Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why Gamification Isn’t Just for Gamers

Gamification. A buzzword, a technique, a way of training. Gamification has been gaining traction within businesses for quite some time now. While many have tried and loved the benefits of gamification, others may be weary of this new method of connecting with employees.

One concern we have heard is that many companies think that only employees who are already interested in gaming will take to gamification. We’re here to tell you that this is not the case. Gamification is not just for the Halo loving twenty-something men around the office, and it has been proven to drive employee engagement. Don’t just take our word for it though, let us prove it. These following facts were no surprise to us, but maybe you will find them helpful in your own decision on whether gamification is right for your organization.

1. More than 70% of the world’s largest companies are expected to have deployed at least one gamified application by year-end 2014. (Gartner)

2. The overall market for gamification tools, services, and applications is projected to be $5.5 billion by 2018. (M2 Research)
3. Vendors claim that gamification can lead to a 100% to 150% pickup in engagement metrics including unique views, page views, community activities, and time on site. (M2 Research)
4. 63% of American adults agree that making everyday activities more like a game would make them more fun and rewarding. (JWTIntelligence)
5. 51% of American adults agree that if a layer of competition were added to everyday activities, they’d be more likely to keep closer watch of their behavior in those areas. (JW Intelligence)
While we won’t go as far as to say that we know the future of gamification will be an overwhelming success, we believe its impact on businesses is real. If you are interested in learning more about gamification, visit us at  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How Starbucks is Crowdsourcing Through Gamification

By Taylor King

I am a loyal Starbucks coffee junkie. A gold-card-member-bearing-barista-knows-my-name-and-drink-when-I-walk-in-the-door kind of Starbucks junkie. My unwavering loyalty is largely due to the My Starbucks Rewards application that is often recognized in the gamification arena as a best-in-class use of gaming mechanics and rewards. Points, levels, goals, progress bar, status…a shining example of a great loyalty program. However, My Starbucks Rewards is not the only gamification platform that has been successful for Starbucks. .

Recently, I discovered a crowdsourcing platform started in 2008 allowing Starbucks enthusiasts to share, comment and vote on ideas in the hopes of creating an even better Starbucks experience for all. Crowdsourcing, utilizing the power of a passionate brand community to gather feedback and innovative ideas, has proven an effective and efficient method for generating content and ideas. The result for Starbucks Corp. has been an experience that has motivated customers to generate over 150,000 ideas to date. Here are three key gaming strategies that have served Starbucks well in leveraging their consumer to provide innovative ideas and insights while fostering a deeper level of engagement through their online community.

1.  Social Collaboration (Commenting/Voting/Liking)
Users have one goal, get ideas launched, but those ideas are not the result of one individual effort. Working together, users bring the best ideas to the top by commenting, liking and voting on ideas they are most interested in. The result is a collaborative effort behind a central idea that customers are passionate about. For Starbucks, this is an organic and engaging way to see what ideas are priorities to customers.  

        2.  Friendly Competition (Leaderboards/Points)
My Starbucks Idea Leaderboard displays the top 10 users who have generated the most conversation over the previous month. Users earn points by sharing ideas, receiving positive votes, commenting on other ideas and voting on the ideas of others. The point structure is a nice blend of quality and quantity reinforcement. Users are motivated to share quality ideas to earn votes that are gratifying to the user, but they are also being motivated to vote and comment at high volumes to earn additional points. Using points and leaderboards adds a layer of competition to the community it serves as a recognition tool for active participation, and allows Starbucks to track loyal brand advocates within the community.

        3.  Feedback (Idea Tracker)
Submitting ideas with My Starbucks Idea is a far cry from the good ole suggestion box. Starbucks has implemented an idea tracker that keeps the user informed on the status of their ideas. Users will see one of four badges: under review, reviewed, coming soon and launched. By creating these milestone achievements it provides positive reinforcement for the user’s progression towards the larger goal of getting an idea launched.

If you’re interested in hearing more about leveraging gaming strategies to engage your customers or employees, please contact Inward Strategic Consulting to arrange a gamification credentials presentation. We are bringing gamification to Fortune 500 companies and would love to help you utilize the power of gaming mechanics to drive engagement for your business.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Celebrating Inward’s “Sweet 16”

Today, Inward is celebrating our sixteenth anniversary. It is hard to believe that we’ve come so far and achieved so much.

In 1998, Inward found its roots supporting the well-known consulting firm, Arthur D. Little, whose clients were going through major transformation, process redesign and reengineering. I was encouraged to start a new kind of consulting firm at the insistence of the late Dr. Michael Hammer, who was the creator of the reengineering movement. Back then he said that 50% of all the major reengineering and ERP implementations were failing and nearly 80% of failure was due to too much political infighting and internal constituencies not embracing change. He strongly recommended, based on my advertising agency background, that I come up with a methodology that could be persuasive to enroll employees to embrace change and reengineering. After establishing an academic framework and process we were off and running.

Over time, our services have evolved from change management communications to employee brand engagement, internal branding, and team alignment. We offer services such as mission and values alignment, external brand positioning and market research. We help companies like Walmart, HP, Zurich Financial Insurance and McDonald’s align the behaviors and attitudes of their employees with their brand promises and values so they can create positive customer experiences. 

Last year we opened a 2,600 square foot creative studio in Bentonville, Arkansas, and hired some exceptionally creative talent. We also launched a quarterly publication of thought leadership called Looking Inward, which has grown in circulation and been cited by clients and the press as providing significant insights and value. In 2012, I was surprised to be named one of the top twenty-five consultants in the United States by Consulting Magazine.  This was a great honor and brought a lot of attention to our firm and the work we are doing for our clients. 

This past year has been very busy too. Once again, we were a premier sponsor of the Conference Board’s Extending Your Brand to Your Employees Conference where two of our clients, Walmart and McDonald’s, showcased our work and case histories.

More important than the accolades, presentations, recognition and success, however, is the pride I have for the kind of company we have built. We have a dedicated team of professionals who care deeply about our client’s success, and understand the importance and value that employees play in representing the brand through positive customer experiences. Our people work hard, play hard, and are smart, and imaginative. We have truly built a company that exemplifies the work we do for our clients in creating an engaged and inspired workforce.

Lastly, none of our success could have happened without the friends and clients who support our firm and continue sending us business referrals. Thank you for all your encouragement and business all these 16 years. Cheers and Thank you!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Millennials--the Technology Generation?

     Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, is a rapidly growing community within the workforce.  Born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s, the Millennials have grown-up alongside the advancement of modern technology.  Currently accounting for 36% of workers, this generation of educated and tech-savvy individuals is expected to outnumber the Boomer Generation and Generation X by as early as 2020.  But what does this mean for businesses and employers?
Millennials have integrated technology into their everyday lives.  What else would you expect from a generation that has been around since shortly after the introduction of the first personal computer in 1975, came of age during the bubble, and experienced the dramatic effect social media platforms have on our lives?  For this generation, it seems as though life simply revolves around technology.  It is no wonder that 75% of Millennials are active in social media and 29% visit their social media sites several times a day!  Over 8 in 10 Millennials have smartphones, with 70% of them checking their phone every hour.  Even more telling, 83% of Millennials sleep with their phones next to them. 
Technology is truly ingrained in everything this generation does.  This behavior has implications for businesses, whether you are looking at Millennials as a customer or an employee.  As customers fascinated with social media, Millennials look for meaningful interactions with the places they do business.  These customers are intrigued by exciting ads, handy mobile websites, and informative social media sites.  Studies have shown that 33% of Millennials favor brands that have Facebook pages and mobile websites.  With this statistic quickly increasing, it only makes sense for businesses to dive into the depths of social media to target this rapidly dominating group.  It is important that businesses embrace this enthusiasm for technology and social media by creating meaningful brand engagement with customers in the channels where they are already active.  Social media allows businesses to interact with their customers and, in turn, the customer begins to feel a connection with that brand.  With 75% percent of Millennials active in social media, it would be a mistake not to invest time using these free tools to connect with customers.
      Technology and social media are also rapidly evolving in the workplace with employees.  As businesses look to keep their employees engaged and involved, they are turning to social media platforms.  Creating a social media platform within the company allows employees to interact with others within the company, learn and retain more knowledge, which increases motivation and job satisfaction.  Social media can also help bridge the gap between the different generations within a company.  Companies are increasingly building gamification platforms to leverage employees' connection with technology to further educate, engage, and motivate employees at all levels of the organization. 
      As the Millennials begin to dominate the workplace, businesses need to make sure they are meeting the needs of this generation.  Keeping up with these needs or even getting ahead of the game will keep both customers and employees engaged, resulting in better business performance overall.  Ensuring that your business is up-to-date with these modern trends in technology and social media is a sure bet for a more successful future.

Source: 2012 Pew Research Center, “Millennials: A Portion of Generation Next”