Gamification to Boost Customer Engagement
What is gamification? It’s applying game structures to nongame situations. People love to play games. They’re fun. They make us happy. Because we are likely to do things we enjoy, disciplines from employee motivation to education and fitness have harnessed the power of games to achieve goals.
To understand the parameters of games, think of those that you play. Whether it’s basketball, tennis, Scrabble or video games, each game includes goals, rules and continuous feedback. They offer social engagement (unless it’s Solitaire) and the potential to boost your social status when you’re doing well.
Now, more and more companies are adding a dose of fun to their marketing programs, enabling them to keep customers involved with their products and ultimately increase their sales.
A Gamification Example: Tracking Steps to Marketing Success
Let’s take, for example, one of the most popular gifts this holiday season, the Fitbit activity tracker. It measures how many steps you take each day, how much you sleep and more. Fitbit uses virtual badges not only to motivate users to achieve fitness goals but also to realize their own marketing objectives. Badges range from “Boat Shoes” for 5,000 steps in a day to “Olympian Sandals” for 100,000 steps a day. (By the way, that’s about 50 miles. It seems like more than a virtual badge might be warranted for that.) When you receive an award, you can share it on social platforms.
But there’s more. A little friendly competition. Fitbit users can join groups, connecting with each other through the app. Fitbit lists group members on a leaderboard, which shows how many steps they’ve completed in a day. The most active individuals claim glory as they rise to the top. The big bonus? The more they star at the top of the list, the healthier they get.
As customers win awards, recognition and better health and share their high-stepping achievements on social media, Fitbit wins an engaged customer base as well as increased awareness and interest.
The Marketing Endgame
How can you use games to achieve your company’s marketing goals? Take tasks that may seem tedious or low on the priority list, and wrap them up in a fun contest to create the magic that gets customers engaged in your business. The benefits include:
- Ramped up awareness of your services and products
- Increased loyalty and retention
- Customer advocacy that amplifies leads
- Feedback from customers that enables you to make informed decisions about changes and additions to your product or service
And, of course, it’s fun!
How Games Fit Into the Customer Journey
Before you start a program, it’s important to understand where to fit games into your customer’s journey. Depending on many variables—the complexity of your product, its price point, your industry—customer journeys vary substantially. A straightforward customer journey, however, might look like this:
- Identifies a need
- Searches for solutions
- Makes contact with your organization and becomes a lead
- Considers various solutions
- Selects a solution and becomes a customer
- Receives and uses the product, service or solution
- Evaluates your performance and remains loyal
- Becomes a brand advocate and refers new customers
If you don’t have a documented customer journey, create one. While there are many marketing tactics you can use in the early stages of a buyer’s journey, game structures work best in the latter stages, from product consideration through brand advocacy.
How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Boost Business with Gamification
It’s not all fun and games, though. Creating a winning marketing game can be complicated. While a multitude of vendors have popped up to help companies put programs in place, you may not be ready for an expensive, comprehensive program. No worries. You can still use the game concepts with your prospects and customers.
Let’s say, for example, that your goal is to convert customers, retain them and turn them into advocates for your brand. The following is an approach you could take. Create a point system that rewards prospects and customers for certain activities, such as the following:
- Tune in to a webinar = 2 points
- Attend a conference = 5 points
- Provide a referral = 5 points
- Follow on social channels = 1 point
- Post question to customer discussion board = 1 point
- Post a solution to customer discussion board = 2 points
- Provide feedback = 1 point
Then, tally up the points for your prospects’ and customers’ activities and award badges based on their activity levels. Share the results with them on an ongoing basis via various means including customer portals, e-newsletters, social channels or individual emails.
To increase interest in the game, it’s good to have some fun rewards. Periodically reward your top five or 10 customers on your leaderboard with prizes—free services, scrumptious cookies, festive fruit baskets or other products that provide value to your clients.
Also, games can be even more fun when participants receive unexpected rewards. So, surprise your buyers with a prize once in a while or just send them a handwritten note of thanks. Sometimes it’s just the recognition that works – rewards don’t have to be expensive to increase engagement.
Clearly, there’s a lot to think about—your point system, rewards, activity monitoring and communications. You don’t have to plunge into the deep end.
One company dipped their toes into the water by running a limited program that focused on just a few activities. At a customer event, the head of marketing had customers tweet or post about the event as well as share testimonials. The marketing team put up a digital ranking at the event and announced results on the main stage. Says Gary Ross, “It generated a lot of excitement. When we got back home, we essentially already had the program going and just kept it from there!”
As you try out your system, you’ll learn about what works and what doesn’t, enabling you to tweak the program and ensure success. You can layer the lessons you’ve learned into your next program.
Another technique to help in designing programs is to ask for customer feedback upfront, In fact, Will Giammona, an expert in this area, says, “Don’t design a gamification system in isolation from the people you‘re going to give it to.” A little research can reduce the amount of trial and error required to be successful.
So, give it a try. Add a little fun to your business and engage your prospects and customers. You’ll reap the rewards of increased awareness, interest, loyalty and retention. And that translates into sales!