7th November 2014

Play to win with Gamification

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The word engagement is thrown about a lot in marketing but do you know how to engage your target audience? Gamification is nothing new and has been used by marketers for many years, but it is still a great way to engage an audience and drive specific desired behaviours by your customers.

Caffe nero loyalty card

Have you ever been involved in gamification either as a customer or a marketer? Chances are you have, even if you didn’t notice it. Costa Coffee use a basic form of gamification with their loyalty program. If you have ever bought a coffee and had a card stamped so you’re on your way to receiving a free drink once you get 9 more stamps then you’ve been involved in gamification.

Why use gamification?

In addition to creating engagement and loyalty, gamification can motivate and incentivise behaviour. In a competitive market where your customers are bombarded with messages from your competition, you need to do everything you can to stand out. Gamification can be used to add value to your services that benefits the customer resulting in repeat purchases.

Frequent flyers programs used by many airline companies encourage repeat business by rewarding customers who regularly use their airlines with points. More flights equals more miles equals more points that can be exchanged for various rewards for the loyal customer.

The benefit of gamification for digital marketers is that it can be analysed instantly to see whether it is successful. Are people getting involved in the “game” or is it something that should be pulled because it is draining marketing resources that could be used more effectively?

Do points really make prizes?

There have been many criticisms around gamification starting with it’s name. Gamification implies that the entire activity will be engaging but in reality, the only part of a game used is the point system. Critics have gone as far as saying the name “Gamification” is misleading and that the term “Pointification” is a better name because you’re essentially adding a scoring system to a non-game activity. Critics believe that there are more effective ways than adding a scoring system to engage users.

Rewarding or risky?

There is also a downside of using external rewards to motivate customer behaviour. According to (Deci, Koestner & Ryan, 2001) one implication is that once gamification is used to provide external motivation, the user’s internal motivation decreases. If the organisation starts using gamification based upon external rewards and then decides to stop the rewards program, that organisation will be worse off than when it started as users will be less likely to return to the behaviour without the external reward. When you consider your gamification strategy you will also need to think about how to keep internal motivation high with less reliance on external rewards.

Despite these criticisms, gamification has been successful for many marketing campaigns. Just look at how Kia used gamification to improve the way their customers drive their cars, then ask yourself, could gamification be used to drive more sales for you.