Business-to-business software as a service : how gamification can be used as an acquisition tool through its influence on engagement. (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsFairweather, Curtisshow all
This research explores the influence that gamification may have upon the behavioural intentions of new business software users towards the adoption of information technology. Many businesses operating within the business to business (B2B) software as a service (SaaS) industry experience a high rate of churn from new customers, particularly during the onboarding process. This is a phenomenon that can be linked to the compatibility of these systems with existing business processes and norms as well as their perceived complexity– many have a wide array of features on offer and a steep learning curve, that can cause anxiety or ineffective use among novice users. As such, the importance of effective customer engagement and interaction for this process is emphasized, but often lacking in practice. This is an issue that is set to worsen, given recent business trends shifting towards more self-directed sales and training practices which have grown in popularity due to their potential for reducing costs and improving scalability.
From an analysis of literature on the topic of gamification, it is apparent there is potential for the addition of game elements to have a positive influence upon the engagement of customers during this important phase of the customer lifecycle, and thus may prove a useful tool for business software providers to increase their acquisition rates. While existing literature from relevant areas of study does indicate the potential for gamification to be beneficial when used in this context, there has been no research covering this topic so far. The current study aims to address this gap in the literature and provide insight for practitioners as to whether gamification can potentially assist them with improving their customer acquisition process. To investigate this topic, a qualitative methodology was undertaken, utilizing data collected from 12 users of a business software system through the means of semi-structured interviews. The researcher was able to investigate the impact that three key game elements have upon the participant’s attitudes and behavioural intentions towards adopting a system into their business.
These three key game elements are point systems, progress bars and badges–all of which are proven indicators of progression, intended to provide feedback for positive interactions a user has taken towards achieving a goal (Morschheuser, Hamari & Koivisto, 2016; Sailer, Hense, Mayr & Mandi, 2017; Werbach & Hunter, 2012). Points systems indicate this progression through assigning numerical measurements to tasks, which are usually intended to be collected as a form of proficiency or status representation, or to be traded for rewards (Bunchball, 2010; Educause, 2011; Huang, & Hew, 2015; Mekler, Brühlmann, Opwis & Tuch, 2013a; Ueyama, Tamai, Arakawa & Yasumoto, 2014; Werbach & Hunter, 2012; 2015). Progress bars are commonly utilized alongside points, providing a similarly granular indication of progress as tasks are completed, but in a more visual manner. Badges are more of an award than progress indicator, they visually represent milestones or achievements reached by the user within the game and act as a symbol for a user’s merits and membership to a group of users who also bare the badge (Anderson, Huttenlocher, Kleinberg & Leskovec, 2013; Sailer, Hense, Mayr & Mandi, 2017; Werbach & Hunter, 2012).
Themes identified between the interviews highlighted several key characteristics of business software users and their companies that influence the suitability of gamification, as well as the effectiveness of this addition upon the IT adoption constructs being measured. If the customer and their organisational characteristics align with those highlighted to be suitable, the interview data indicates a positive relationship between gamification and the likelihood of successful onboarding, and therefore, increasing chances of IT adoption. This is determined by the game element’s favourable impacts on the two constructs of perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness, as well as their sub-constructs of enjoyment, anxiety, motivation, competence, perceived technical complexity, and improving the compatibility of the software to their needs.
The results of these findings reinforce numerous studies within gamification literature, such as the potential for game elements to have positive effects on customer engagement, satisfaction, and behaviours, while also providing additional insight on its positive implications if applied to the context of onboarding B2B SaaS customers. This is a contribution that can have directly positive implications for practitioners who are considering ways to improve their acquisition and onboarding process to gain more customers. Academically, this study contributes to gamification literature by being the first study to explore the topic within the B2B SaaS context, while improving the geographical breadth of which gamification and IT adoption literature have been researched from–which have previously been focused upon case studies in the USA and India.