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Why Gamification is on the Rise in Travel Tech

May 24, 2016 / By Vanessa Horwell

According to recent research, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds over the last fifteen years. As a point of comparison, it’s officially easier to hold the attention of a goldfish (given the creature’s believed 9-second attention span).

Whereas goldfish rarely travel far from their aquariums, human travel and tourism constitutes 10 percent of global GDP – and for stakeholders across the travel industry to seize customer interest amid ever-shortening attention spans, it’s time to get creative.

The obvious culprits capturing our attention are smartphones, and the multi-screen digital lifestyles they’ve helped create. But there’s a benefit to our changing relationship with mobile devices: a stronger ability to multi-task and tap into intermittent bursts of high attention.

According to the attention span study, commissioned by Microsoft, early technology adopters and heavy social media users are “better at identifying what they want/don’t want to engage with and need less to process and commit things to memory.”

In that environment, it’s no wonder that mobile games have become such an addictive force for so many individuals – and not just Millennials and their younger peers: A scientific journal reported 61 percent of CEOs, CFOs, and other senior executives take daily game breaks at work.

Engagement-driven multi-tasking and the rise of mobile gaming converge with the trend of “gamification.” Broadly, gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to other areas of activity to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. In business, it’s often used as a marketing technique to drive interaction with a product or service by compelling the user toward various actions.

The application of games for education is well-known: IBM has found that a great lecture can improve learning by 17 percent, but intense games can outdo them by 101 percent. Gamification in business can not only broaden customers’ knowledge, but drive marketing outcomes by tapping into the human impulse for achievement.

As an inherently rewards- and loyalty-driven market, gamification is increasingly being embraced across the travel industry. By deploying game-centric promotions and ad campaigns on top of their existing marketing strategies, travel-sector stakeholders are keeping their customers engaged more creatively and interactively than ever before.

For example, Virgin America’s “Go Big” encouraged those in its Elevate frequent flier program to play bingo via in-flight WiFi for a chance at prizes – including 500,000 Elevate points – and JetBlue’s TrueBlue Badges is a rewards-based game platform for its loyalty members.

The real value of gamification may be more than just reward redemptions, but a stronger and more genuine sense of loyalty and attachment with a brand. Travel brands have long lacked a strong sense of community, and games provide a social element that’s been missing from loyalty programs for many years. That’s just one reason a recent study by Gigya showed that gamification improves engagement levels around 30 percent.

Another reason: they hold our attention longer than 9 seconds. Travel gives us the ability to make the world our fishbowl, and gamification reminds us that travel can be a game in itself!

Vanessa

Horwell

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