Gamification means using game elements or game mechanics in your online course or membership program. In this article, I will explain the psychology behind gamification and various gamification techniques that you can incorporate in your membership program. This article will also cover how gamification helps you increase engagement, customer retention, and enhance the effectiveness of your program. I’ll also show how you can implement gamification techniques with Memberium in your membership site.
The psychology of gamification is basically the psychology of motivation. The primary reason for using gamification is to motivate the user to take certain actions. Another important reason is to make learning enjoyable because the human brain can handle a finite amount of information for overloading. Gamification reduces the load by making the learning processes interesting and fun.
The earliest theory of motivation was Abraham Maslow’s theory known as the Hierarchy of Needs. His now famous pyramid of need looks like this
However, as a membership site owner or e-learning course creator you want to concentrate on the top 2 needs, Esteem and Self actualization. Motivators that fall under these needs will help you encourage your audience to take the desired action. In the next section, I will list the psychological needs that you can invoke through gamification in your membership program.
The need for competence
The need for autonomy
The need for social relatedness
Most membership programs focus on ‘the need for competence’ in their gamification. You can use the same gamification techniques that are points, Badges and Leaderboards and still get better results if you know how to use them correctly.
The success of gamification depends on the correct reward schedule. The most common mistake in gamification used on membership sites is they use gamification techniques but without the understanding of the psychology behind it. If the gamification techniques are used in the wrong way, it can end up discouraging your audience.
The need for autonomy means freedom to take decisions. Not many membership programs or online courses consider the need for autonomy when they structure their gamification. Though this could be achieved easily. It could be as simple as giving freedom to choose an avatar or delaying the quiz.
For example, if you have a course that consists of multiple lessons and each lesson has multiple topics. You have a quiz at the end of each lesson for the user to pass. In this case, if the user completes all the topics in the lesson in one go, you can reward him by giving an option to delay the quiz and move forward to the next lesson without passing the quiz. You can have them pass the same quiz later or present a combined quiz for both the lessons at a later stage.
Social Relatedness refers to an individual’s need to feel a sense of attachment and belonging towards a group or community. A lot of membership sites use forums or exclusive groups to where users can communicate, share their experiences and help each other.
You can use plugins like BuddyBoss and BuddyPress for creating social groups and forums and give access to members.
Points are one of the most basic elements of gamification. You can award different types of points upon successful completion of tasks or activities based on your membership program or course. Points provide immediate feedback to the users about their progress.
You can award points when the user login to the site, upon completion of a topic, lesson or video, or passing a quiz. You can use points in a variety of ways based on the goal you want to achieve.
Badges are a visual representation of achievements, level or merit of the user. You can use badges in different ways. Similar to points, badges also provide feedback. You can use them as goals by disclosing the requirements to earn them beforehand. If a particular badge requires a lot of work or really hard to earn, it also exerts social influence.
Just using gamification will not necessarily encourage your users. A carefully crafted reward schedule plays an important role in successful gamification. The reward schedule is primarily based upon two factors, Interval, which means the time between 2 rewards offered to the user, and Ratio, the quantity of the reward. At the end of this section, you’ll know which schedules you should use for your membership program.
The reward schedules used for online courses and membership programs are as below:
This reward schedule is time bound. You reward the user every time a certain amount of time elapses. You can use this reward schedule to encourage the user to spend more time consuming your content. For example, you can reward 50 points or 100 points after every 30 minutes the user spends on your course. In this scenario, if the user has spent 20 minutes already, he is more likely to wait another 10 minutes to get his reward.
The downside of this schedule is, it mostly works when the reward is closer. Once the user crosses his 30 minutes threshold and earns his reward, this schedule may not be very effective to encourage the user to spend another 30 minutes to earn the next reward.
This schedule rewards users based on time spent on your course, however the exact time for the reward is not predictable. Meaning, you can reward a number of points or a badge after the user spends a certain amount of time on your membership site or online course but the time should not be exactly the same for each reward. For example, users can be rewarded points for spending 45 minutes constantly but the next reward could come after 55 minutes, and the next time it can be even 30 minutes.
This schedule works better than awarding points or badges at fixed intervals. The motivation will be more steady.
This is the most commonly used reward schedule. The user earns a reward after completing a particular number of lessons or topics. A lot of time the course creators reward points after the user complete every single topic or lesson which is not the best strategy. You should rather award points at regular intervals. For example, award points after completion of every 3 topics or lessons so the user has the motivation to reach that next milestone and earn the reward.
This reward schedule is a better motivator than the previous two schedules. The response from the users will be higher and more steady.
This is the most effective reward schedule. The user gets reward after he takes some actions, for example completing topics or lessons but how many actions he needs to take for getting a reward is not predictable. He may get the reward after completing the 1st lesson but needs to wait until he completes 3 more lessons to get another reward. And then yet another reward may be just 2 lessons away.
This schedule is not only the most effective but also the most economical. You can motivate the viewers to do a lot of work while rewarding much less than the other reward schedules.
As a course creator or a membership site owner, instead of relying on any one of these reward schedules, you want to use more than one schedule at different stages on your online course. For example, you want to make the rewards more predictable at the beginning of the course but as they progress further, a more unpredictable reward schedule would be more effective.
We discussed various game mechanics and how to use them to motivate your audience for achieving specific objectives. However, just going ahead and using the game mechanics may not always motivate your audience. You will have to decide which game mechanics you can use and how based on your audience or members. Your target audience could be variety of people but for convenience, we can divide them into 2 broad categories as below based on nature and content of your membership program…
1. Learners or Students
2. Achievers or Professionals
There can be various factors for categorizing the audience, for example, age. Motivators or rewards that work for members under 20 effectively not necessarily work for more mature audiences. However, there are no strict rules. Therefore, a more appropriate way to categorize your audience is based on the nature of your course or membership program.
If your course or program is a generic, theoretical or beginner type of course which gives valuable information and foundation but doesn’t change the status of the member, you can categorize the students as Learners or Students. For example, a program like Introduction to Online Marketing or a long course on Medieval History or a recreational course like Learning Tennis or Guitar.
On the other hand, if your course has a specific and measurable outcome that enables the user to implement information or techniques he learns immediately in the real world, you can classify your audience as Professionals or Achievers. For example, the Advanced Certificate Program for Gym Trainer.
Once you identify in which category your audience falls, you can determine how to use gamification to motivate them. You’ll use the same game mechanics but the difference will be how you set the goals for them. Remember, if your goals are too easy or too hard, instead of encouraging the audience it will discourage them.
This category of users needs more extrinsic motivators or rewards. You want to set smaller goals and reward them more often. You can award points each time they login and for logging in for certain days in a row. You want to create more badges with relatively smaller milestones for them. For this type of audience, the need for competence and need for social relatedness is more important.
For this category of users, the need for autonomy and challenge are better motivators. They will not respond to reward points for logins as it might seem silly to them. But if you challenge them with goals that are not very easy to achieve they’ll respond and strive to achieve them. This is also called the Loss Aversion technique. Users in this category will hate to lose out of pride.
To motivate these members you need more sophisticated levels and badges. You can also consider having them pass a quiz or complete a measurable task to earn a badge. It will give them a sense of meaningful achievement. If you use coins that allow them to unlock additional content, make sure that content is really valuable.
You can use a lot of above mentioned game mechanics with Memberium to gamify your membership program. Below are the 3 different options you can use to gamify your program using Memberium…
Memberium HTTP Math Post function allows you to create a point system in your Memberium site. You can award points to the user based on the activities they perform. You can award points when the user completes a lesson, or course, or pass a quiz, in fact you can use the Memberium HTTP Math Post function however you want. You can create an entire Credit Based System where users can earn credits and use those credits to buy bonus content.
You can check out our detailed article on how to use HTTP Post for creating a Credit Based System here.
Memberium for Infusionsoft integrates with GamiPress and allows you to use different gamification elements for your membership site. You can give points to the users for taking desired actions, award badges for their achievements, and also create a ranking system to encourage users to compete with others.
Memberium allows you to award badges using BadgeOS integration. Awarding a badge is as easy as applying a tag with Memberium’s BadgeOS integration. You can also use Memberium shortcodes to list, award, or delete achievements of the logged in users.
We have a detailed article on how to use BadgeOS with Memberium here.
Gamification is a powerful tool for engaging your audience and motivating them to take the desired action. You can make your program effective as well as interesting for your members. However, it is important to know your audience and use the game elements strategically for achieving desired results from gamifying your membership program. Memberium allows course creators like yourself to gamify their WordPress membership sites for better results and improving engagement.