Even though we eat, sleep, and breathe gamification here at BigDoor, we recently read some gamification predictions that astounded even us. So, we decided to put together an infographic to show the incredible growth gamification achieved in 2011 and to demonstrate the direction it’s taking in 2012. To go along with this infographic, we added a few gamification predictions of our own.

Gamification moves from buzzword to reality

It goes without saying that the online marketing space is rapidly evolving. Trends like social media and mobile marketing were only buzzwords a few years ago, but now they’re some of the best methods to attract and retain customers. While gamification has been on the tip of marketers’ tongues for a couple years now, 2011 is where we really saw it move from just a buzzword to an effective solution for creating and retaining loyal customers.

In the coming year, we predict that even the most traditional online publishers will take gamification seriously and consider implementing gamification tactics into their marketing and advertising plans. According to M2 Research, US companies spent about $100 million on gamification this year, but that number is predicted to reach $2.8 billion by 2016. The tech-industry research firm Gartner estimates that by 2014 more than 70% of large companies will have a gamified application. Much of this work will be done by gamification vendors who predict a 200% revenue growth for 2012.

The gamification backlash continues to grow

Gamification isn’t without its critics and in 2012 we expect this backlash to continue to grow. Last August, Gartner included gamification in their hype cycle of technologies which showed gamification at the peak of the hype cycle. Over time, it will inevitably drop into the “trough of disillusionment” and there will be plenty of naysayers along the way. As gamification becomes more mainstream, we hope to see it pull through and make it to the “plateau of productivity.”

Another reason for this continued backlash is that many gamification implementations have a “slapped on” feel with little regard for users or content. We expect this to change as companies start using gamification to help users achieve what they already desire, such as improving their health or saving money. Making gamification more meaningful requires user research, planning, and customization. However, this requires designer and developer resources which many companies don’t have in abundance.

Gamification increases user loyalty and social sharing

Over the years, people are becoming more and more loyal to the Internet with over 80% of them logging on daily. But what about loyalty to individual sites? Out of curiosity, we turned to our friends at Compete, pulling data on the top 15,000 U.S. websites and taking the median performance of those sites for a single month. The results were staggering:

  • Users visit these sites less than 2 times each month.
  • Users spend less than 8 minutes viewing only 7 pages per site.
  • These sites receive a median Loyalty Score (% of DAU ÷ MAU) of less than 6%.

Compare that to the successful outliers: Google.com has a Loyalty Score of 68% and Facebook walks away as the winner with 72%. One could easily argue that user loyalty lies at the core of their success.

Gamification is built around the concept of loyalty, but the use of game mechanics alone won’t guarantee loyalty—it must be a comprehensive approach that involves social sharing. If you build a gamification model that’s intrinsically social, you’ll keep your current users engaged and loyal while drawing new visitors to your site. Social sharing gives your visitors a way to brag about their accomplishments within their communities. As an example, BigDoor’s private beta program saw a 5,000% increase in virality when users were given the option to share their admirable actions.

Gamification platforms become more sophisticated

In 2012, gamification platforms will incorporate more sophisticated components like directed user engagement, social referral programs, and accurate data analysis. Five years ago these things weren’t possible; even two years ago companies were still trying to build gamification models from the ground up.

As gamification platforms continue to improve, gamification will become faster and easier to deploy. Some gamification vendors already offer pre-packaged, off the shelf technologies that deliver increased usability and customization. These platforms incorporate complex features like managing virtual and real goods, inventory controls, user level requirements, content access, and wish lists. By choosing to use a gamification vendor, companies can maintain a superior gamification platform in less time and with fewer resources.

Although the road may be bumpy along the way, we believe gamification has a bright future, especially in the form of full-featured platforms. As gamification enters the mainstream and more companies start adopting this technology, we’ll start to see how effective gamification is for retaining loyal customers and attracting new ones.