People Love Playing Games. Use These 4 Psychological Hacks to Keep Customers Coming Back for More.

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Most of us love playing games. Whether it’s a sports game like the baseball we play in a stadium or a digital game on the computer, gaming has the potential to become a vital part of our lives. But games also have implications beyond purely entertainment: they can influence user behavior and help companies reach milestones.

Gamification is the technique of using game design elements in non-game contexts. The term “gamification” has become a buzzword in the past few years. Today, many startups and companies are incorporating games into their products to influence user behavior. Gamification helps achieve a critical business objective – it leads users to make the decisions companies want them to make.

Why do companies introduce gamification technology?

User emotions play a huge role in the way users think and feel about products. A positive emotional response from product use is likely to result in better user satisfaction. Gamification works because it emotionally engages users (evokes the user’s feelings and emotions). Well-designed gamification stimulates dopamine; It makes people feel happy and excited when they interact with a product. These sentiments make users continue to use the products and positively influence user retention rates. Users return to the product to receive a new portion of positive emotions.

Related Topics: How Gamification Attracts Both Customers and Employees

The psychology of gamification

Psychology is present in any activity that affects user behavior, and manipulation is no exception. When gamification is introduced naturally into a product, it does not force users to make a decision: it directs them toward it. Users do not believe that they need to complete routine tasks, but instead believe that they are playing a game in which the tasks are a natural part of the product experience.

Here are four psychological drivers that can help you create good games.

1. Rewards

Nir Eyal, investor and behavioral economist, has developed a methodology called the hook model. The model describes the creation of habitual behaviors across a four-stage loop cycle consisting of a stimulus, an action, a reward, and an ongoing investment. At its core, the hook model is about creating a user habit. However, it is possible to create such a habit only when the user receives a valuable reward. So it is important to understand what drives customer behavior and what is important to them.

One simple example of a typical behavior cycle can be seen in many coffee chains. Customers receive a new stamp each time they purchase coffee from a particular chain. Customers know that they will get free coffee when they collect a certain number of stamps, so they become loyal to the chain.

In digital products, it is possible to use similar mechanisms – adding loyalty points in products that users can redeem for discounts or offering a different level of membership for different numbers of completed tasks (for example, Bronze, Silver, Gold) which will give users rewards relatives (ie a discount 5%, 10%, 15%).

Related: 3 Secret Reasons Why Your Brand Needs a Rewards Program

2. A sense of accomplishment

Sense of accomplishment is one of the most powerful psychological drivers of human behavior. The Zeigarnik effect, named after the Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, states that people remember incomplete or discontinuous tasks better than completed tasks. By gracefully reminding the user that they still have some task in progress, you motivate them to get that task done.

One good example of Zeigarnik’s influence in digital products is a progress bar that depicts a user’s progress on a task they have started. For example, there may be progress in learning a new skill or language. Learning a new language is a huge task. By breaking it down into steps, showing users progress toward the goal and adding playful intent, you motivate them to complete the task.

Another example is the introduction of milestones in product design. For example, a product can have a system of levels that users go through (start with level 1 and go to level 10). When each next level is more challenging than the previous one, it motivates users to work harder to achieve the next goal. Each time users reach the next level, they experience a positive sense of accomplishment, creating a positive habit of using the product.

3. Competitive spirit

Humans are competitive by nature – competition is embedded in our DNA. Competition with others can increase our motivation and improve productivity. Psychologists often call competition an “external motivator” because the motivation to complete a given task comes from the outside rather than the internal one. In other words, when people see other people’s performance in certain activities, it motivates them to work harder to achieve better results, but once the competition is over, they may stop doing it.

The leaderboards are a good example of this driver from the real world. The leaderboard helps us identify the best performers in a given activity. But leaderboards can be integrated into digital products to motivate users to complete certain tasks. For example, by introducing a leaderboard in a fitness tracking app, you encourage users to improve their training results. This technique can lead users to achieve mastery in a particular exercise. As the players master the game and achieve better results, they also receive positive feedback from the community.

Related topics: Some employers exploit gamification to hire candidates

Gamification is also rooted in social influence. People need to see the results of their work so they can share it with their circle. It is possible to motivate users to complete certain tasks by giving them a badge, a visual representation of achievement, which they can show to their friends and family. Badges become virtual status icons because they indicate how users perform certain activities.

4. Social Bonding

Humans are social animals, and we enjoy being a part of certain communities. This psychological aspect translates well to gamification. User interaction can be improved if you can make your users feel part of the community when interacting with your product. In digital products, it is possible to develop social connectedness by adding membership in certain groups in exchange for certain activities. For example, users have to complete X activities before receiving an invitation to the upper member area.

Gamification is a powerful tool that, when used correctly, can have a very positive impact on the profits of a business. Psychological drivers such as reward, sense of accomplishment, competitiveness, and social connection can help you create a more engaging user experience. When people are satisfied with interacting with your product, they are more likely to be motivated to use it again and again.

But like any other design technique, the real magic of tinkering is in the details. When you’re designing a new product and want to introduce gamification, you should always start by defining the base drivers (the activities your users want to complete with your product). Only after that you should enter the game elements that will enhance these activities. If you achieve this goal, you will create an experience that feels natural.

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