Bunchball Explores Elements and Applications of Gamification

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ADOTAS – As Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer for gamification mainstay Bunchball, describes Nitro for Salesforce, I can’t help recalling Alec Baldwin’s legendary scene in the film version of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” in which he explains first prize for reaching a sales goal is a new car, second prize is a set of steak knives and third prize is “You’re fired.” I think those seven minutes of celluloid forever predisposed me against the sales world and pushed me into my lucrative career in online journalism.

Nitro for Salesforce makes me think of Baldwin’s haunting spiel because it’s the exact opposite of the ruthless, every-man-for-himself world of “Glenngarry Glenn Ross.” Using gamification technology integrated into sales team management system Saelsforce.com, Bunchball’s solution makes meeting sales goals… Fun. Yes, fun. It encourages and rewards both competition and collaboration.

Maybe I should rethink being a sales guy… Online journalists only get to play games like “Be Your Own Copy Editor!”

I’ve met up with Paharia at the Gamification Summit East near Battery Park in Manhattan to talk about Bunchball’s many developments since the company announced it had doubled its customer base and received another $6.5 million in funding. The biggest news is the warm reception to Nitro for Salesforce — the internal sales and operations markets have proven surprisingly agreeable to gamification technology, Paharia comments, adding “Peer pressure can be quite motivating.”

Sales teams are notoriously competitive and companies tend to enact competition-based incentive programs to foster this spirit. Just as Salesforce.com is the premier tool for managing and tracking sales efforts, Nitro for Salesforce aims to be the go-to add-on for managing incentivized sales challenges.

How? By offering a variety of competitions. In addition to straightforward “who can reach the sales goal first?” activities, companies using Nitro for Salesforce can quickly set up short-term, time-sensitive sales goals for pushing certain objectives. In addition, employers can set up leagues and teams to encourage collaboration and competition simultaneously.

Through the Nitro tab on the Salesforce account, employees can keep up with real-time stats. “No one wants to be on the bottom, dragging the whole team down,” notes Paharia.

Oh, and all those fun parts of gamification, such as badges and leaderboards are included. The tool impressed attendees of cloud computing conference Dreamforce 2011 so much, it won the AppQuest 2011 challenge.

“It’s a real pain point for a lot of companies, so people understood what we were selling,” Paharia says. “We simply automated the most painful parts.”

Other Elements

Nitro for SalesForce is only one of several new spinoffs of the Nitro gamification platform that Bunchball has introduced lately. As integration of gamification features to a website can take a bit of sweat equity, Nitro Elements are a series of plug and play apps that publishers can immediately “drop in the mix,” Paharia says. In effect, it’s instant gamification — after entering the parameters and entering some code, these widgets are live in minutes.

As Paharia explains, Elements were built to solve specific problems that were popping up the most among their customer base. For example, the FanBox widget handles one of the most basic but annoying tasks of gamification: incentivizing users for completing some kind of social media activity (tweet, Like, yada yada yada).

However, this can be a handy tool on the time-sensitive front — say you want to drive a bunch of tweets about an event real quick, FanBox can have your code ready in an instant and takes care of doling out the FanPoints, which can be redeemed for Amazon gift cards (more options are forthcoming, Paharia promises).

Another popular use of gamification is driving site visits — incentivization works here too, but in an interesting fashion. The GameBox widget awards users a certain amount of chips to use in a site-sponsored social poker game (chips can also be purchased). It’s an interesting tool because not only does it reward site loyalty, it builds a community around frequent site users.

Training and Motivation

As evident with the Nitro for Salesforce tool, the uses for gamification technology is expanding in fascinating ways. Further illustrating this is Bunchball’s latest work with jewelry company Stella & Dot.

S&D sells merchandise by getting brand ambassadors to throw jewelry parties akin to cosmetic or (gasp!) tupperware get-togethers. But the ambassadors gotta know what’s what in terms of what their selling, so S&D tapped Bunchball to add its gamification magic to educational portal Stella & Dot University. For completing online training courses, which include trivia questions, the ambassadors earn badges and can level up, as well as see how they’re performing versus others on a social leaderboard.

Training and other internal company tools that drive sales are a space that Bunchball is heavily moving into, Paharia explains, as gamification tools can provide the motivation necessary to improve employee performance.

“If we can affect employee performance by just 1%, that’s great,” he surmises.

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