Gamification: The Killer App for Achieving the Promise of Big Data

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Gamification fills three of the biggest gaps in Big Data: real-time analysis, the ability to actually influence future behavior, and transparency.

Each day 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are generated around the world-from tweets and Facebook posts to comments and blogs to data being collected constantly on mobile phones and connected devices, this nearly incomprehensible mountain of information is accumulating at a blinding accelerated pace.

As marketers, we know that hidden among this overwhelming dearth of data are valuable insights about our customers-their needs, wants, desires, opinions, turn-ons and turn-offs. The challenge is, the sheer volume of data turns the process of uncovering these actionable insights into the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack searchonly in this case, the haystack is the size of Dodger Stadium.

As a result, devising a smart strategy based on Big Data is extremely difficult, as it's nearly impossible to understand the connections between the myriad disjointed bits of information, especially when so many more bits (actually centillions of bits) are added every day. And, despite our instincts, gathering more data doesn't really help us make good decisions, it just adds to the pile. Complicating the situation even further, Big Data only provides us with a historical snapshot-a look at past activities-leaving us to draw our own assumptions and conclusions about how our customers might behave in the future.

The Advantages of Gamification: Real-Time, Influential and Transparent

Enter gamification. By its very nature, gamification provides a closed-loop system and fills three of the biggest gaps in Big Data: real-time analysis, the ability to actually influence future behavior, and transparency. Beyond just measuring and capturing historic data about what customers have done, gamification platforms provide real-time insight into what works, and what doesn't, to drive customer behavior. By creating gamified tasks, challenges and missions, and rewarding users for completion, we can actually guide them down the desired path, influencing their behavior to take the action we want them to take and move them further up the funnel.

Along the way, we gain a much clearer picture of the level of interest, engagement, and loyalty these users have with our brand or product. In the process, users actually do the heavy-lifting of data analysis for us, self-segmenting through their actions into easy-to-understand buckets. Now, rather than guess what drives behaviors, we can see for certain which users are highly engaged, less loyal, motivated by peer recognition, or incentivized by tangible rewards. Harnessing this knowledge, we can provide users in each of these buckets what they want to foster more of the desired behavior.

One of the most powerful advantages of gamification over traditional Big Data measurement is the fact that gamification is completely transparent. Where Big Data is all gathered in the background, often without the user's knowledge, gamification is completely opt-in with users willingly participating in the process-no behind-the-scenes sneakery or technological tricks to get people to give up their data without their knowledge. In an era of privacy concerns and scandals over who's gathering what data about whom, the transparency of gamification is a refreshing approach that customers appreciate. As simple as it sounds, sometimes just telling people what you want them to do is the simplest way to get them to do it.

The Future of Gamification: Smarter, More Personal and Integrated

Along with the growing accumulation of data, users are becoming more inundated with content and connections. Between the multiple social media platforms and apps for everything, competing for users' attention has become a significant challenge.

While the first generation of gamification has focused on attracting user attention by offering recognition and rewards in a competitive environment, the next generation of gamification is diving deeper into the intrinsic motivations of each audience member to provide more personalized interactions and engagement. For example, where before we could offer a leveling system or tangible rewards to users-silver, gold, or platinum status or a discount earned for completing a mission-we've now begun to realize that these incentives are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some users may be more motivated by learning new things, achieving peer status, task completion, or making new social connections.

With new gamification systems, we can create unique and personalized experiences for each of these audiences to meet their specific needs. Robust technology now enables us to tap into the core intrinsic motivation of each individual user and cultivate a more personal relationship with automated solutions that integrate with multiple platforms-including mobile, browser-based systems, CRM, and email marketing tools-to break down data silos and understand customer behavior across multiple touch points.

Gamification Galvanizes Your Big Data Strategy

While there will always be a space in the marketing toolbox for a robust data analysis process, adding gamification to the mix enables marketers to gain a more complete picture of the user/customer lifecycle, including previous activity, current engagement, and future behavior. But, just as the Big Data gathering process is never-ending (for better or for worse), so too must a gamification strategy be an ongoing process that continuously cultivates the relationship. Unlike an email campaign that has a defined beginning and end, gamification cannot be spun up and then shut down, leaving your customers hanging. Creating and maintaining a living, breathing gamification ecosystem that thrives as part of your overall Big Data strategy is a must for any company that wants to win on customer engagement.