By Paul Barnes, UK Managing Director, Questback

When gamification began to be introduced within market research a few years ago, it promised major benefits, holding out the possibility of increasing survey completion rates, generating more detailed answers from respondents, and building a deeper, more engaged relationship with them.

Yet these benefits have been delivered sporadically, if at all, with too many supposedly gamified surveys not providing the expected results. It is therefore time to go back to basics with how gamification is used in market research.

Typical objectives for gamifying surveys range from trying to increase engagement levels so respondents provide better quality feedback, upping completion rates and getting respondents to answer longer surveys. Alternatively, the target could be to encourage respondents in an online community or panel to feel more engaged so they participate in more surveys.

However, much of the time when gamification fails to deliver on these expectations, it is probably down to confusion surrounding what gamifying elements are truly important when applied to market research.

Bearing this in mind, here are five considerations to remember.

  1. It Isn’t Grand Theft Auto

It is easy to get caught up on the idea of creating cool online video game style graphics and animations that fill the screen.  While these can look fantastic, often there is a risk that they overcomplicate surveys and actually make completion more difficult.

While visual and interactive elements can certainly be used to make surveys more game-like and enjoyable, the emphasis should be on keeping things simple, familiar and intuitive; because you want to make the task easier, not harder.

As an example, you can imagine gamifying an agree/disagree question by providing the options on a deck of cards and which respondents can pick up and move to their preferred answer. By showing the number of cards respondents can also see how far through the question they are.

  1. Be Playful

Sometimes applying gamification can be as simple as changing the wording of questions to turn them into a game by appealing to people’s competitive instincts or puzzle solving nature.

For example, if you are trying to discover how the survey sample feels about a brand, you might ask them to “describe what you think of the brand in 7 words” or “how many different words can you use to describe this brand in 60 seconds”. This playfulness, rather than snazzy graphics, is really one of the keys if you want to gamify a market research survey.

  1. Rules Should Be Obvious

Respondents should generally not have to learn a set of ‘rules of the game’ to proceed with a survey.  The rules – if there are any – should be obvious.  You want people to use their mental energy to give good feedback to your questions, not to understand a set of rules.

Similarly, while the typical online gaming format involves the game becoming more challenging as the player progresses through successive levels, this should be avoided at all costs in a market research scenario. We don’t want people to give up or ‘fail’ before they get to the end of a survey.

  1. Focus On The User Experience

The design, layout and interactive aspects should be tuned towards creating an easy user experience first and foremost. Re-use those things that currently help deliver a positive, familiar user experience in people’s everyday online lives. And make sure they are all built around the things your target demographic is already at ease with.

So, you could consider borrowing the touch and swipe interactivity of smartphone apps or games when you ask people to agree or disagree with a set of options in your survey questions, for example. Or require them to click on a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down icon (made popular on social media) to indicate whether they like or dislike something.

With the huge rise in mobile devices, most gamified surveys should be designed around a mobile-first strategy.

  1. Reward Users

Enabling participants to earn points and rewards can certainly play a role. You could give retail customers the opportunity to earn points by answering a customer feedback survey after each purchase (with the points contributing to a discount off their next purchase). Or in an online community, those who have participated in a high number of surveys could be given the privilege of having more complete profiles. You shouldn’t underestimate the positive effect of social pressure – people want to gain status in communities.

All in all I believe gamification does still have much to offer market research.  We’re just going through a learning curve in which we as an industry are refining our understanding of which gamified elements help enhance our online surveys and which ones don’t.  In fact, I can imagine over time that some degree of subtle gamification could become almost standard practice in most online surveys.

Paul Barnes, UK Managing Director, Questback