FEATURE31 January 2012

Taking MR to the next level


Rajat Paharia, founder of gamification firm Bunchball, talks to Brian Tarran about how to inject life into the research experience.

Research: Bunchball says gamification can be used in any industry. I’m assuming that includes the market research industry. Are you doing any work with companies in this area?
Rajat Paharia:
Gamification can indeed be used in any industry. Any programme or application in which influencing user behaviour is a key component to that programme’s success can benefit from gamification. Bunchball has clients in the entertainment, automotive, publishing, healthcare, software and consumer products segments, to name just a few. We don’t yet have a market research customer, but I see how gamification could certainly benefit research agencies.

At its most basic, I guess, we’re talking points or badges for participating in research projects. Anything else?
Badges would be the most basic form of gamification, but we don’t encourage that. If you don’t build a programme that organically creates incentives for ongoing participation, the interest in gamification and the badging system will very quickly wane. If you have a community you regularly engage to serve as subjects, having a profile available to each subject, with accomplishments, insights and special knowledge can be a powerful motivator for them. Making these achievements visible within the community can motivate others to increase their participation as well. Providing real or virtual rewards for different levels of achievements can also be compelling. The key is to understand the user and create challenges, rewards and recognition elements that matter to them.

But why should gamification be any better in getting people to take part in research than long-established monetary or prize-based incentive systems?
When done correctly, gamification creates a stronger sense of loyalty with the brand, agency or company providing the application. Reward and prize-based incentives work, but if they aren’t automated and part of a system that someone can regularly return to, they won’t keep people engaged. In addition, if these achievements aren’t visible to the rest of the community, they might not be as compelling.

“The focus of gamification should be on influencing behaviour. Changing the content isn’t necessary – giving research subjects a reason why they want to complete that content is”

Market researchers’ interest in gamification is focused on three things: getting more people to take part, cutting drop-out rates and making the experience more fun. With that last aim in mind, some have started playing with the idea of research ‘games’ – is that a sensible thing to do?
I’d modify the ‘fun’ part and instead make the experience more engaging. Fun means different things to different people, and might not be what influences specific research subject behaviours. Creating market research games could certainly work, provided the elements of the programme speak to the needs of
the base.

Bunchball’s speciality is gamifying the user experience around content, right?
I’d say that our speciality is influencing users through gamified experiences, and that the content of that digital experience varies greatly from application to application. If we’re working with a consumer brand focused on increasing customer loyalty, the content on the site might be a wealth of information on that product’s superiority to other products in the marketplace, with the goal of influencing the consumer to digest that information. For an enterprise application, the goal might be helping a business get employees engaged and up to speed on an enterprise application like Salesforce.com. In that case much of the content is supplied by the user themselves, as we help guide them (and then reward them for) inputting data into the system, sharing information and completing challenges tied to achieving quota goals.

In market research, the only content that companies have to share with participants is surveys and focus group materials. Is that a strong enough basis to build a gamification programme on?
The focus should be on influencing behaviour. Changing the content isn’t necessary – giving research subjects a reason why they want to complete that content is. Rewarding subjects for finishing a study, regularly checking in to ongoing research programmes, sharing information with their social media community – basically anything that helps meet the needs of that specific group of subjects.