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Although gamification has been around for a few years, it is still positioned as a marketing trend going forward and, if anything, is gaining more attention as an ideal way to create engagement with a consumer audience. That’s because the concept of playing a game and possibly winning something stimulates the creative, playful and competitive spirit in pretty much all of us.

Gamification is fun — but it’s more than just reading words on a screen or watching a video. The process involves a way to improve skills or get better at something, plus it involves some type of prize.

For marketers, gamification is a way to stand out and use that emotional high of winning in order to close the deal on selling a product or service. The use of gamification is memorable for the user and may feel inclined to share how they did in gameplay with their social circles.

Using gamification to increase the amount of time a consumer spends in your app can raise their engagement level with your brand. This goes a long way toward influencing their purchase decisions in the near future.

Here are some tips on how you can incorporate gamification into your own marketing strategy.

1. Know your audience. Always start with your target audience to determine what type of game might appeal to your customers. If you don’t look at this aspect first, you may not engage them to get the return you’re seeking. A millennial audience probably doesn’t like the same type of gameplay as a 40-something-year-old. If you are going to use a quiz or trivia format for your game, then consider your audience’s age so that it includes relevant questions they could answer. If your audience comprises a larger demographic, you could combine gaming elements and relevant questions to appeal to a more general demographic.

2. Do your research. Try other games that have been created for consumers to get a sense of how they work, what type of rewards they give, and how they incorporate product placement. Nothing helps shape your own gamification strategy like trying out what others have done to see if you can identify best practices that would fit your marketing objectives. The games that often do the best feature social sharing, scoring and rewards. Our team played numerous trivia, racing and skills games before knowing what would work for our brand and audience. The hands-on participation also provided a way to better understand what was engaging based on our own reactions.

3. Establish incentives. Determine what you want to give away as an incentive. It could be a new product sample, content and guides to help the audience, or promotional coupons. There needs to be a clear incentive in order to make the gamification work with your audience. Since I’ve used incentives in other marketing strategies, including contests on social media, this proved valuable in deciding what we wanted to include in the gamification strategy. If you haven’t used incentives before, it is good to benchmark what appears to be working with others in your industry or ask your audience what they would like to receive from you.

4. Don’t complicate things. Keep it as simple as possible. A complex game or contest is going to be lost on your audience. If they can’t figure it out quickly or you ask too much of them to get started, they will abandon it. With relatively short attention spans and many distractions, consider making each gameplay relatively short. I have used focus groups and user testing sites to determine the right mix of elements that make a game easy to pick up, but challenging enough to keep the user coming back for more. The input received during focus groups and user testing was well worth it, as the feedback helped us tweak what we were doing.

5. Set deadlines. Define the timeframe related to developing and launching the gamification strategy, and set limits that align with your budget. Since it’s most likely new to your marketing strategy, you will want to work with your creative and technical team to set expectations, timeframe and cost upfront before it becomes too elaborate of a process. For the projects I’ve worked on, I outsourced talent that specializes in gamification. This helped us to work efficiently and stay on a budget, and their suggestions provided guidance on things I was initially unsure of in the development process.

6. Set goals. Quantify the outcome of your gamification strategy to make sure it is worth it or if there are changes you may want to consider. You can integrate analytics tools that deliver statistics on user participation, including the length of time spent playing the game and achievement and levels of users to determine the audience’s ability so they keep coming back. If these statistics don’t show positive signs, then you know it’s back to the drawing board to make the necessary changes.

7. Don’t be afraid to evolve. The future of gamification is nearly here with virtual and augmented reality features and the addition of artificial intelligence. These elements can personalize the experience and continually increase the challenge involved to keep the audience hooked. Always stay attuned to how new technology can be incorporated to keep your gamification strategy fresh for your audience that is always seeking more stimulation.

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