The rise of hyperaddictive mobile games can be a double-edged sword for entrepreneurs. As if it wasn't already hard enough to break through the noise with a new product or service, wildly popular mobile games such as Angry Birds are consuming more and more of your customers' time.
But some business owners are jumping at the opportunity to use games to improve how they engage with customers and motivate their employees. Adding a game or game-type elements such as rewards and rankings -- a process commonly referred to as gamification -- can keep users active on your site longer and motivate them to share your content over social media.
Let's face it, people love getting rewards, even virtual ones. It's the old carrot-and-stick method: if, for example, watching a few videos on your site will earn a visitor points that he or she can redeem for exclusive content, that person is more likely to spend time engaging with your content rather than clicking away.
The New York Times recently married a long magazine feature on mobile gaming with an Asteroids-like game that allows you to blow up content on the Times' website. It brought to life the sort of addictive game that the article was critiquing. The game caused a sensation on Twitter and earned attention from media outlets all over the web.
Here are three companies that can help you harness the power of gamification for your business:
Rather than creating its own proprietary platform, Silicon Valley-based Bunchball uses Nitro, a scalable platform that can be implemented for websites, social networks and mobile apps. The platform also comes with administration and analytics tools that allow marketers to track how users are engaging with their brands.
Contrary to what its name might suggest, Badgeville is about much more than badges (although badges are a common element of gamification). Badgeville says its gaming solutions can add gaming features across all levels of online brand, including your website, mobile apps, communities, CRM systems, and support desk programs.
Depending on the size of your site, this Seattle-based company has three gamification packages to choose from. A "Lite" package offers businesses with 25,000 or fewer monthly visitors a pre-designed loyalty plugin, engagement badges and rewards. Its "Plus" package -- for sites with up to 1 million monthly users -- comes with extra customization options. Sites with more than 1 million visitors can opt for BigDoor's Premium Services, which include access to a team of loyalty consultants.
Here's a short video with gamification expert Gabe Zichermann, who discusses some additional tools that can help you add gaming features to your website.