Tips on Gamification for Respondent Engagement


SSI’s Jackie Lorch and Jared Schiers recently did a very well-attended webinar on respondent engagement for the American Marketing Association. The session was called “Getting engaged with your research respondents: how to take your targets from first date to long-term relationship.”

Lorch and Schiers covered a lot of ground, including addressing both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation of respondents and reviewing the ways in which some research panel stewards have not lived up to the promises made to respondents.

What I found particularly interesting in this webinar, though, was Lorch and Schiers’ section on gamification.  They made some great points.

They pointed out that many of us have gotten a mandate to find ways to use gamification to drive business goals.

They cautioned that gamification should be used judiciously – researchers are not in the entertainment business, after all.

It is not gamification, for example, when you simply add images and “bells and whistles.”

The opportunity, rather, is to add game elements in order to capitalize on people’s natural “achievement motivation.”

Further, gamification “is bigger than gaming; it’s about creating a framework to increase focus and get people to think harder and in a different way about their answers.”

Gamification capitalizes on respondents’ intrinsic motivators rather than extrinsic rewards.

Lorch and Schiers outline four elements to consider when creating an effective game:

  • Create a framework – this focuses people’s thinking, promotes concentration and promotes a feeling of competence and achievement.
  • Make it a competition – this will focus the respondent’s mind on the task and add some tension.  The competition can be with oneself.
  • Create a character – selecting an avatar allows respondents a sense of autonomy and control through which they can express their feelings.
  • Let people compare themselves to others – this promotes relatedness, the feeling that respondents are not acting alone, allows people to learn and adds some fun.

Lorch and Schiers also warned we should not go overboard by creating entire game experiences. We should also guard against introducing bias.

After the webinar I had a chance to catch up with Lorch. I asked her how SSI uses gamification in their business. “We use elements of gamification in managing our panels and communities to make them into places people will want to visit again,” Lorch said. “And if we’re asked to program questionnaires for our clients, we work with them to incorporate gaming elements if they suit the project needs. In most cases our clients program their own questionnaires, and we’re seeing some of our clients doing some very interesting things with virtual realities, scenario planning and the like, taken from the world of gaming.”

She added, “Using gaming techniques can help us achieve two key goals at SSI: building sample frames that are as large and representative as possible;  and making sure the people we select from those frames give accurate information. If we give people an experience that’s enjoyable  — especially for demographic groups that are difficult to find, like young males — then people are more likely to come back and take a survey with us again in the future. And some surveys are frankly, too long and not very interesting. Without a live interviewer, it can be difficult to keep people’s attention. By using gaming elements, we can avoid monotony, and even, with the use of an avatar for example, mimic the experience of having a live interviewer guiding people through the questions and providing encouragement.”

I also asked Lorch what one piece of advice she would give clients who are interested in gamification.  “Don’t be tempted,” she said, “to start with a gaming idea, then fit your survey into it. Start out the traditional way: figure out the research questions that need to be answered, and who the target population is. Then work with your survey design and programming team to see where gaming could be incorporated to improve the quality of the data. As we said in the webinar — we’re not in the entertainment business.  Gaming brings us into a world of creativity and exciting possibilities– but we mustn’t lose sight of our research and sampling roots!”

This was a very informative session. I look forward to hearing more about SSI’s gamification efforts in the future.

Click this link to view SSI’s webinar and get a copy of the slides.

About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.

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