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The Engagement Economy: How gamification is reshaping business

Finance, Technology, apps, business, games

Wayne Lin points at the onscreen scoreboard for his new application that allows friends to compare and discuss their household electricity use. “Energy consumption is not something people usually talk about,” he says.1

But on this app people are talking—a lot. Users are leaving tips, providing support, sharing successes and having fun as they challenge each other to reduce their energy usage. One user jokingly laments that he has cut back on his television viewing to help his ranking and is now woefully unprepared to talk about the latest reality TV gossip. Conversations are cross posted on Facebook where people not directly using the application can jump into the discussion.2

Lin is the director of Product Management at Opower (pronounced Oh-Power), a company that has built a customer engagement platform to help deliver energy efficiency programs to the electric utility industry. Opower’s primary product to date has been home energy reports based on a number of behavioral science principles that resulted in energy savings of 2–4 percent. At scale, this has resulted in hundreds of millions of kilowatt hours saved.3

“Our goal is to foster an environment where people talk about their energy use in ways their friends can relate to. And through that, we encourage people to find ways to save electricity.”4 In this environment, real-world data combines with an ability to socialize and receive rewards for changing a behavior. Even Lin has evidenced real-world behavior change; in one post on the online scoreboard he jokes, “Maybe I’ll unplug my fridge … I went up a bit this month to 163 kilowatt hours” (still an impressive figure given the average American household uses 958 kilowatt hours per month).5

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© 2015 Warwick Business School and the Design Council