How to Gamify Parking
First and foremost – what the heck is gamification? Great question. It’s the process of taking something that already exists (an app, or a website, for example), and integrating game mechanics to it, so that you end up with an augmented version that people are more motivated to use. It’s not building something new – it’s making what you already have into a game.
Providing game mechanics like a reward and a progress bar encourages repeat business.
To better understand the concept, consider a few common elements that almost every gamified system has: points, levels, achievements, a leaderboard, and rewards. No matter what app or online games you’ve played, these elements add up to pique your interest.
Let me give you a quick example. I’ve used a customer relationship management tool that utilizes gamification. As a new user, I log in and have a grand total of 0 points.
As I click on different tabs and features, the system awards me points. There’s a progress bar for how many tutorials I’ve watched, so I plug away because I can see exactly how far I’ve come. It’s satisfying to get that kind of feedback. I build up my understanding of the application’s functionality and earn enough points to move from level 1 to level 2. With that level up, I’ve unlocked a new task and can send email to customers, earning me a badge! A badge! Yes! What a reward! And that, my friends, is gamification in action.
How do you gamify something?
What’s needed to successfully gamify something? Well, the first step is game mechanics. Game mechanics are the rules of the game, the nuts and bolts; instructions on how things work and what happens after each action you take. There are several fundamental game mechanics, and using two or more of them in combination is what takes that regular app and makes it gamified. The fundamentals are:
- Fast feedback
- Short and long term goals
- Levelling up
These matter, and any attempt at gamification that doesn’t involve at least some of the above won’t work.
Examples of Gamification in Action
Sales: With gamification, you can set goals for employees, track performance (which everyone can see), allow them to compare themselves to coworkers, give instant feedback, and offer rewards for successful completion of tasks. To take this even a step further, you can assign points to specific behaviors, like calling customers or sending emails.
Learning: Introduction and onboarding programs can be overwhelming. Ensure your learners feel like they are making progress with game mechanics like a progress bar and leveling up each time they tackle a new concept. As a bonus, gamified virtual learning reduces overhead costs of instructors and provides detailed tracking and updates on how participants are doing.
Customer loyalty: You can also groom customers to take specific actions if you reward them. If your business already requires an online account, add a referral button and award prizes for sending their friends to your business.
Transit: Several programs have been implemented around the world testing out the viability and popularity of gamifying transit. The basic strategy on how you can gamify transit is when people ride transit (you can specify when, where and what kind), they earn points. The points and can be cashed in for a reward.
Here are a few real-life examples of this process in action:
1- SASABus in Italy: Using existing smart city technology to track bus usage, each kilometer a user travels by bus is tracked and their score is publicly visible. Riders share accomplishments on social media, and if you earn enough points you even get to participate in special challenges.
2- BART in San Francisco: Solving overuse and the extreme peaks and valleys in ridership. Participants register their transit card to earn BARTPerks, and points accumulate each time you scan the card to board public transit. You use your points to win cash or discounts on future transit passes.
Gamification Belongs in Parking
So now that everyone is on the same page about what gamification is, and has seen it in action, let me explain why it has a place in the parking industry.
First, engagement among customers increases. It’s a challenge to collect information from customers, and even more difficult to measure effectiveness of your marketing efforts. With a gamified app, you can see exactly who is interested and how often they are participating. There is a ton of customer data to be gathered, analyzed, and actioned.
Second, it builds loyalty to a particular parking location. Much the same way any loyalty program works, you become the vendor of choice when you offer points for purchases. Providing game mechanics like a reward and a progress bar encourages repeat business.
Finally, games are fun because they generate a (small) amount of pleasure in the player’s brain. Accomplishing tasks and receiving praise for doing so stimulates chemical reactions that drive happiness. One challenge that we almost always have in parking is that it’s mundane at best – a necessary evil to some. But gamification offers a way to make parking fun and enjoyable.
How can we apply our learning to parking?
Actually, there are already several examples of gamification applied to parking! Here are my two favorites
1- Crowd Park: this app rewards you for finding and reporting illegally parked vehicles (and offers functionality like finding and paying for parking as well). As the owner operator, you enlist help from customers and maximize revenue, while using fewer of your own resources.
2- Parking lots as a game board: here, the lot is divided up into zones. Each zone represents the amount of effort to park, and points are awarded based on which spot you select. For example, the zone furthest from the door might be worth 10 points; whereas the zone closest may be worth 0 points. This encourages regular users (like staff) to leave the closer spot vacant. You could try this out
and offer a gift certificate or discount towards future parking for point redemption.
Tips for Successful Implementation
Since you’ve gotten this far in the article, I’m assuming you are at least somewhat interested in gamification. If you’re considering implementing this in your business, here are a few suggestions to help you succeed.
Personalization: making the components unique to each user captures the imagination and builds loyalty. Things like a customizable avatar or a choice within the game will create buy-in and ownership among players.
Rewards: while you certainly want to provide rewards, you need them to be meaningful. Giving out too many points or badges devalues them. You also want to be selective about what you’re handing out rewards for. Be sure that any activity that earns a reward has a business purpose and helps you achieve a goal.
Sharing successes: a ranking or leaderboard certainly shows others how well you’re doing. Social media posts or likes or upvotes are another word-of-mouth technique that lets the world know about your success, and validates the poster. Others can see how many followers or retweets you receive and want to achieve the same things you are. Adding this component to your gamification strategy is important for self-promotion of the player as well as your promotional strategy for the program.
Downsides to gamification
Cost: it can be expensive to customize and implement the technology, especially when you include planning and training on how to use the new platform.
Bad habits: you can run into all sorts of unexpected habits, like a competitive mindset among your staff or customers. Negative commenting or online bullying are a risk if you allow public content or sharing. If users can spend real money to purchase game credits this can lead to overspending and put people into debt, seriously impacting their credit score if they get carried away.
In the end, whether you consider gamifying your parking tech is up to you. I’m only here to provoke some thought around a topic you may not have considered, and provide information to anyone who’s reading. And hopefully it was a success!
Chelsea Webster is Marketing Specialists with the Calgary Parking Authority. She can be reached at Chelsea.firstname.lastname@example.org