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The intersection of gamification and big data

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By Russ Banham, Contributor

Karl Kapp has become the “go-to” guy for questions about gamification. The author of several books on the subject, including the best seller, “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction,” Kapp is a full professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University, where his teachings focus on the convergence of business operations and technology.

His graduate-level course on instructional game design at the Bloomsburg, Penn.-based school overflows with students. The opportunity to design and play video games during the class explains why getting into the course is about as easy as getting into Harvard. Kapp also has been an advisor on gamification strategies to several Fortune 500 companies, among them AstraZeneca, Kellogg’s and Black & Decker.

Such organizations and others are embracing gamification strategies to improve operations, recruiting, marketing, and even research and development. In November, athletic apparel company Under Armour acquired MapMyFitness for $150 million to boost interest in its brand among fitness enthusiasts. MapMyFitness engages some 20 million registered users through its websites and interactive applications.

The research group Gartner, Inc. has predicted that “40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations.”

Kapp recently answered some questions about a recent technological nexus the intersection of gamification and data analytics.

Gamification spurs sales

Question: So we keep hearing that gamification is the coolest way to make people buy your products. Is this true?

Kapp: I’d have to agree. Gamification takes a digital experience on a website or a learning system, and adds games and game elements to make this experience more fun. When this is the case, the person can be targeted for what you’re trying to sell them.

Question: But, fun games and hard business would seem to be mutually exclusive.

Kapp: We’ve always used games to make tasks more fun, like in the classroom. Playing games is a natural human activity. It can turn a disengaged customer or employee into an active, engaged participant.

Question: What about big data and its coming together with gamification what’s the value?

Kapp: Data analytics helps you personalize rewards to the users that do things you want them to do. This, in turn, helps you sell more and increase customer loyalty.

Question: Like the proverbial carrot dangling in front of a rabbit?

Kapp: Yes. With data analytics and gamification, you’re basically tracking the behavior of someone on a website, and then analyzing this behavior. Say the person hovers his mouse over a certain part of the screen, and you really want him to click on that spot. Gamification giving a reward of some sort can get him to click.

Building brand loyalty

TPO: What kind of reward?

Kapp: It can be anything, but the best reward is the one that appeals to the person’s particular likes and tastes. Google Analytics, for instance, provides this kind of data. She loves coffee; he really likes cool gadgets.

Question: How do you win the game?

Kapp: Depends on the gamification vendor. Bunchball and Badgeville (major gaming providers) have all sorts of games. A person plays and wins customer loyalty points or badges, for instance, towards buying your products.

Question: So you use the game elements to drive the behaviors you want?

Kapp: That’s right. If Karl goes onto your website and keeps hovering on the right side of the screen when you want him hovering on the left side instead, then you use game elements to drive the wanted behavior to move to the left side and click. Karl clicks, plays the game and then wins a 10 percent discount on the product you’re selling.

Question: Fun games for Karl, and good business, too.

Kapp: I think so. If people like to play the game, they’ll come back again and again. This, in turns, gives you more opportunities to make a sale or build customer loyalty to your brand, by engendering good feelings that the user often attributes to the company or brand.

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