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Systeming the game at your bank

Book Review: Good basic guide to engagement for bank gamification newbies

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  • Written by  Chris Guiney, MasterCard
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  • Comments:   DISQUS_COMMENTS
Business Gamification for Dummies. By Kris Duggan, CEO of Badgeville, and Kate Shoup. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 284 pp. Business Gamification for Dummies. By Kris Duggan, CEO of Badgeville, and Kate Shoup. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 284 pp.

“Gamification is less about games and more about figuring out what motivates people to perform”

Kris Duggan and Kate Shoup

In the space of consumer loyalty, specifically under the umbrella of payment processing, at MasterCard we’re often asked about our strategy for “gamification” in the same generic way that “social media” is bandied about. Business Gamification for Dummies by Kris Duggan and Kate Shoup is a great starting point for conversations, a primer to be regarded as a springboard for other insight, rather than the ultimate, de-facto guide.

Scoping out the basics

The authors—the head of a gamification platform company and a professional writer—take great care to walk the reader through a high-level view of the loyalty and engagement minefield, from consumer preferences to targeting and rewarding behaviors. While most of this will seem pretty standard to many consumer-based marketing efforts already in flight for most banks, it is a friendly way to set a base for learning to come.

Particular attention is paid to how consumers are engaged, from the basic definition of engagement all the way to long-term digital strategies for that engagement, with excellent detail and easy-to-understand terminology. At times, this can come off as too simplistic, given the heavily-regulated space that banks and financial companies play in with regard to consumers.

But then it is one of the “for Dummies” series of books, designed specifically as a primer rather than an end-to-end manual. You can take a lot away from the first few chapters alone in running your traditional loyalty program, or at minimum evaluating where you wish to go with what you have in place.

Finally, before the real meat of the book is presented, the authors do a good job of presenting a high-level view of rewards and how they affect users. This is one area where I would have liked to see more of a focus on non-digital rewards—things more akin to experiences, alternate-reality, and unique, real-world solutions. Instead, the authors take more of an employee-incentive style approach with digital goods, so it’s worth taking much of this with a grain of salt when planning how you want to reward, say, your bank’s cardholders.

Exploring the concepts behind the fun

The section on game theory and gamification design is well presented and thorough, despite being pretty focused on the digital presentment side of the marketing triangle. Significant attention is paid to where social media, targeting, and digital presentment come together to create consumer engagement, but there is definitely a platform element to the design factors.

Discussions of common elements of gamification programs—such as levels, ranks, leaderboards, and digital badges—are well done and do indeed help demystify the terms for those who didn’t grow up checking in with a mobile phone every day or playing an online Massively-Multiplayer Online game instead of finishing term papers. However, again, the authors tend to focus on the digital platform side. There is more to gamification than that.

In all, you get the sense that gamification is being equated to digital-only social platforms, which can be (and are demonstrated as) successful for organizations, with very little focus being paid to gamification that isn’t technology-focused. This does the space of gamification a bit of disservice with regard to geographic and cultural diversity, but again the book is an introduction, more than a manual, so you can take many of the concepts forward in a non-digital way.

Getting to know gamification providers

The book’s third section, in Chapter 10, may prove very popular with a lot of bank readers because it dives head-first into the current state of dedicated gamification providers; digital platforms that run loyalty and gamification systems designed to engage and interact with consumers using pre-set systems and schemes.

There is a relatively well-done view of the space of gamification providers, their strengths and weaknesses, and what they bring to the table, be it for engagement of employees or consumers. One disappointment for me here was the exclusion of applied gaming mechanics providers who do not operate on a technology platform.

The book’s capsule descriptions of providers will help some of the banks in the U. S. understand more about what platforms they can leverage. However, many of the larger players run full-service loyalty programs today,  so adding on an additional platform might not be cost effective. The authors do spend a bit of time discussing the entire build-versus-buy scenario, but there is definitely a trend, from the screenshots to the descriptors, for a build-and-host scenario.

An insider’s perspective on gamification

As a product developer for banks and merchant coalitions across the globe, I found the book to be relatively useful in describing some of the softer elements of what financial firms do with cardholder loyalty and how we can drive better engagement. Many of the game mechanics discussed in the second section are critical to understand as a base for next-generation loyalty programs, especially where heavy regulation and consumer preference diversity is at play, so the book does an excellent job of setting the foundation.

I found the breakdowns of running the programs well done and helpful if you are a bank looking to run a platform-based engagement program, but again was a bit disappointed that there was a lot of focus on analyzing the results of a digital program but not necessarily running one that is not wholly digital.

I believe that gamification, when done properly for banking customers, will target and engage in very disparate and diversified ways rather than in the online-only models Duggan and Shoup described here.

Not all banks have advanced quite so far as the largest players, and the early adopters. It’s worth understanding what you can do relatively quickly, something the book does well to define. But this guide does leave one wondering what comes next.

I would recommend the book for anyone who is answering questions about where gamification fits into the ecosystem on loyalty and consumer engagement, but I would definitely caution those same bankers to consider that the book will get you started, but it will not take you all the way to the moon.

You’ll still need your best and brightest loyalty marketers for that.

About the reviewer

Chris A. Guiney is senior business leader, new platform development, MasterCard Loyalty Solutions. He spoke about his work in gamification at his company in an earlier interview article, “Gamification: Another word for engagement.”

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