Empathy Mapping: The Future of Gamification

Gamification has become a well-established method of engaging both customers and employees. But as with any medium, user expectations can change. Gamification alone is no longer enough to engage with audiences. They’ve come to recognize tactics that are over-competitive or manipulative.

by Linda Vetter

So, what do modern audiences want? In contrast to the above, they’re looking for campaigns that understand their feelings and share their values. This is where empathy mapping comes into play…

What is empathy mapping?

Empathy mapping is a staple in the design process. It puts the focus on user experience by understanding not just what users want, but what they think, how they feel, and how they act. In other words, it’s about empathizing with users to understand their attitudes and behaviors.

There are various models available to create an employee or customer empathy map. Most include some combination of the following areas:

  • What a user says
  • What a user does
  • What a user thinks
  • What a user feels
  • What a user sees
  • What a user hears

Those areas are often merged too, such as:

  • What a user says and does
  • What a user thinks and feels
  • What a user sees and hears

How does empathy mapping work?

As well as the attitudes and behaviors it analyses, empathy mapping can vary in a number of other ways. There are the users in question. Employee or customer empathy maps can be created for a single user – either real or hypothetical. Alternatively, they can represent multiple users from a survey, a segment of your audience, or even your entire target market.

In terms of the information utilized, empathy maps can be based on research or your team’s own ideas, knowledge, and understanding of users. Understandably, any research you can add is a bonus. It takes the guesswork out of your employee or customer empathy map – whether it’s a single user’s feedback, the results of a survey, or third-party research that’s relevant to your industry and audience.

An empathy mapping example

To put it all into context, consider someone who’s looking for a new broadband provider.

  • Says – According to a survey by Which, almost one in four customers said they switched broadband providers because they found a better deal.
  • Does – Despite their reasons, the same survey by Which found that only half of broadband users have ever switched. This means in terms of what users do, there’s a bit of a stumbling block.
  • Thinks – If they’re stuck with a provider that charges them too much, it’s only natural for users to wonder why they’re paying more and whether there’s a better deal out there.
  • Feels – Research by Zen Internet found that, of customers that hadn’t switched, 36% did so because they feared the service elsewhere would be worse.

While this is a simple example, it shows how empathy mapping can help organizations shape how they target, engage, and interact with customers. For a broadband provider, the focal points going forward would be to consider how they can show customers they offer better value, how to convince them to actually switch, and how to overcome their fears of poor service.

Empathetic design in gamification

Here’s where things get interesting. Empathy mapping and gamification have a two-way relationship.

Firstly, empathetic design is a key element for gamification. Gamified experiences should be tailored to your existing knowledge and understanding of your audience. As mentioned earlier, this allows you to create an experience that is understanding and engaging rather than manipulative and over-competitive.

Take Foxy Bingo, for example. At the most basic level, they know the type of games and rewards their audience loves. Based on that, we were able to create a board game format where players got a roll of the dice each day to collect tokens and unlock prizes. Players can earn extra rolls by completing further tasks, including a survey to gain self-reported data.

The empathetic design creates a two-way value stream where customers are not simply being asked for their data. While many organizations target customers with site pop-ups, follow-up emails, and other correspondence asking them to complete surveys, the board game is a fun, engaging way to capture data while delighting customers. This is called earned data.

Gamification assisting empathy mapping

Here’s the second part of the puzzle – as well as being influenced by empathy mapping, gamification can provide the data that shapes your employee or customer empathy maps going forward.

Consider this project with a global pet care brand. They wanted to capture vital pet information from pet owners. After a thorough discovery session, it was decided the best way of doing so was through a pet-themed virtual Advent calendar. Put simply, users could access rewards hidden behind each door by completing an initial survey.

The virtual calendar gave the pet care brand what they wanted – the basic pet information like type, age, and number of pets. But it also allowed for testing to identify how customers react to different value propositions. From an empathy mapping standpoint, this refers to what a user does. Here were some of the hypotheses they wanted to test:

  • Would consumers only engage and provide data if they were rewarded with product discounts?
  • Would consumers also respond to non-monetary rewards, such as video-based content?
  • Would consumers still provide their data even if completion of a survey was not a compulsory step in the journey?
  • Could interactive content be used to motivate consumers to engage repeatedly with the brand in a short space of time?

To answer these questions, the calendar included a mixture of rewards, with responsiveness tested to the different types. The initial survey was also A/B tested to see how being mandatory or optional affected completion rates.

Understanding employees and customers

Whether you’re completely new to empathy mapping or you’re a seasoned pro looking to further improve your understanding of users, consented data capture and audiences engagement solutions providers, like 3radical, can help. Brands need bespoke gamification solutions to help them understand their employees’ and customers’ attitudes and behaviors.

If you’d like to find out more about 3radical solutions and how they can help you, don’t hesitate to contact our team today.

linda vetterLinda Vetter is SVP Marketing at 3radical.


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