Gamification: The Challenges and Best Strategies to Use

Though gamification is a familiar concept, it is undergoing a resurgence as brands look for interactive ways to further engage consumers.

With the task of attracting customers and an overarching goal of building brand loyalty, gamification is seen as a tool to create positive connections and give consumers yet another reason to return to the brand – possibly resulting in those repeat purchases and brand advocates every brand covets.

Although gamification helps marketers cultivate positive consumer engagement and brand awareness, the most compelling benefit to utilizing gamification as a key component in a brand’s marketing strategy may be the ability to collect data straight from the customer in a subtle, fun way.

Subject matter experts in the loyalty and rewards industry point to the many benefits of using gamification to engage customers.

Katie Cassidy, Senior Director of Strategic Consulting ay Kobie, says they are seeing a lot of brands explore gamified experiences to drive member engagement. She says there are many benefits to brands introducing these experiences, including increasing member engagement between transactions, capturing first-party data to personalize the member journey downstream, and controlling promotional costs.

“Gamification provides benefits to both the members and the brands,” Cassidy says. “Members who participate with gamified experiences are 2-3 times more engaged. And for a good reason – gaming experiences can give members bragging rights, introduce them to new products or services, or reward them with exciting prizes. Brands get the benefits of increased engagement and data capture.”

Cutting Through The Noise
Aaron Lobliner, Senior Vice President for Global Business Development at PrizeLogic, says gamification cuts through the noise of mainstream media and marketing messages.

“It creates ‘sticky’ and ‘on-brand’ ways to engage that don’t feel like you are being sold,” he says. “And it adds a personalized and even emotional aspect to what are often transactional interactions.”

When games are designed correctly, they can boost engagement with your customers, says Rob Fagnani, Head of Development and Operations at Formation. He says by using different gamification elements, brands can trigger varying motivational outcomes, facilitate fun interactions and build relationships. In turn, these relationships can deepen consumer-brand engagement, sustain loyalty while pressing consumers’ behavior to meet brand goals, and potentially attract and onboard new customers.

“By motivating your customer, you increase engagement. You draw consumers in with a fun activity, and they can learn more about your brand than if they were to simply visit your website,” Fagnani says. “Plus, since games provide consumers with feedback, consumers can feel like there is two-way communication with your brand and take pride in performing well or getting a positive response. Gamification can raise engagement and loyalty by an average of 30% when you consider the time spent on site, repeat visits, and viral distribution.”

Pam Erlichman, CMO at Jebbit, says one of the benefits of gamification is a value exchange for the consumers – there is something in it for them when they engage, such as a product recommendation, a fun personality match, or even trivia results.

It’s a better brand experience, both in terms of creativity and design as well as the ability to engage, educate and convert all in one experience.” Erlichman says. “We see lead capture rates in the 40-50% range and LTV as high as 38% when engaging this way. Plus, learning more about their interests and preferences along the way drives better personalization and relevance.”

Engaging Customers During All Touchpoints
Jatin Gera, Director and Business Unit Head for the Americas at Capillary Technologies, says the best brands are engaging their customers during all touchpoints of a consumer’s journey.

“It’s beginning with awareness and continuing through to lifetime loyalty,” Gera says. “While brands ultimately are coveting a purchase, it shouldn’t be so desired they’re over-looking the power of engagement between the transaction.”

Fagnani says Gamification also improves ROI, especially when games are individualized to the customer.
“Gamification plus individualization can have a significant positive impact on net incremental revenue (NIR), which is the revenue earned after a promotional campaign, minus costs associated with the offer,” he says. “NIR is the yardstick that helps tie marketing to larger business goals. And it’s an important performance indicator that provides a clear picture to show the C-Suite the ROI on your loyalty programs.”

The Gamification Challenges
Kobie’s Cassidy says brands evaluating gamification strategies should start by defining their desired outcome. Are you considering gamification because member engagement in your program is low? Then your strategy should seek to optimize engagement with trivia, polls, and other easy-to-interact with experiences. Do you want to capture more data to personalize the member experience? Then your strategy should include preferences and style-based quizzes.

“When choosing a gamification strategy, brands need to consider how it fits into their broader strategy,” Cassidy says. “Gamification should be more than just a tactic, but an integrated part of a loyalty strategy. The best way to integrate is to start with the desired outcome and develop testable campaigns to support that outcome.”

Erlichman says some brands face the challenge of engineering it. At Jebbit, they see brands spend tons of time and money trying to build in-house and end up creating something hardcoded.

“They typically get the interactivity      but forget the important data capture piece,” Erlichman says. “You want the ability to optimize it over time and try different experience types  — lookbooks, trivia, quizzes, interactive content, and more — quickly and easily.  These should not be six months projects; we see brands build and deploy same day all the time.

Blend the Past With the Present
PrizeLogic’s Lobliner says there are always challenges in choosing a gamification strategy and advises that brands can overcome roadblocks to success by trying to blend the past with the present. He says the best new games leverage modern technology but are still built on tried-and-true principles.

“You don’t have to offer a totally unique experience,” Lobliner says. “Make it as familiar and as relevant as possible to better engage your audience and find the right value exchange.”

People are spending their time on this experience, and Lobliner suggests that brands make it worth their while, and they will share it with friends. The best strategy he suggests is to keep it simple.

“People are busy, and the simpler and more intuitive the engagement is, the less abandonment and greater stickiness you’ll see,” he says. “Don’t prioritize speed-to-market over execution. A great idea poorly executed still won’t engage; interactive excellence requires both carefully planned UX and outstanding creative.”

Best Gamification Advice for Brands
Fagnani says, for a brand’s gamification strategy to succeed, it should include three critical elements:
  • Context, or how the game relates to your business and the audiences you seek to attract.
  • Value, status, rewards, or knowledge to ensure consumers feel they’re getting value by participating and earning an intrinsic or extrinsic reward.
  • Not too easy and not too difficult to ensure that goals, objectives, or rewards are attainable, so consumers don’t get frustrated and leave.
Additionally, Fagnani says they will want to leverage their customer data to derive valuable insights to deliver targeted and relevant games that really resonate and strengthen customer loyalty.

Evaluate How Gamification Fits Within Overall Loyalty Strategy
Brands launching a gamification strategy should start by evaluating how gamification fits within their overall loyalty strategy. At Kobie, Cassidy says their loyalty strategy ethos drives differentiated results for our clients, and they use this ethos as somewhat of a checklist to make sure their clients are thinking through all of the elements of loyalty strategy in order to make their program the most effective it can be.

She says that ethos includes; capture and activate first-party data, optimize engagement between transactions, apply emotional drivers of consumers, amplify and impact broader marketing performance, and account for all customers as members.

“Specific to gamification, brands must define why it matters, how it fits into the loyalty strategy, and what outcome it should drive,” Cassidy says. “Once the strategic direction and KPIs are established, the fun starts.”
Jebbitt’s Erlichman says their top recommendation is to start with a product match quiz.

“It helps the consumer quickly get a recommendation and delivers immediate value back to the business in terms of leads and conversion,” she says. “Whether it’s onsite, in email, or on social media, it is by far our most popular experience to start.”

More than anything, Lobliner says brands should make it fun for consumers to take part. He offers a few step-by-step guidelines for having success with gamification:
  • Define objectives, determine how success will be defined and put into rank order. This can take concept, design, UX, and components in many directions, so defining this early-on is critical.
  • Know the budget parameters. Games can range from simple to complex with varying degrees of digital design, animation, complexity, and other layers that will impact the budget.
  • Be aware of timeline considerations. Often going hand-in-hand with the budget is timing. Great work takes time.
  • Ensure the brand fit and personality. The key to great gamification is ensuring a fit for the brand. For some brands, this comes very easily based on existing equities, sponsorships, etc., and others, it takes more creativity.
Thank You to Our Expert Panel:
Katie Cassidy is Senior Director of Strategic Consulting at Kobie Marketing.
Pam Erlichman is Chief Marketing Officer at Jebbit.
Rob Fagnani is Head of Development & Operations at Formation.
Jatin Gera is Director & Business Unit Head – Americas at Capillary Technologies.
Aaron Lobliner is SVP for Global Business Development at Prizelogic

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