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Kriti Krishna
Kriti Krishna October 25, 2023

Have you ever been hooked on a mobile game, trying hard to get to the next level or aiming for a top score? You may have used a fitness tracker encouraging you to reach your daily step goal by offering virtual rewards and challenges. 

Well, that’s a taste of what gamification is all about – it’s like turning everyday activities into a fun game. But here’s the catch: gamification can be super powerful, but it only sometimes works as expected.

This blog will discuss gamification, why it can fail to make an impact, and how to maximize its potential.

Understanding Gamification

Gamification has been defined as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts. It strives to engage people, boost user engagement, and encourage desired behaviors by incorporating game components into non-game environments, including education, physical fitness, and business. 

For example, companies like Duolingo, Nike, KFC, Mcdonald’s, and Microsoft use gamification to increase user engagement and motivate certain employee behaviors.

Want to know how? Read 5 Ways to Boost Employee Engagement with Gamification 

Despite the increasing acceptance of gamification by practitioners, it is essential to note that the implementation of gamification is only sometimes favorable to achieving business objectives. 

For instance, when Lyft handed out badges to users for taking a Lyft ride on a Friday, it failed to motivate them to use the app to take a ride on Fridays. Lyft seeks to engage users through gamification, but the badge system does not encourage users to use the service on particular days or at unusual hours.

Similarly, according to estimates, 80% of workplace gamification initiatives fall short of a company’s goals owing to inadequate planning, design, innovation, and meaning. Therefore, it becomes essential to understand your audience, their needs and wants, goals, and motivations to have successful outcomes of gamification implementation on your platforms.

Why Can Gamification Fail to Make an Impact?

People are unique, and contexts change. Many gamification implementation attempts by enterprises are copycat applications from different contexts. In such cases, either game design elements are ignored, or gamification designers do not consider user preferences, motivations, and goals. Designers need to understand that the concept of one size fits all does not apply to gamification.

confused man

Let’s take the example of an eCommerce store. Not all consumers have the same motivation and goal while shopping online. Some may want to complete the shopping task as early as possible with little distraction. In contrast, others might casually browse and wouldn’t mind engaging with various features and spending extra minutes on the platform. 

Discover Top eCommerce gamification strategies to revolutionize the shopping experience

Therefore, while some people may find some gamified features unnecessary or obtrusive, others may find them fun and inspiring. In such cases, implementing game mechanics that do not motivate your audience to undertake certain behaviors will fail to impact your desired business outcomes.

How Can We Maximize the Potential of Gamification?

1. Understanding Gamification

Before implementing gamification, designers need to understand what comprises gamification – merely implementing points, badges, and leaderboards may only make sense if you know how it will motivate your user base or what behaviors it will encourage. One of the best-known models of understanding gamification is the MDA Framework.

According to the MDA framework, gamification comprises Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics. Mechanics are the game’s components, like badges, leaderboards, and quizzes, while Dynamics are the run-time behavior of players, like collection, competition, and time pressure. 

Aesthetics are the desirable emotional responses evoked through interactions with the gamified system, such as challenge, fellowship, expression, and narrative.

MDA Framework
MDA Framework

From a designer’s viewpoint, the mechanics result in dynamic system behavior, which in turn causes specific aesthetic experiences to be experienced by the users. But from a user’s perspective, aesthetics set the mood, manifested in observable dynamics and, eventually, operational mechanics. 

With the aid of this framework, game developers can pinpoint the aesthetic reactions they want players to have when they engage with the gamification and, therefore, identify dynamics that will aid in evoking those feelings through the usage of specific game mechanics.

Learn more about the MDA framework: Read Understanding Gamification Series: Game Mechanics and Game Dynamics 

2. The Power of Personalization

Imagine opening an eCommerce website or app and clicking on an item you want to buy. You see, “In 40 other bags” written beside its image.

Such type of personalized gamification has the power to influence users’ purchasing behaviors. Personalization thus has the power to take user engagement to newer levels. It creates tailored experiences that resonate with users on a deeper level. 

Understand Why personalization matters for ecommerce customer engagement

Designers need to customize their gamification designs based on user preferences, goals, and motivations, which helps create more meaningful and immersive experiences for each unique user. 

Rewards and challenges are more likely to be successful in changing behavior when they are personalized for each user. This type of customization can be achieved by looking at user data and employing machine learning techniques.

For instance, a customer data platform (CDP) gathers user interactions across a website. It incorporates them into predictive machine learning models to forecast user behavior, takes preemptive measures like real-time customization, and develops engaging user experiences. 

This type of customization can include adaptive challenges, targeted rewards, individualized feedback, and personalized progress tracking.

Duolingo's personalized gamification
Duolingo’s personalized gamification

Figure: Duolingo successfully uses personalized gamification to generate unique leaderboard reactions for users who share their year-in-review results. Users receive a special themed leaderboard badge that reflects their learning style.

Duolingo saw a significant rise in users after letting its existing users share their personalized year-in-review cards on social media.
Duolingo’s personalized gamification

3. Understanding User Motivation and Goals

As discussed above, users may have different goals when displaying certain behaviors like shopping online. Therefore, it becomes imperative to consider users from different lenses to design effectively for such users with diverse goals. 

Many different models of player types have been considered by researchers that consider the player styles of different players to model user behavior and create more efficient gamified systems.

Learn How does Behavior Gamification work?

One of these models is Bartle’s Model, which defines four player types: the achiever (who is all about points and statuses), the explorer​​ (who wants new experiences and is not concerned much about points or rewards), the socializer (who like to interact and collaborate with other players and have fun) and the killer (who are highly competitive and like to make others lose). 

Users may exhibit characteristics from these multiple categories. However, most people have a vital characteristic (amongst these four player types) that dictates their preference. Using this model, designers can determine where the bulk of their players (or users) fall, which helps decide which gamification features to employ most frequently. 

Designers may then add a few features that cater to each of the other groups as needed.

Bartle’s player types.
Bartle’s player types.

The designed gamification may consist of all or any combination of these types. Conducting user research will help designers understand their dominating player type. Knowing what drives them will enable you to include features in your designs that genuinely resonate with their fundamental qualities as players.

In eCommerce, users could be in different stages of shopping (and hence exhibit different player types). In the earlier stages of shopping, users still undecided about what they want to purchase might invest some time on the website to explore and search for the right product. 

There might also be users who have already decided what they want to purchase and may be looking for means to make the transaction as soon as possible. 

Therefore, to engage users with different goals and motivations, designers can consider such user types and implement appropriate game mechanics, considering the desired dynamics and aesthetics they want users to experience and exhibit desired behaviors.

Figure: Imagine the woman on the left is busy working and suddenly realizes she needs to buy something urgently. At the same time, the woman on the right is having a relaxing day at home and decides to browse through some online shopping websites casually. The kind of gamification they encounter to complete their purchases will influence them differently as they are in different mindsets.

It is vital to understand whether to use intrinsic or extrinsic motivation while implementing gamification.

4. User Empathy and Research 

Last but not least, gamification designers need empathy toward their users. Empathy helps designers understand and anticipate user scenarios, enabling them to understand their users better. 

Empathetically inclined designers can think more deeply about user problems and develop creative solutions to motivate and engage users better. With empathy as the design strategy’s epicenter, designers should conduct user research to test the hypotheses they want more clarity about.

For example, a cybersecurity company that wants to know how they could employ gamification on their platform to increase user engagement on their website should first conduct research to understand which game mechanics like quizzes, badges, et cetera would motivate users to continue to spend time on their website and not abandon the website after reading an article or two. 

Understand Gamification in UX Design and how to engage users through playful experiences!

Using tools like empathy maps and user journey maps, designers can push the appropriate gamification strategies at the appropriate pain points or opportune areas to appear neither manipulative nor very competitive.

Empathy Map

Another important thing is to have an eye on your metrics. Understanding user behavior and performance using data and analytics can give great insights into your user’s pain points. 

To assess the efficacy and impact of your gamified system, considering measures like completion rates, abandonment rates, retention rates, bounce rates, engagement rates, or satisfaction scores is a great starting point. 

Track these Top 15 SaaS Customer Success KPIs to Measure Success in 2023!

Some other user research methods can be employed are A/B testing or usability testing to get customer feedback on your gamified design. Based on this feedback, designers can modify, enhance, or optimize your gamified system better to meet the needs and preferences of your users.

Conclusion 

To conclude, adopting a one-size-fits-all lens is erroneous. Fitbit and Duolingo are compelling examples of how personalized gamification can increase user engagement.

As designers, personalization in gamification is the next big step we need to take if we want to see the long-term positive effects of implementing such strategies. Personalization leads to greater motivation, relevance, and intended behaviors by adapting the gamified experience to users’ preferences, goals, and motivations.

How can we help? Join the Revolution!


At this point, you might be wondering, “These strategies sound incredible, but how do I implement them?” That’s where Upshot.ai comes into the picture.

  • User Experience Mastery: Our seamless integration and user-friendly interfaces mean that providing a smooth user experience is no longer a mountainous task. You can design and tweak customer journeys that feel natural, enjoyable, and effortless.

  • Gamification Unleashed: Looking to turn engagement into a fun game? Upshot.ai’s gamification tools allow you to design engaging challenges, badges, and rewards that keep customers coming back for more.

  • Omnichannel Communication Hub: Be everywhere your customers are with our robust omnichannel communication platform. Keep the conversation flowing seamlessly across platforms, ensuring a consistent and engaging brand voice.

  • Onboarding Brilliance: From the first hello to the successful conversion, Upshot.ai’s onboarding tools guide your users through the process with ease and style, all while keeping it personalized and engaging.

  • Rewards & Incentives Reinvented: Tailor-made reward systems, easy-to-implement referral programs, and incentives that resonate with your brand – Upshot.ai’s reward and loyalty tools have it all covered.

  • Analytics and Insights: Monitor, analyze, and adapt with real-time analytics and insights. Understand what wows your customers and continuously evolve your strategies with Upshot.ai’s powerful analytical tools.

Upshot.ai isn’t just a platform; it’s a partner in your quest to redefine the customer experience. With our comprehensive suite of tools, seasoned expertise, and customer-first approach, we stand with you in your mission to WOW your customers in 2023 and beyond.

Author Bio

Dr. Kriti Krishna

Dr. Kriti Krishna, a Ph.D. in Marketing, brings invaluable experience to market research, UX research, and UX design. She has made significant contributions to both academia and the industry. Her primary research passions encompass the captivating domains of consumer psychology and human-computer interaction, especially gamification. Besides this, she is a professional Kathak dancer and also works as a disability rights activist.

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