This post originally appeared on Altimeter Group’s blog.

The concept of using game mechanics to achieve desired outcomes may not be new, but to many brands, the use of gamification across the enterprise to drive business value is gaining speed. In our latest research, Altimeter has found that gamification is quickly evolving to become an important component in many organizations’ internal and external strategic plans for growth. Fifty-five percent of digital strategists surveyed are already investing in gamification, or are planning to invest in the next 12 months(1). In this post, we present a myriad of ways that game mechanics can solve problems (and, increase the bottom line) across the enterprise.

Defining Gamification

First, let’s discuss what gamification means. At Altimeter, we classify a program as gamification if it contains:

  1. Comparison and/or competition mechanics
  2. Reward and/or incentive opportunities
  3. Measurable elements to benchmark for success against business goals

With these ingredients in mind, Altimeter Group began its research on various use cases for gamification across the enterprise. We specifically vetted and reviewed instances where gamification was used to create business value, both externally and internally, often as part of a larger marketing, digital, or social media program. According to M2Research, as of 2012, nearly half (47%) of brands implement gamification programs focused on user engagement, while another 22% focus on brand loyalty and 15% on brand awareness. Our findings span beyond these well-known use cases for gamification, as shown in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 below.

Fig. 1. How EXTERNAL Gamification is used to Create Value

Gamification Use Case Value to the Brand Example(s)
Crowdsource Innovation Gamification is used to solve problems internally, gaining perspective from consumers and other external communities. Greater efficiency often leads to lower innovation and problem-solving costs. DARPA
Univ. of Washington
Encourage Engagement and Behaviors Increased customer participation with brands throughout the purchase cycle (including extension into adjacent products and services) can lead to increased intent and sales. Gamification is also used to increase event participation, guiding attendees to desired conversions. Box
Extraco Bank
Supplement Loyalty/Advocacy Programs Combined with loyalty programs, gamification can provide recognition, rewards, increase repeat behavior, and lengthen customer engagement and retention. Caesers Casino
Expedite Customer Service Gamification programs can help employees meet customer service quotas, close incidents faster, encourage teamwork, and increase positive feedback scores received from customers. When combined with CRM data, further incentives can be created. EngineYard
Engage Brand Influencers and Advocates Encourage advocate/influencers (and, passionate customers) to share branded content (online and offline), leading to increased page views, social and content interactions, and other social or onsite behaviors. Many gamification tactics also involve leaderboards that allow brands to identify their more influential customers within communities. This may lead to new customer acquisition via referrals. Bravo Network
USA’s Psych
Increase Physical Traffic via Mobile Combining gamification with mobile apps can increase foot traffic to physical store locations or certain departments within stores. It’s great for new location openings, depleting overstock inventory, and guiding customers through the purchase cycle. Best Buy + Shopkick
Gather Actionable Data Gather opt-in customer data when they engage with gamification programs via a gamification platform like Bunchball or Badgeville. Doing so allows brands to paint a more detailed insights picture of their customers’ behaviors than would be possible without gamification. Caesers Casino
GMI + Engage Research

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Fig. 2. How INTERNAL Gamification is Used to Create Value

Gamification Use Case Value to the Brand Examples(s)
Streamline Processes and Drive Innovation Make processes more efficient, solve problems internally, and get perspective from different groups within the organization. Efficiency is often increased when adding gamification to internal innovation processes. IBM Innov8
Recruit and Hire New Employees Using online and mobile games developed in line with brand attitudes, values, and goals, companies can recruit quality candidates based on game involvement, excellence, skill, and achievement. Quixey
US Army
Educate and Train Employees Familiarize employees with new processes or products using gamification for education and training. Game mechanics engage employees in learning and encourage exemplary training performance. It can also be used for change management in light of new processes or tech. Ford
Provide Continuous Feedback and Employee Development Gamification – especially badging – can be used encourage employees to provide informal and frequent feedback to each other, via enterprise social network features like “Praise” and “Thanks”. It becomes a way to give continual feedback between reviews and adds data merit to promotions.
Increase Employee Communication and Collaboration Using gamification in combination with an enterprise social network (ESN) can increase internal information sharing, as well as employee communication within and across departments. This can help drive cross-team collaboration. Blue Wolf
Motivate Employees Gamification can be used as a way to motivate employees to achieve specific goals. It can also inspire friendly (collaborative) competition and be a forum for public recognition. It’s useful in encouraging employees to learn new skills and manage their careers. Accenture

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Now, let’s look at two detailed case studies of gamification in action.

SAP Evolves Community Network Game Mechanics to Boost Member Activity, Engagement, and Value

Since the launch of its external community in 2003, enterprise software company SAP has been utilizing game mechanics to increase engagement and drive positive behaviors in its online community of customers, partners, independent consultants and employees—the SAP Community Network (SCN). SAP has continuously reviewed and revamped its gamification efforts over the past 10 years in order to provide the most valuable reward and recognition to its top contributors. This has driven increases in time on site, repeat visits, and customer advocacy.

Today, SAP works with Jive and Bunchball, using points, badges, and leveling up mechanisms to encourage participation and identify top contributors and topic-area influencers. Its hundreds of thousands of contributors reach new levels and statuses within the community when they share knowledge and experience in discussion forums, documents, and via blog posts. SAP develops closer relationships with the most active experts, who are identified within a selection of SCN’s 400 topic categories, often guiding them to become mentors for other members and moderators, partnering on blog content, or used as advisors on SAP products and systems.

SCN “missions,” are goal-oriented tasks that are designed to encourage positive behaviors in the community as well as increase participation and thoughtful responses. They are catered specifically to the needs, interests, and motivations of those who are well established in the community as thought leaders and experts. SAP measures the success of its community by month/month changes in contributions, quality of contributions, visits, time spent on site, and community feedback to contributions. They are also beginning to tie these metrics back to sales of SAP products. Since the launch of its improved game mechanics in 2013, the company has seen astronomical results: Activity generating point assignment increased by 188% and SAP observed a 250% increase in engagement around content (comments, likes, ratings).(2)

Marriott Involves Cross-Departmental Employees, Executives in Creation of Engaging Social Games

Marriott’s first gamification effort, My Marriott Hotel was created with two purposes in mind: 1) to attract potential employees to Marriott, and 2) to attract new consumers to its hotels. Born on Facebook’s API, the game quickly spread to 130 countries—a great success, as Marriott properties span 75 countries worldwide. My Marriott Hotel allows players to assume various hotel roles, develop a basic understanding of what the work entails, and lessen the barriers to apply for a job. The simplicity of My Marriott Hotel led to more than 25,000 players joining in the first week.

What’s more impressive though is how My Marriott Hotel (and, Marriott’s most recent creation – Xplor) came to be. Marriott’s Global HR Officer David Rodriguez and the company’s CMO sponsored a group of associates who were champions for My Marriott Hotel in its infancy, helping them consistently refine the idea until it was ready for presentation to Marriott’s CEO. Much like My Marriott Hotel, Xplor—a game focused on the hospitality industry and the thrill of sightseeing—was also a grassroots project, brought to life by employees from different levels and departments throughout the company.

Today, multiple departments at Marriott are responsible for gamification, with more governance brought to efforts over the years as its external gaming applications have increased in popularity. HR, Communications, and Social Media all had a hand in Xplor’s project launch, working together to create more engaging games than one department could do on their own. Future plans include leveraging gamification to drive customer engagement, as well as for training and employee performance management purposes internally. These plans include using gamification to accelerate learning as well as encourage team-based learning.(3)

Recommendations for Enterprise Use of Gamification

Altimeter found many similarities among companies that employ successful gamification programs. Regardless of whether you are in the planning phase or seeking to evolve your current gamification program, consider the following recommendations:

Identify: Discover what incentives work (and, what doesn’t) with your customers.
Customer needs, pain points, and preferences should drive objectives and gameplay of any gamification program. Start with looking into where your target audience spends time online to discover what types of game mechanics are best at driving action and engagement. For example, say your target is 18- to 34-year-old males who are PC gamers. You may start by looking into popular communities where this demographic thrives, such as Reddit, Imgur, and StumbleUpon. Look at what type of game mechanics are used on those platforms, what seems to drive voting and commenting, and who is most influential. Use this information to guide your brand’s gamification development in a way that speaks to this audience’s engagement preferences. From there, listen to what customers are saying to discover whom your brand advocates are. Include them in pilot efforts to better understand how a gamification program may add value to their brand experience.

Rebrand: “Gamification” by any other name sounds … well, sweeter.
The term “gamification” can strike a sour chord amongst peers who question its merits in delivering business value beyond frivolous fun. Cut skepticism off at the pass by rebranding the term internally. Address these sensitivities by using phrases like “game mechanics” and “social dynamics” when sharing use cases surrounding gamification’s business value. If peers take gamification more seriously, you’ll be more likely to secure cross-departmental and executive support.

Research: Know what questions to ask when vetting out vendor solutions.
One of the key pieces of SAP’s gamification development was the company’s focus on finding the perfect vendor to fit its unique needs of transitioning members from a legacy system while still maintaining points and status levels. Below are some of the issues that your technology partner should be able to help you address as you develop your program.

  1. How do you envision engaging your target audience in terms of game play?
  2. Will it involve social, mobile, digital, or other internal programs?
  3. Should you offer badges, level-ups, or other incentives?
  4. If points are involved, how will you monitor and manage the “point economy” to ensure correct points are awarded for actions that contribute to program goals?
  5. How will you plan for and handle cheating?
  6. How will you connect member data to existing CRM or enterprise social network (ESN) data?
  7. How many people will you have managing or moderating efforts, and how will you approach workflow?
  8. How will we be able to measure the impact of the gamification program against our business goals?

Whether looking to solve problems internally or externally, gamification offers many real solutions when implemented as part of an integrated Social Business or Mobile Strategy. We’d like to hear about your experiences with gamification – and especially if you’ve been able to connect it to business impact.


(1) Altimeter Group Survey of Digital Strategists, Q2-3 2013 (n=103).
(2) Interview with Laure Cetin, Community Reputation Manager and Enterprise Gamification Consultant for SAP.
(3) Interview with David Rodriguez, Global HR Officer for Marriott.

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