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Gamification Becomes.. Serious Business

The gamification of sites is steadily increasing in popularity in the UAE, with a significant push towards adding the gaming element in the past year. Gamification is the addition of games or interactive elements online, to encourage user retention and marketing efforts. "Gamification is the application of game elements and game design techniques into non-game contexts," Ahmed El Rayes, founder and CEO of Gamified Labs, said. "People love games because they are fun and engaging. Then why not make everything we do on a daily basis as fun and engaging as games? Well, we can achieve that in education, government transactions, business-related processes, tasks and objectives through the power of gamification," he said. This gamification could be in the form of a points system, badges, leaderboards, quests and progression, he continued. Gamified Labs creates online environments like these for its clients, developing products that are all "gamified" to encourage consumer engagement coupled with entertainment. El Rayes continued to cite the example of Nike+ FuelBand - a wristband launched by the sports company - that ties in all its other products into an "effective workout ecosystem. Sports enthusiasts are now able to measure their daily activity in a motivating way that keeps them pushing for more with the end goal of being healthier citizens," he said. "Users showed off their rewards and badges on social media upon achieving their set goals, creating a competitive and entertaining environment. Nike Inc.'s Equipment division saw an 18% rise in profits for the 2012 fiscal year after introduction of the Nike+ FuelBand, compared with a -1% loss in 2011," El Rayes continued. Gamification (as outlined in the example above), can therefore be used to increase employee productivity, satisfaction and retention by creating fun and motivating environments, while rewarding them for collaborating and sharing information with each other.

Externally, gamification can be utilized to enhance customer engagement, loyalty, acquisition, retention and hence sales, the Gamified Labs Founder continued. "The current market conditions are clearly indicative of the changing nature of customers. Loyalty is a thing of the past as customers easily switch between brands depending on who's offering them the chance to be heard and entertained in new and innovative ways.  Through gamification, companies are able to create engaging and rewarding campaigns, whether online or offline, for their current and potential customer-base," he said. UAE e-commerce site Wamli was set up in December 2012 with the gamification elements of its online presence already installed. Site users are encouraged to register and create a profile, then collect 'Wamli coins' in exchange for discounts on products, for example. The coins are collected by taking part in interactive elements online, such as 'liking' and 'sharing' products among other users. Users also earn 'experience points' through interacting, which are structured in levels, each with its own advantages. A leader board of the most followed or active on the site is then constructed, with the status of 'Mighty Wamlian' going to whichever user reaches the top of the board. The 'Mighty Wamlian' is rewarded with 'estate taxes' from his followers in the form of 'Wamli coins', as well as the status as being the top user. Once users reach a certain level, they gain 'powers' that reward them with services such as free shipping, for example. According to Rabih Ghandour, founder and CEO, Wamli, one of the main aims of the gamification element on the site is retention. "Retention is more important than gaining other members, coming everyday checking out what's new, products, making comments, socializing, sharing our products on Facebook, that is very important," he said. "The other is virality -spreading the word without us doing any digital marketing or ads... [it's] word of mouth actually, inviting their friends, pushing them to sign up, play with them, shop with them, that creates a lot of virality," he added. The site currently has more than 13,400 members, with 30-40% of users using the gaming elements of the site on a regular basis. Members are currently 70% female and 30% male. "The whole idea of Wamliis that it's a fun place... so from the name Wamli, to the products you find and from the game elements when you're shopping, you know you are enjoying it, you are having fun; and you can also get engaged in exciting ways," Ghandour continued.  "We have a lot of members who really feel good when they see a pop-up telling them they made it to the next level; or a pop-up that they got a distinction. Then they try to get to the next level and try to get on the leader boards," he said.Customers also start communicating with the company asking how to get to the next level or how to take part, for example. "That's really nice, engagement with the customer himself," Ghandour said."At the end of the day a lot of users who just came in to play around with it end up buying; they just love it and they just buy, that's how it goes."