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Using Gamification for Customer Engagement

Posted by Bryan Wang

As customers become increasingly indifferent to offers and traditional marketing from brands, businesses are increasingly adding features of gamification into loyalty programs and promotions to generate interest.

Gamification is the incorporation of game mechanics such as points, leaderboards and badges into a non-game experience. It works by breaking down the customer experience into easily relatable elements in the context of a game, and appeals to people’s desire for status and instant gratification. 

If you’re interesting in adding gamification to your business, here are a couple of guidelines for you to consider: 


Increasing customer engagement is a great goal, but gamification needs to drive the customer behaviors you know will impact your bottom line. It might be getting a customer to visit more often, spend more per visit, or refer new business. Use specific metrics you can track to measure the effectiveness of your tactics. 

Attainable Goals

Goals provide a reason for customers to engage and encourage them to perform the desired actions in order to gain rewards. Playing the game isn’t an end in itself - customers want a payoff beyond accumulating digital badges. Gamification needs to have a rewarding end-goal, whether it’s losing weight with Weight Watchers or getting air miles that can be redeemed. Short-term goals should also be clearly attainable in order to prevent members from giving up.


Badges and other visible signs of goal accomplishment serve as instant gratification and marks of status. Leveling up systems and progress bars can also motivate the customer to keep working towards their next achievement. At the same time, customers are likely to have encountered these systems before, so they must be tied into relevant and interesting rewards and experiences or customers will find the program tedious. 


Competing against other users gives meaning to achievements and reinforces the importance of status. Leaderboards and instant notifications when a “friend” earns a new badge are common ways to implement this. Be careful not to create a game mechanic that forces users to refer or connect with their friends – it’s best to leave that optional. 

Case Study: Nike+

Nike+ is a program that helps runners stay motivated and improve their times by setting goals and sharing their progress with other users. Nike built a community around what can be a very solitary activity and leveraged existing behavior around tracking run times and routes. Nike+ also provides a framework of games and rewards that help customers train, with the side effect of creating a community that is motivated to keep using their product. The Nike+ community earns more than 1 billion fuel points daily and has over 11 million members.

Case Study: Adobe

Adobe added a gamified customer onboarding program to its free trial of Photoshop in order to get more users to buy the full version. The program featured missions which were really tutorials on useful Photoshop functions such as removing red eye in photos. By completing missions, users could earn badges and level up to unlock new missions. As they completed missions, users could see themselves becoming more proficient with Photoshop and were exposed to common techniques and functions which made it even more useful. Over the course of the program, Adobe experienced a 400% increase in free trial conversions. 

Employing gamification can be a powerful addition to your toolkit. Like any game, however, the overall experience, content and underlying product must be interesting enough and compelling for customers. Otherwise no amount of badges and progress bars alone will be able to sustain engagement. 


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Topics: Loyalty, Gift Cards