Gamification became a hot buzzword more than seven years ago in the quantitative research world. It stemmed from a desire to make online surveys more engaging to complete. The belief is that the more engaged, the more thoughtful the response.
As online market research communities (qualitative MROCs) came into more common practice four to five years ago, gamification (contests and games – including added incentives, badges for reaching milestones, etc.) took off because, in an environment where you need to keep people coming back and maintaining their interest, qualitative researchers needed extra tools. (I’ve always found it interesting how close these incentives are to the extra bonuses we got in grammar school – think “gold star” for a perfect math or spelling test!)
I personally think of an online research community as something on-going and multi-tasked – maybe lasting three months to a year. And for most clients, they are too expensive.
Yet, leveraging some techniques from current gamification practices in MROCs can be useful in a three-day or three-week online study as well. In this setting, keeping people engaged and providing quality responses can be a challenge; as such, strategic incentives built into the study can work.
A short time ago, I conducted a study that was done in two parts, over three weeks. In the second part, concepts were shown and I asked the participants to “sell their favorite idea (aka concept)” to others, using their own language. The platform I was using allowed people to vote for their favorite “sell statement.” I gave them a set amount of time to do the task before voting opening, did not allow them to vote for their own idea, and gave a $25 extra incentive to the person with the most votes. Huge success! They loved it and I (and the client) got so much better responses to this type of question than I have gotten in the past.
Let me tell you where I “failed,” because sometimes we do. The last day of the study, I tried this again with a slightly different question. By this point, my participants were primed and wanted to win the extra cash. The study was to conclude at 11PM that day. I started checking the votes at 2PM and no one was voting. I wrote an email saying after 7PM all posts needed to be up and they should vote between 7-11PM. That didn’t help; they were hedging their bets. So I had to do something I don’t like to do: I told them I would leave the board open after 11PM for them to vote and would email them the winner on Saturday at 9AM. The activity between 11PM and midnight was incredible; yet I felt badly I didn’t conclude as promised. Lesson to self: never do this kind of strategic incentive on the last day of a project – particularly in the last half of the day!
Research continues to evolve. We need to try new things to see how they may improve our outcomes. My pointers:
- It’s okay to experiment – in fact we should. The context in which research is being conducted changes over time and we must “fit well” within the current environment.
- Never be gratuitous or waste participants’ time. Respect for participants should never change!
- When trying something new for the first time and I’m not sure how it will work, I often tell participants. This makes them feel even more comfortable to ask questions for clarification which helps the whole group.
- Program your own online “boards.” A project looks different online than it does as a discussion guide. Record video intros and daily thank yous; add imagery when it will make the experience more engaging. An online board should have the moderator doing the same work asked of participants. Recording video is not my favorite thing to do, but it’s similar to getting your house ready for party…time to roll out the welcome mat!
- At the very end of the study, add an optional section for participants to provide feedback. I’m particularly interested in what I could have done better and if my daily time estimates were accurate (so they are paid fairly). I can’t grow unless I learn and the best way I learn is to ask. Such a moderator POV, right?
Do you have any other uses for gamification that you can share? Please do!