How to measure Gamification ROI. Is it mission impossible?

Measuring ROI (return on investment) is an elusive task: you have external factors that affect the results; measuring the baseline is a subjective process; forecasting future impact is difficult and even calculating the actual investment is a project by itself. The result? difficulty in agreeing about a project’s ROI even when the benefit of the project is obvious to all involved.

That said, I have a firm belief that one can measure almost anything (I recommend reading the book ‘How to measure anything’).  Some of our customers claim that the increase in sales following a successful gamification implementation are an increase of  5-15%. But, to make such claims believable, we need to dive into the details understand how to analyze and quantify success.

As a matter of fact, this task can be divided into two smaller tasks (figure 1) :

  1. Measuring the effect of gamification on our target users’ behavior
    Gamification design should modify the behavior of our users. It can do so directly through calls to action; goal setting; and effort increases. It also impacts behavior indirectly by improving motivation; creating a team spirit and increasing retention.
  2. Measuring the effect of the modified behavior on business results
    We can succeed in designing a gamification process, but if it is not aligned properly with the business goals, it will have no meaningful effect. For example, if we reward service agents to shorten service calls and won’t balance this with quality of service, we will promote customer churn.

Here are few tips for measuring gamification ROI:

  1. Define the key performance indicators (KPIs) of success
    These should be KPIs that are already in use by the business.
  2. Compare KPIs  before and after gamification implementation
  3. Compare KPI performance in correlation with the performance of the gamification activity Ensure the gamification encouragement goes hand to hand with business performance. In the graph we can notice that gamification (started in January) caused a behavioral change (activity graph), and then a business improvement (KPI graph).
  4. Measure the balance of different aspects of gamification in different groups
    E.g. : The EU team can react to the gamification by improving quality over throughput, while the American team will do the opposite
  5. Use control groups
    Keep few control teams outside the Gamification process, but keep measuring their activity. They will be your best reference for improvement
  6. Run a simulation before you start the implementation
    It is better to start with a dry-run of the gamification rule-set on past-data, in order to create the performance baseline before starting the process

I’m sure that there is no single recipe for ROI measurement, especially for innovative solutions such as gamification. However, I hope that by using the recommendations above, we can improve the ability to prove the performance delta before and after the process, or at least help change gamification design to show better results.

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