Gamification: so much more than games.

/ 18 November 2021

At 3radical, we are firm believers in the power of gamification. We know it can generate long-lasting trust-based relationships with customers that increase loyalty and advocacy. However, while the advantages are numerous, marketers can waste time and money without the right strategy in place. Moreover, many of our clients initially want a gamified mechanic without truly understanding their goals or how it works. Gamification is much more than games.

If not games, what is gamification?

If the word ‘game’ immediately sparks images of kids playing Fortnite, think again. Games aren’t just for kids; these are grown-up strategic mechanics that can send your audience engagement rates into the stratosphere! (If done well)

In essence, gamification means introducing game mechanics into non-game environments. Using the psychology behind gaming, marketers can make moments in the consumer journey more engaging, interactive, and enjoyable. This doesn’t necessarily mean creating an actual game (Hello Squid Game) but utilizing elements such as point scoring or badge earning to make unappealing tasks more exciting and enjoyable. In our case, gamification is a way for marketers to engage with consumers on their terms and establish a clear value exchange.

Gamification: not just games! Image: Giphy, Netflix. Squid Game. 2021

The dopamine hit received when we overcome a challenge is used to reward desired actions and reinforce long-term behavior change. The need for repeated action makes gamification an ideal element of an ongoing engagement strategy. Constant positive feedback encourages consumers to engage for more extended and creates deeper emotional connections between company and customer. Deeper trust means that we can start to deepen how much we know about our customers or prospects.

The difference between games and gamification

While gamification strategies can utilize games within them, there is a clear distinction between the two. Promotional competitions or giveaways involve a single transaction in which consumers complete an activity in return for (the chance of) a single reward. It is a short-term value exchange designed to achieve a single business objective.

This differs from true gamification, which uses the psychology behind games. Instead, game elements or mechanics are introduced into moments in the customer journey to increase engagement. Tactics can be as simple as a personality quiz that recommends your ideal holiday package or as complex as a simulator demonstrating homeownership challenges. As we publish this article, we are coming up to Black Friday, and there is no better time of the year to spot a game mechanic in action. Perhaps you’ve been invited to get VIP access to a sale, or an early sale, bigger discount?

Lottery ticket rewards for gamification

But, first, why do you want a gamified solution?

Gamification has the potential to be an extremely effective solution to increase consumer engagement, leads, and loyalty. However, for it to be successful, it must be deployed in the right circumstances. In our experience, there are a few times when we see gamification fail. Here‘s why:

You want to increase engagement in a campaign or competition – as we covered earlier, gamification uses game science and psychology to change user behavior. It is about long-term lifetime value and customer loyalty rather than hitting campaign targets in the short term. Games can effectively engage new audiences in a competition or giveaway but shouldn’t be confused with true gamification.

You want to explain an activation, customer journey, or service that is too complex – gamification can be a powerful tool to navigate new users through your products or services. However, marketers should always first ask themselves whether the customer journey or activation could be simplified. Creating a smooth customer journey will always be better than relying on gamification to explain a complicated process.

Because our competitors are doing it – embarking on a gamification strategy just because it’s ‘cool’ or looks fun will not achieve results. As with all campaigns, marketers should have a clear purpose and know what they want to achieve.

Drawing of people circled in red pen
Marketing segmentation, target audience, customers care, customer relationship management (CRM), customer analysis and focus group concepts.

Questions we’ll ask before we get into the game mechanic

To truly meet your expectations and requirements, we want to understand the business challenges and goals that you are looking to hit. Therefore, we will ask you a series of questions to determine the best route forward for your strategy, and this will typically include:

What are your objectives?

Seems obvious, right? Your desired outcome will hugely impact the type and style of your gamification strategy. To ensure that the game mechanic will achieve the result you are looking for and set up the correct reporting framework, we will always want to understand what success looks like. Whether this is to understand your audience better or to increase your conversion rate, we will make sure that the game mechanic is optimized to your end goal.

Have you considered an Earned Data approach?

Earned Data is the most effective and reliable data set available and goes hand-in-hand with gamification marketing. Earned Data is data acquired through a customer-defined value exchange. An Earned Data strategy creates a rich, actionable, and fully consented dataset that offers a strategic differentiation for brands. Additionally, giving consumers control of their data permissions builds trust and more reliable data sets representing your entire customer base.

What rewards are you willing to offer?

To build long-term trust-based relationships, brands need to offer a clear and fair value exchange when capturing data. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the value of their data, making it imperative that they see the benefit in sharing it with a brand. Consumers that have an emotional connection with a brand will be more willing to share their data, but newer audiences will, in most instances, be looking for a prize or reward. By knowing the level of reward on offer, we can adapt our gamification recommendation to match.

Do you have an existing continuous engagement strategy?

Gamification is an effective way to begin or enhance your ongoing engagement strategy. Consumers are not static, so if marketers take a moment to label and segment their audiences, they are not thinking about lifetime value. Gamification is crucial to instill a lifetime value mindset and record attitudinal and behavioral data to better understand individual customers.

How we make recommendations

From these (and other) questions, we will recommend an experience and a series of mechanisms that will meet your key objectives. Our product streams fall into four categories: Data Capture, Onboarding & Education, Conversion Optimization, and Knowing Your Audience. These experiences create consented data sets captured by providing a fair value exchange that increases engagement, consumer insight, and repeat interactions.

Data Capture: Make customer data permissions a transparent, open process, and customer trust will follow. By allowing customers to control when and how they communicate with you, brands create trust-based relationships that enhance the quality of their customer data and increase the likelihood of repeat engagement.

Onboarding and Education: Marketers can help their audience navigate through their company’s service offering and inform them of the value they provide. Every customer’s journey with a brand is different. Marketers that personalize the experience by presenting customers with guidance and advice will improve acquisition value and retention. This approach allows marketers to understand what’s important to their audience and deliver on that value.

Conversion Optimization: Improve conversion rates by introducing interactive gamification mechanics within a campaign. Game science can significantly improve engagement, reduce cost per acquisition, and speed up A/B testing by driving consumers towards the desired behavior.

Know Your Audience: Understanding the person behind the data is the only way to build long-term trust-based relationships with individual customers. Marketers can add attitudinal and behavioral data to their customer databases by capturing motivations, values, and preferences. In this way, marketers build campaign strategies around their customers and not the channel.

Bringing in any number of these 3radical experiences will focus your gamification strategy towards the desired outcome.

Deployed correctly, gamification has the power to build a highly engaged and loyal customer base. However, marketers should know their objectives and goals before starting their gamification strategy. Consider the objectives, rewards, and continuous engagement strategy before finalizing a gamification approach. Then, when you are ready to begin the journey, get in touch and let us know how we can help your company take customer loyalty to the next level.

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