systems, for example). Additionally, regarding tools and technology, there will be techno-functional engineering requirements, whether it’s an understanding of Java, Oracle, Blender, Unity, HTML 5 or some other platform needed to bring the game to life. Therefore, businesses will need to approach their digital strategy and desire to embrace innovative techniques such as gamification with a combination of user experience design skills as well as technical expertise. This approach will allow businesses to maximize the value achieved.

Mihir Shah, Senior Digital Director at Synechron 

Image Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock