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Gamification and consumer profiling

Written by Ryan | 28-Aug-2013 16:18:00

A raft of companies are now using games and gamification to try to engage with consumers to build up data sets for profiling and targeting. These range from Visual DNA in the UK to Niantic Labs (owned by Google) in the US. By building fun and informative tools and games they encourage the user to reveal more about their likes and dislikes; and some do it more transparently than others.

As this way of profiling consumers becomes more sophisticated, it is making up part of the overall optimisation and analytics shift from "Big Data" to "Smart Data". 

In relation to this, over the last week, two videos on YouTube have caught my attention. 

Field Trip on Glass: Field Trip is a mobile app that Google launched in 2012. Using location based signals it alerts users to things of interest in the environment around them. In hindsight it is clearly a pre-cursor to what Google wants to be doing with Google Glass and the video below shows how it would work on Glass. You can see how Google can provide an engaging, useful service whilst also building up and learning from a vast pool of data on the user. How intrusive this service will be is yet to be seen.

YourExtraLife: In this interview between Robert Scoble (Rackspace super geek) and Paul Barclay (Founder of YourExtraLife) they discuss how the latter has been successfully growing a new company that has gamification at it's core. The aim of the app is to encourage users to step out of their day to day "comfort zones" by trying new things (food, films, music etc); players earn points and unlock more games by doing so. 

This triggers an interesting internal debate for me: Part of me is incredibly excited by the possibilities that Google Glass and other gamification led applications can offer - I can't wait until gamification and telematics come together so I'll know that the guy that cuts me up on the way home will need to pay a little extra for his car insurance! However, at the same time a more traditional part of me wonders if we should all just be asking our friends which restaurant to go to, our colleagues for advice on the best film from the 1980's (that's you Jamie) and learning from our parents that altruistic behaviour (such as giving blood) is a positive thing, which we shouldn't need to earn badges in a game for. 

And this is just the technology. The potential for these data sets to give advertisers better ways of targeting and tracking is huge - and the way this is implemented is going to be key for succesful roll out to the "masses". If a significant number of individuals aren't comfortable today with some of the less obtrusive ad targeting techniques on the web, how will they feel about it with wearable devices such as Google Glass?

There are no doubt plenty of control, test and learn pilots taking place currently to evaluate just such a hypothesis......