Whatever else 2012 has in store, it will be a fun year for web visitors - and that's official.
Gartner Group and Deloittes have both predicted that gamification - making business applications more engaging by making them fun - will be a key technology this year.
Deloittes identified gamification as one of the key disruptive technologies of 2012, according to Bill Briggs, director of Deloitte Consulting and co-author of its annual crystal-gazing technology report. Says Briggs, 'The next 12 months . . . will see topics like gamification starting to emerge at the enterprise level.'
Gartner has predicted that 'By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70 per cent of Global 2000 organisations will have at least one gamified application.'
Gamification is the use of game design techniques and game mechanics to engage web audiences. Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, or 'funware', to encourage us to use them â€“ to stay on a website longer, or to sign up for that crucial newsletter.
Emerging first in social networks like Foursquare â€“ where you can become the 'mayor' of your local pizza parlour and claim free pizzas just by checking in on your mobile â€“ gamification has now graduated to serious professional applications like getting visitors to become more loyal to websites â€“ and even to persuade recruits to sign up for military service.
The kind of techniques now used for business applications are those normally associated with online games. When you're surfing in future, expect to be offered the chance to win achievement 'badges', see your name on a leader board, or your progress registered on a visual meter to show how close you are to finishing a task - completing a social networking profile or earning a frequent shopper loyalty award. You may even be offered virtual currency for trading or exchanging with others online.
Mario Herger , CEO of Enterprise-Gamification.com, has published some facts and figures on gaming which show just why gamification is proving so powerful.
Computer gaming, he says, is primarily very much an activity for adults rather than kids. No less than 77 per cent of U.S. households own videogames, with the average age of gamers at 37. Many more adult women play games (37 per cent) than young boys (only 13 per cent). 61 per cent of CEOs and CFOs are playing games during working hours on their phones or PCs.
Perhaps surprisingly, the U.S. is far from being top of the list of game-playing countries in terms of percentage of population. Top of the poll is Germany (66 per cent) followed by Mexico (57), Russia (53), UK (52), Brazil (47) and the US coming up in sixth place with 42 per cent. In terms of numbers, China leads the world.
How do you take advantage of the gamification trend? Maribel Lopes, writing in Forbes Magazine, recommends three tips for getting started. 'First', she says, 'define what business goals could be enhanced by gamification and how you can use gamification to drive user behavior to meet these goals. Second, a company should embed experiences directly into its Web site, mobile apps and its business applications - a business should create experiences that live inside its existing processes such as collaboration, CRM tools and Web sites. Third, the experience should provide guidance and feedback to the user early and often.'
So the lesson is clear. If you want to generate greater engagement with your website visitors, increase customer loyalty and achieve your business targets in 2012, incorporating gamification is the way to go. Make sure your site visitors have fun.