HOTEL BUSINESS REVIEW

JUNE FOCUS: Sales & Marketing

 

Gamification in The Hospitality World: 5 Years Later, Here's The Biggest Takeaway

By Aron Ezra Chairman, Plan A Technologies | June 26, 2022

Five years ago, I wrote an article for HotelExecutive titled "The Rise of Gamification Across the Hospitality World. " It shared some of the insights I acquired back when I was CEO of a company called OfferCraft -- we helped bring gamification (the use of game-like elements to make everyday activities more engaging) to many hotels, resorts and casinos around the world.

I've been asked several times to revisit that piece and to share an update about how gamification has changed since it was originally published. So, here we go!

When I wrote the original article, gamification was still new, and many people in the hospitality industry were just hearing about it for the first time. This is a look at how it holds up, along with a much larger insight I gained thanks to taking a step away from gamification.

What did I correctly predict? The big one: Gamification did indeed become more mainstream. Many hospitality companies over the last several years have implemented some form of gamification, and often saw impressive results. One of my favorites was from Hilton. Their recent Hotel Immersion program uses gamification in virtual reality to help their executives better understand the challenges facing housekeeping staff.

Corporate team members get to engage in competitions where, for instance, they set up as many room service trays as possible in two minutes. The goal is to help leadership better understand how a policy change can impact the people actually carrying it out, and it's been working.

Quite simply, the continued rise of gamification is showing no sign of slowing. This study about Gamification Trends in 2022-2027 predicts over a 25% continued growth rate over the next few years.

What did I get wrong? I expected guest-facing gamification to encompass the vast majority of the effort for hotel executives, with a far smaller portion of the effort dedicated to employee-facing initiatives. In reality, this was flipped. Employee-facing efforts like the Hilton example above -- which are generally lower risk and often easier to set up -- took up a huge portion, if not the majority, of the gamification efforts that have been deployed. Gamification is a great educational tool, and these initiatives are just a lot simpler for most hospitality leaders to imagine. To put this in perspective, in 2015, the education gamification market worldwide was valued at less than $100 million. By 2020, it had reached nearly $700 million.

This is all pretty exciting. It means for most companies, there's still a great deal of unharnessed potential.

In general, I've noticed three big factors driving a new wave of higher-quality gamification campaigns:

1. Companies Are Getting Better and Better at Building Genuinely Fun Experiences

The first wave of gamification efforts were novel, but not particularly enjoyable. They were often disappointingly complex, and required earning points and badges over long periods of time. That appeals to some, but ends up feeling tedious for most people and actively repels others.

The second wave of gamification campaigns were a lot better and more pleasurable for participants. This yielded much improved results, but many still often missed the mark.

These misses weren't too surprising, since most hospitality execs know how to create fantastic guest experiences, but creating fun digital game experiences is less familiar territory.

One example: Years ago I was speaking to a GM of one family hotel brand near Orlando. His idea for a fun game to make long lines at the front desk more bearable for kids? Put various Orlando attractions in alphabetical order and complete simple multiplication and division problems. Based on my own experiences with children, I suspected this might backfire. I was able to dissuade him and we ultimately had a hit by creating a simple matching game that gave kids larger and larger rewards the longer they had to stand in the check-in line.

There's definitely been a learning curve, but the lessons seem to be sinking in.

2. Today's Gamification Experiences Often Work More Seamlessly Across Mobile, Web, Kiosks, Booking Engines and Other Touch Points

In the past, coordinating a gamification campaign across multiple touchpoints was usually just too difficult or expensive to pull off.

But more recently, companies are getting a lot better at creating omni-channel gamification experiences that integrate with POS, PMS and loyalty systems and can be incorporated into larger marketing and operational campaigns. Often one of the ongoing challenges of setting up a good gamification experience for guests is figuring out how to handle redeeming the rewards. If it's too difficult to do, no one will bother. Better integrations and more redemption options result in smoother experiences and higher return on investment.

3. Today's Companies Are Far Better at Using Data Intelligently

Richer, more real-time data allows hospitality executives to deploy gamification solutions that can evolve and improve quickly, even in the middle of a campaign. What's more, the data collected during these campaigns goes a long way toward informing other initiatives at a property. How a person interacts with a game tells us a lot about their personality, preferences and inclinations. I've spoken to dozens of hotel executives who were surprised by the quality of insights that games allowed them to gather about their patrons' preferences or their employees' strengths.

In general, we've seen more of an evolution than a revolution in the gamification space, which makes perfect sense given that it's becoming a more mature, accepted thing in the world. If done right, it works well. If executed poorly, it doesn't.

All of this is interesting enough. But what's most fascinating to me about gamification didn't become clear to me until after I left that world.

You see, in 2018, we sold OfferCraft to a company called NRT and stopped focusing on gamification every day. I stopped talking about it at industry conferences, I stopped leading sales presentations about it, I stopped helping clients create new gamification campaigns, I stopped writing articles about it. In fact, I stopped cold turkey – gamification and I both happily went our separate ways.

After a much needed break, in 2020 I took on a new role as Chairman of software development company Plan A Technologies. I didn't expect to talk or even think much about gamification in my new role, and indeed I didn't. But a different word came up pretty much daily, across nearly every new technology project we tackled. It's a word that I never would have been focused on had I not spent years of my life thinking about how to make mundane, everyday activities more fun.

The word?  Enjoyability.

It seems so simple and obvious, but it's amazing how many technology projects and hospitality initiatives are done without any focus on whether or not they'll be enjoyed by people. (As noted earlier, this was a major struggle for initial hospitality gamification efforts.) In business, we optimize for cost, for efficiency, for clicks, for ease of use, for spend per visit, etc. These are certainly useful, but I now recognize that the biggest takeaway I acquired from my work in gamification is to optimize, above all else, for enjoyability.

Today I get to help build tech solutions for some of the biggest hospitality brands in the world. Viewing these projects through the lens of "How much is someone going to enjoy using this?" forces my team to think about more than just the mechanics of how a new kind of hospitality technology will be utilized. It forces us to imagine how someone will feel when interacting with that technology. Will that person feel good? Great? Inspired, even?

It's obviously not limited to just technology or only consumers. Today I oversee a team of several hundred people, and when I think about what motivates my staff to show up every day, I think a lot about the best way to maximize how enjoyable their job is. As I wrote in that original article five years ago:

"By making an experience more enjoyable, we see huge lifts in both revenue and satisfaction...Enjoyability is now a vital KPI for any hospitality company. It's what sets apart the ordinary from the unforgettable. With this new focus on enjoyability, hospitality companies are uncovering new sets of data that most industries haven't thought to analyze yet, they're finding new approaches to differentiate their properties in a crowded field, and they're discovering new ways to surprise and delight guests."

In short, it pays to maximize enjoyability. Which is encouraging, because the hospitality industry has long excelled at finding new ways to do this. 75 years ago, New York City's Roosevelt Hilton took a bold step: They became the first hotel to install televisions in every guest room. This was a big investment and it carried real risks. (Would guests pay an extra $3 per day for this luxury?)

Of course, soon not having one seemed unimaginable. If, after a long day, you went back to your hotel looking forward to lying in bed and watching your favorite program and discovered the room didn't have a TV…would you stay at that place again?

Enjoyability has similar potential. Soon enough, staying at a property that fails to take into consideration how to make every aspect of a visit as pleasurable as possible may be as jarring as walking into your room and realizing you're staring only at a wall.

Looking back, the greatest lesson I've learned from gamification is that it's not about the games. It's about making life a little more fun, using whatever tools are available to you. It's a pretty great way to increase both your business' profitability and genuine passion for your brand. So go out there and make things more enjoyable. Your guests and your staff will thank you for it.

Mr. Ezra Aron Ezra is an entrepreneur and Chairman of Plan A Technologies ( www.PlanAtechnologies.com ) an award-winning software development firm with offices in the US, Europe, Africa and Latin America. Mr. Ezra has served as CEO of multiple software companies, all of which he grew over 20x and were acquired in multi-million-dollar exits. A thought leader on many business and technology topics, he has been invited to give more than 1,000 presentations at industry conferences. He has won dozens of awards, and was named one of the Most Intriguing people in Las Vegas by Seven Magazine, and one of the Top 10 Rising Business Leaders by the Las Vegas Business Press. He received his bachelor's degree with honors from Princeton. Extended Biography & Contact Information

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13. PRIVACY POLICY

The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Scott  Lee
Narda Malcolm-Kingston
Katie Davin
Sophie Madgewick
Herbert Laubichler-Pichler
Kyle Mais
Ernesto Osuna
David Williams
Michael  Heflin
Tom Wolf
Po-Ju Chen
David Viteri
Mark Ricketts
Stephen Renard
Alexandre Sogno
Coming up in July 2022...

Hotel Spa: Now More Than Ever


In the aftermath of the global health crisis, there is a newfound appreciation for the need to be fit - both in body and mind - and hotels that provide a spa or wellness clinic will reap the rewards. What are clients seeking? Better health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep and mindfulness. It is no longer sufficient for spas to only offer massages or facials; clients are demanding more for the benefit of their overall well-being. For example, a medical spa might offer services such as botox, dermal fillers, body sculpting, and microdermabrasion. Other spas are emphasizing the importance of preventative therapeutics and are using technologies such as body scanners to evaluate their clients' health. Some spas are enlisting osteopaths, naturopaths, fitness coaches, yoga masters, even psychologists, to promote vitality, stress management, and emotional balance. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these and other advancements, and document how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.