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Gamification: a Game Changer for Customer Engagement Strategies

Strategically Speaking
Jun 18, 2014

Penny Webb Author: Penny Webb,

Have you heard the term ‘Gamification’ in relation to business strategy and software design? I recently attended a conference where one of the keynote speakers was a leading authority on the subject.

Gamification is not just the idea of designing slick applications or web sites that have the look and feel of a video game. It combines the idea of the user experience, loyalty programs and behavioral economics as a business strategy to drive customer engagement the way video games do. Gamification will not fix a poorly designed product that doesn’t meet your customers’ needs. Instead, it is geared towards understanding the behaviors of customers and engaging them in a way that brings them back and makes them want to tell their friends about the product.  One key to the effective use of Gamification is that it is a process, not a product, and it requires continued thought and application.

Software companies have long focused on “User Experience” and a product’s “sticky factor,” but the Gamification approach takes these concepts even further. As users grow more technologically savvy, their expectation of being engaged increases. The emerging millennial generation will give an application a try and, if it fails to meet their expectations, they’ll move on very quickly. They are also very likely to tell a much larger audience about their disappointment. As this generation ages and becomes an even larger portion of the financial services market, the need for products that effectively engage users will become even more paramount.

In Gabe Zichermann’s book The Gamification Revolution, he outlines an approach used by some non-gaming organizations who have successfully applied Gamification concepts to their products:

  • Find the grind – The grind is the simple, repeated activities, or set of activities, that the user must regularly accomplish to proceed with an order, transaction or workflow. The tasks in the grind should become automatic based on triggers.
  • Build a powerful engagement loop – The engagement loop includes a motivating emotion, a social call to action, re-engagement and visible progress/reward. (Example: I want to donate to a charity. I think it is very important and want to set a goal and tell my friends about it. I’ll check back regularly to see how I am progressing.)
  • Keep content fresh – In order for users to return, new and interesting interaction must be regularly available.
  • Use meaningful incentives – An organization must take a realistic look at their target audience to determine the right incentives. The incentives must include both tangible and emotional rewards.
  • Make it personal and design it for mastery – Mastery is a process of acquiring knowledge and demonstrating control in a steady and consistent progression. A user must have a sense of control in reaching their goal and the more feedback on how they are progressing, the more likely they are to return for updates. A user’s ability to gauge their progress and build a sense of mastery are key components to the Gamification concept.
  • Create continuous learning opportunities – The millennial customer is not likely to read a manual or watch lengthy videos, but they do prefer products that help them increase their knowledge or advance their personal goals.
  • Monetize loyalty – This principle of the Gamification concept puts a value to customer loyalty. This can be actual cash or non-monetary benefits, but the rewards must be important to the target audience.

As I researched the concept of Gamification, I realized how often I actually see this concept used as a business strategy. I realized my bank had been using this approach for several years and is continuing to build on this aspect of their products’ design. I’ve seen Gamification employed by some of the websites I’ve used to make donations or fund entrepreneurs with new products. If you start looking for Gamification components, I bet you’ll find them, too.

A gamified business strategy uses the best of game design, loyalty programs and human behavior to solve the issue of how to engage our customers and bring them back time and time again to our solutions. It can help drive transaction volume and make financial services an even hotter commodity for banks, credit unions and merchants. 

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