Back in the day, gamers referred to a very distinct subculture, but today almost everyone is a gamer. The gaming demographic is growing exponentially with each passing day and while games might not be suitable to every business, the concepts behind gaming can be applied to serve several purposes. This application of gaming concepts to experiences that may not actually be games is called gamification. These concepts include structure, an enjoyable experience, tactics that encourage participation, psychological motivators and rewards.
Examples include challenging people to collect badges or earn achievements after completing specific tasks and offering rewards in return, or setting up contests and competitions that take place in a virtual social setting.
Why, however, does this work? Why does this encourage people to do things? It’s simple—giving an experience a game-like feeling makes it enjoyable and allows people to both make progress and be rewarded, all of which are things that people psychologically desire and pursue. By giving users a gamified experience, you are catering to basic psychological needs.
While gamification is a powerful method, though, you must have a reason for implementing it. Blindly applying the concepts without a clear goal in mind will not achieve anything, so approach the idea as you would any other business decision. Create a plan that is designed specifically to reach your goal and determine just how much, technically, will be required to make it happen. In the end, offer rewards that will mean something to your users and you’ll end up with a new, interactive way to engage and reward those that want what you have to offer.