OK, admit it. You’ve been sucked into playing an online game at some point. Whether it was an attempt to bond with a child or to indulge your inner child, you’ve probably crushed some candy or shot some angry birds out of a slingshot. If so, you have inevitably found yourself investing a lot of hard-earned free time and possibly money fighting for something that objectively means very little: points, bonus rewards, badges, etc. But clearly there is subjective value to be had.
The principles of psychology that drive our urge to game are too varied to dive into entirely here, but primarily these games tap into our innate drive for mastery, stimulate a nearly instantaneous pleasure feedback loop that comes with each goal accomplished – a “flow”-related response – and also inflate our sense of self a smidge with each and every victory over a faux or real competitor. So why should this phenomenon interest us as market researchers? Mainly because gamification – or the application of compelling gaming elements to areas outside of games – can be utilized in our research world to enhance recruitment, provide alternative forms of reimbursement for participation, and make for a more dynamic and enjoyable respondent experience in survey research.
Now, gamification is certainly not an entirely new concept. It’s been around for some time. In fact, gaming elements that emphasize fun incentives, competition for nominal prizes, etc., are being infused in more and more businesses as alternatives to monetary compensation as a way to help assess and recruit optimal employees or even keep existing employees happy, fit and engaged. It is noteworthy, however, that there has not been a commensurate uptake of gamification tools and techniques in the market research world – particularly in the world of online surveys, which is ideally suited to the application of gaming elements. At Six Degrees, we’ve explored the upsides and downsides of gamifying our own survey work, and here are a few tips that are most shareworthy:
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Make it fun.
At its core, gaming is about fun. So it follows that trying to make the survey experience a bit more fun for participants – or perhaps lessening the boring nature of most surveys – might be a good place to start. For example, consider integrating a few direct challenges or even timed items into your questions when applicable. Simply rephrasing an item to emphasize that it’s a challenge may be enough to tap into our innate need for mastery. Another way to add fun to your survey can be to tap into the appealing psycho-sensory aspects of gaming by making surveys more visually or auditorily compelling. Use colorful graphics, animation or beautiful photo backgrounds whenever appropriate and most applicable. You can even simulate a rewarding tactile experience by utilizing more drag-and-drop items in your surveys.
Provide instant feedback.
Since one of the most compelling aspects of gaming is the nearly instantaneous feedback and periodic reward for performance that it provides, try to integrate as much real-time feedback as you can. For example, not only should you provide and track points or rewards for individual responses or tally them at the end of a block of survey items, but also reward for responses that can be considered by some preset criteria as the most thoughtful, useful or insightful. Further, make sure that respondents know that they can eventually “spend” those points on other rewards at the end of the survey (e.g., priority for future fully reimbursed surveys, badges, etc.) or provide some way of donating their points toward some real-world cause. This setting of clear, attainable goals will make for a more engaging experience.
Make it competitive.
To further tap into the competitive drive of respondents, consider displaying a “leader board” composed of respondents who have attained the highest point totals on the survey so far. Leader boards could be shown at different milestones during the process in order to indicate where respondents stand relative to the competitive landscape, and also encourage them to answer the remainder of the items to climb the leader board. This type of feedback is sure to positively impact completion rates and also increase the likelihood of a repeat respondent for future surveys – especially if point totals carry over from one survey to the next.
Of course, I’ve only summarized a few of the benefits of gamification in market research surveys – there are myriad other ways in which these elements can be brought to bear upon our field (e.g., recruitment or even qualitative research). That said, there are also caveats to keep in mind that might be responsible for the slower-than-expected uptake of gamification in market research. For instance, gamifying your surveys may inadvertently degrade your brand – or the brand of the client who has tasked you with building a survey – by associating it with the more gimmicky side of the online world. If you’d prefer to steer your brand clear of associations with addictive games, or things that may feel similar to a gaming experience, gamification may not be the right fit. Regardless, there is no denying the psychological power of game-related reinforcement techniques, as you certainly know already. And yes, you can get back to that game you’ve been playing now …