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Gamification: How to Climb the Ladders and Avoid the Snakes

Gamification, originally seen as a means of motivating employees, is now being used in more and more industries to engage users, attract new customers, motivate purchases and other behaviours, and generally enrich the customer experience while yielding valuable data and insights for the firm.


It is built into many firms’ customer-facing apps and is sure to feature strongly in the metaverse. Despite the intense interest in gamification, however, success is far from assured, and many firms fail to realize value from their gamification initiatives. Part of the problem is a lack of research into the connection between business strategy and gamification – that is, how gamification can help firms achieve their goals, and why some initiatives succeed in this while others fail.


In this paper, we aim to fill this gap through the first systematic study of gamification initiatives. First, we identify the four things that gamification can offer: Locking customers in, identifying new opportunities, gaining market share by transforming the experience, and shaping or transforming user perceptions. Second, we unpeel the onion by identifying three key features – virtualization, social comparison, and pecuniary rewards – that, through their presence or absence, causally predict whether or not gamification will succeed and enable either of the four potential benefits of gamification. We do so by deploying Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) on a sample of 40 prominent gamification projects.


Based on our findings, we set out a roadmap that will guide firms to prioritize their efforts and design games that truly deliver what they promise, without getting side-tracked or overcomplicating their offer, and note the potential ethical considerations of effective games, such as addiction.


Read the full paper here.

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