The techniques used are linked both to consumer psychology and to individual psychology, and focus on discovering what people pay attention to, on understanding what motivates them, what interests them, what thrills them, and also what their needs are. Why is this important? Because when something thrills us, it is important and interesting to us. Has it ever happened to you that you are so interested in a topic or in a specific activity, that you come to the point of losing track of time? Surely, it has happened to you at least once. Suddenly, hours passed by and you were convinced it had only been 30 minutes. This is what happens when something thrills and motivates us: we do it enthusiastically.

In a sense, understanding your audience is also part of the backbone of any successful gamification process.

What is the ultimate objective of a gamification process? It can vary. We may need more visibility to become everybody’s go-to brand, to improve the working environment -which would lead to higher productivity-, to improve educational processes or to increase the average time spent at the mall, which would generate more purchase opportunities. The reasons for applying gamification techniques vary depending on the needs of the organization that will implement them. The number of different implementations is only limited by the creativity with which the techniques are used.

New technologies are fundamental allies in this process: from a mobile app to an augmented or virtual reality alternative, there are no limits to deliver memorable recreational experiences.

Between drivers and barriers

Before embracing the world of gamification, a company must first ask itself “why”: in what way will the results of the initiative contribute to the business objectives. However, basing the objective of the application only on the needs of the company can often become the main barrier to incorporating the concept of gamification. Any expectation or anticipation is hindered if the actual needs of the target audience are not known. This way, no motivating proposals can come of it. Knowing the audience is essential, even beyond our objectives as an organization.

In the same way, if the needs or motivations are misinterpreted, the initiative may fail. Let us look at an example of this. We are in the early stages of a gamification process. If we want to gamify the educational process of a school, then the objective is clear. The students should learn more and better, and we should do our best to improve our position as an educational institution. For instance, we could invest a lot of money and time to develop the most thrilling game of augmented reality to consolidate the students’ knowledge of a subject in particular. We could hire the best marketing experts and conduct advertising campaigns to promote and give visibility to the school. However, if our audience is made up of teenagers who have no access to the level of technology necessary to run the application, or if they are adults who try to stay clear of technology, then even an excellent gamification idea will languish on the shelves of some app store in the middle of nowhere. In our first case, we are dealing with resources, and, in the second one, we are dealing with a generation that was not born in the age of cell phones. Those who can participate and handle (and wish to handle) social networks or mobile games, are a minority.

Lastly, thinking that it is all magic can also be a hindrance. Do we actually want employees to be more productive? This technique could be ideal to complement and improve the strategies the organization is implementing. Nevertheless, if the working environment in the company is awful, probably gamification will not correct it. If such is the case, maybe the company might focus on the working environment as its first goal. In turn, this goal might lead to higher productivity. Please note the difference in thinking between “we want employees to be more productive” and “in turn, this goal might lead to higher productivity.”

Everything seems to indicate that, in coming years, gamification projects will multiply. Cutting-edge companies are already betting on these techniques. Anyone interested in this topic will find many and varied success stories on the web. For instance, Nike+, created a game in 2006 to engage the running community that allows users to follow, compete, compare and share their own results, and win “fuel points.” Their goal? Increase fidelity and community for a particular user profile. By 2013, eleven million users had signed up and started to use it. Their benefits? The company increased its sales of running shoes by 61% in 2009. These figures are really amazing.

It would not be unreasonable to assert that the new generation of companies will make us rediscover the long-forgotten concept of fun, but in an evolved way, to give way to a new paradox: appealing to games is a way of paying close attention to the future of businesses.