5 Ways to gamify Customer Engagement

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You might have thousands of followers across your social media and email and SMS marketing subscriptions but are your subscribers and customers actually engaging with your brand?

According to a research conducted by Gallup, companies who are able to successfully engage their customers enjoy 63 percent lower customer attrition and 55 percent higher share of wallet.

“Emotion holds the key to achieving customer experience differentiation. Brands that want to break away from the pack should focus on emotion.” - Forrester’s 2019 US Customer Experience research report

And a prime way to engage customers via emotional appeal is by using games that reward them for playing – and shopping — with you.

What is gamification?

The infusion of game elements and principles into non-game activity is referred to as gamification. This makes non-game activities more interesting to participants.

In the promotional space, this could mean giving customers points for every dollar they spend, offering them a discount if they refer a friend, or even allowing them to check out at a discounted price if they participate in a trivia contest. For instance, American Airlines' pioneering air miles loyalty program or Nike's social run tracker app Nike+, the guiding principle of retail gamification is straightforward: make an activity more game-like to improve customer experience and encourage interaction.

In spite of the fact that gamification's basic notions are easy to grasp and it is evident how it can pave the way for new promotional initiatives, you should not approach the process lightly.

Implementing high-quality gamification involves going through a series of steps, each of which requires careful consideration and focus:

The five-part model for success in gamification

Before you start any gamification or promotion plan, you should first figure out what you want to achieve:

  • Is it just to keep people coming back to your app/website or to get them to use it again, or are you trying to encourage certain behaviors?

Once you know what the end goal is and how to describe it, you need to think about five things:

  1. Important milestones on the way to that goal
  2. Potential interventions to reward and reinforce progress
  3. Areas where social reinforcement makes sense
  4. Sensible scaling of difficulty
  5. Possible addition of extra tasks or bonuses to maintain interest

Creating cohesive, quality gamification is a serious investment but it’s one well worth considering. 

For example, ideas such as these should be completely thought out before implementing them: 

  • Enabling your new customers to collect special welcome bonus points
  • Setting a goal for customers to achieve a certain level for badges, freebies, or free shipping 
  • Demonstrating scarcity and high demand for preferred or repeat purchase products by creating time-bound purchasing incentives
  • Showcasing and highlighting customers based on top buyer, reviewer, expert, etc. badges and social proofs; this will make a few of your top customers across segments the hero for other customers!

Here are the top five methods to engage consumers with gamification:

  1. Inspire competition
  2. Encourage customers to challenge real friends
  3. Provide incentives
  4. Offer loyalty reward programs
  5. Include timed elements (FOMO)

1. Inspire competition

Humans are inherently competitive in so many ways.

Whether playing against others or against ourselves, we enjoy surpassing our prior scores and beating the competition. As a DTC brand, be aware of this as you build gamification strategies inside your gamified marketing strategies.

Using leaderboards, progress bars, badges, and point accumulation to create a sense of competition and enjoyment, you can observe the engagement levels of your customers skyrocket.

One easy way to do this is to hold competitions every day, every week, or every month and give prizes to the best players.

2. Encourage customers to challenge real friends

Even though this seems easy, there needs to be some planning behind it. Encourage customers to play with their friends, family, and coworkers by giving them promo codes or referral codes when they do. This is a great way to get people to interact with each other and spread the word about you.

Offer discount codes to your current customers if they share their "wins" or purchases on social media and tag your brand, or if they join your email marketing lists.

You can also offer the new customers, who were referred by existing customers, some points initially itself so they get a headstart into collecting loyalty points for redemption or free gifts/shipping, or other merchandise.

In addition to raising awareness of the company, the social sharing feature will also encourage participation from a previously untapped pool of potential customers.

3. Provide incentives

Don’t you still remember the exact moment when you had won prizes? One of the most essential components of a successful gamification campaign is the opportunity to win a prize.

Great prizes keep customers coming back for more, and creates fun competition when leaderboards are involved. 

You can also partner with other DTC brands for a rich collection of prizes and collective brand recognition. It helps if the other DTC brand is in an associated industry as yours. For example, a mattress company can partner with a fitness brand to give prizes together as “rest/sleep” and “fitness” are equally important to a customer who values both.

4. Offer loyalty reward programs

Offering rewards and incentives outside of one-time competitions is important enough to warrant its own case study.

In addition to a highly suggested customized mini-game marketing campaign, integrating incentive mechanisms into your customers' regular purchasing experience will increase engagement and keep them coming back. 

There are many examples of this, but one of the best known is the men’s underwear and basics brand Mack Weldon offering their Weldon Blue loyalty program.

There are two parts to the program:

  1. Level One is where everyone joins after their first order. Members get these perks at Level One:
  • Every order gets free standard shipping
  • Provides access to the "Give Back, Get Mack" clothes donation program
  1. Level Two is for people who spend more than $200 per year. At Level 2, members get the following:
  • Every order gets free standard shipping
  • 20% off any order, no matter how much it costs
  • Getting new products first
  • Random gifts are given out of the blue all through the year
  • Provides access to the "Give Back, Get Mack" clothes donation program
  • The Give Back, Get Mack program will give you $10 if you donate clothes (twice per year)

Mack Weldon tried the campaign for three months and got a 66 percent increase in customer repeat purchases. Additionally, there was a 29 percent increase in sales among high-spending participants who spent more to attain Level 2.

5. Include timed elements (FOMO)

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a tactic that will increase customer involvement in your gamification marketing campaign.

Including timed features in your branded mini-game campaign or your sales and marketing strategy can increase brand recognition and fear of missing out. For instance, countdown timers to claim discounts or timed prizes, such as sending an email or SMS informing customers that they can receive 50 percent off a new product if they claim the offer within the next hour or day!

Parting comments

With gamification techniques, subscribers and customers get to move up different “levels” within the activity based on their effort and actions, whether buying something, posting a review, providing feedback, or sharing on social media. 

Completing these actions and receiving the award gives them a feeling of accomplishment or completion.

The top benefits of integrating gamification into customer engagement programs include:

  • Boost subscriber/customer interest and engagement
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Provide you with valuable customer data
  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Build ongoing connection points and relationships with customers
  • Reinforce a behavior with rewards

Put simply, gamification increases customer engagement by offering customers a unique and fun way to interact with their favorite DTC brand.