Gamification Marketing | How to Incorporate Games into Your Digital Strategy

As marketers know, our world can change with the click of a mouse. How do we stay ahead of the curve to maximize our results? A little friendly competition never hurt, right? Enter the world of Gamification where we take advantage of the consumers’ desires to win and be rewarded.

  • What is Gamification? 
  • How do we incorporate it into our marketing strategy? 
  • Will it work internally?

 What is Gamification? 

Anytime you give someone a title, badge or points, you’re rewarding them. These gaming elements motivate individuals to achieve things they didn’t know they wanted. Businesses that embrace gamification benefit from getting users excited about participating in their business. FitBit could credit its success in the wearables category to how well it used gaming elements as the foundation of its app. For example, the more steps you take, the more badges you earn. It turns steps into badges, like a pleasant surprise gift and you won’t know how to earn them until they happen. FitBit tracks and rewards you for both steps in a day and steps over the lifetime of using the app.

 Fitbit gamificationCowboy boot badge for Fitbit Gamification

Frequent flyer miles are one of the oldest examples of gamification before digital, also known as loyalty programs. Airlines have been using these as part of their customer loyalty strategy for years. The more you fly with one airline, the more points you earn. Gamification has been able to take traditional loyalty programs and bring them directly to users in a digital environment, without the need to wait for a monthly statement to find out if you’ve earned rewards.

Uber, the popular driving service, notifies drivers when they’ve hit a certain number of rides. When a driver does a ride to the airport, they get a notification congratulating them on their first airport ride. These small digital high-fives make people feel good about what they’re doing. Uber, like traditional loyalty programs, uses a mixture of these gamification techniques and tangible rewards. In addition to your pat on the back for completing 20 trips in one day or 50 lifetime trips, you’re given a fuel card discount when you complete 70 trips per month.

 Uber Gamification

Websites and apps have made gamification easier to implement because it doesn’t require a business to structure a loyalty program and dish out actual rewards. FitBit doesn’t have to send you coupons or mail you a certificate to make it enjoyable to use the app. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve participated in a modern day gamification strategy without even realizing it. Xbox developed a simple way for game and Xbox app developers to build gamification into their strategy. Users can unlock various achievements on games like Call of Duty for passing certain levels, or on streaming services like Netflix after binge watching for more than three episodes. You’ll get a trophy for renting a movie from the Xbox Live Movie app, or for downloading a new game. Microsoft calls its trophies-system “achievements” and describes it as follows:

“Achievements are rewards for completing special activities in a game. The actions required to earn an achievement vary from title to title and are limited only by the developer’s creativity. Completing achievements earns gamerscore and potentially other rewards.”

They take it one step farther and give users the ability to turn their achievements into Xbox Live Rewards.

“Join Xbox Live Rewards to get access to exclusive offers and Rewards. You can get rewarded for completing missions, taking surveys, spending in the Xbox Store, and more. Turn your dedication into dollars. You'll earn Rewards Credits that get converted into your country's local currency and deposited into your Microsoft account.”

From online quizzes to social contests, it’s nearly impossible to scroll through your newsfeed without feeling compelled to participate in some form of social gamification. So, how do digital marketers incorporate gamification into our overall strategy? As always, we evolve.

Evolve Your Content Strategy

As the digital world evolves, it always puts user experience at the forefront and so should your content marketing strategy. A simple blog might engage several users, but how do we get those users to share it with their friends? To turn digital marketing content, like a blog, into a great user experience, try motivating and rewarding your readers.

Step 1. Motivate

Motivate your user by first surprising them with a trophy, award, ribbon, badge or notification commending them on some action they’ve taken. With so many other businesses vying for individuals attention, it’s easy to make them feel special by simply acknowledging them. Think of simple activities that users do on your website or app. Determine what constitutes a normal amount of activity, then set your first incentive at that level and entice them with the next one. Create fun titles and badges to help quantify their achievements. 

Let’s say you're a service provider but you have helpful videos and educational blogs. These are important to your bottom line, because if someone can learn online, it is one fewer call into the call center. So, someone is on your website and they’ve read three blogs. Congratulate them on furthering their education about your service. Use a pop-up to alert them and tell them what’s next, and that they’re on their way to being a Super Reader after reading ten blogs.

Perhaps you’re a fashion retailer or own a small boutique store. Reward people with various shopper badges on their profile login. Make it fun, give it personality and make sure your gamification speaks with a unique voice that appeals to your audience. 

  • Congrats, you’ve reached accessory diva status, you’ve purchased over $100 in jewelry, purses and other accessories!
  • Welcome to the runway wardrobe stylist, you’ve officially styled and purchased 5 full outfits!
  • Shoe Crazy? You’ve earned the Shoe Shopaholic Badge for rockin’ over 3 pairs of our amazing high heels. 

Step 2. Reward

Without rewards or accolades, people will still purchase from you, but adding a little gamification goes a long way in making people feel good about reaching the “next level.” Offering rewards to active users helps strengthen loyalty and brand relationships. Discounts, badges, certificates and simple recognition can provide enough motivation for people to choose your business over others. Users have a vested self-interest in reaching a status that you offer and competitors don’t.

Gamification Tips 

UX Comes First. 

If your game is poorly implemented, the results will go from positive to negative. Take the time to research, create and test your game before introducing it into your strategy.

Set Marketing Goals. 

Without a clear goal for your gamification strategy, you won’t truly capitalize on what you could gain from your user. Is your goal to make people laugh? Is your goal to let people know you appreciate their business? These two goals would result in very different gamification strategies, so make sure your digital team is on the same page about how gamification will further your business goals.

Jump on Real-Time Opportunities. 

 Users want to feel like they are involved in the big events happening in their lives. Anytime a brand can align itself with a larger event while staying relevant to its marketing strategy, it should. In the retail example earlier in this post, the store owner would benefit from planning a special gamification aspect around New York Fashion week. Sports retailers could build excitement by integrating Olympic-style badges into their gamification strategy, and news based services could leverage the political season by integrating presidential race themed gamification elements into their strategy. Just this past Fourth of July weekend, Uber did something as simple as put American flag icons on top of all their Uber driver cars within the app interface. This simple update for the holiday weekend played into people’s excitement over the 4th and made it more fun to use the app.

Remember, people shop, buy and choose brands because of how it makes them feel. It’s not really about what you want or what you think is most important. The consumer wants to have fun and enjoy themselves and for the right kinds of businesses, gamification is a strong strategy that works. People aren’t as rational as you’d think, and when it comes down to it, people love to win; so give them a chance to win with gamification. 

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Author Thumbnail for Stephanie Wubben
Stephanie Wubben

Stephanie is a strategic thinker. Challenging projects and situations drive her ambition to create thoughtful solutions for clients. With a background in market research, her love for measuring success and performance quickly led her into digital marketing where she endlessly tweaks and optimizes clients' campaigns until they're operating at peak performance.