Brands like Starbucks, oVertone, and Nike + Run Club are using gamification to boost customer experiences–will it work for you?
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Remember back in 2016 when what felt like everywhere you went people were glued to their phones, huddled together in groups, and trying to catch a nearby Pokémon?
App-based Pokémon Go offered huge lessons to brands everywhere on what happens when you combine community, offer rewards for doing certain actions, and having fun doing it. More on that in a minute, though.
You’ll also recall the McDonald's Monopoly game, which comes around every year enticing children and adults alike to order all the items featuring game pieces so they can win that elusive prize (does anyone ever get Boardwalk?!).
While you might get lucky and snag a free cheeseburger, the game is a successful one for McDonald’s. In fact, during the course of the campaign the company sees an average increase in sales anywhere between one and six percent.
What do these two examples have in common?
What is gamification?
In a nutshell, gamificiation is using game elements in a non-game context to encourage engagement and help propel users to taking an action.
Most consumers have a notoriously short attention span. Throw in the millions of brand messages and advertisements we see on a daily basis and it’s no wonder why we’re collectively feeling overwhelmed and over-sold to.
This makes marketing and advertising your brand a little tricky. Of course you want to reach new customers, grow your reach, and scale year after year – so how do you do that when most people are distracted?
One option: Gamify your customer’s shopping experience.
Here’s how aspects of gamification have worked so far (and how it might be integrated into a shopping experience):
Gamification mixes both physical and digital worlds together
We already see the use of augmented reality (AR) in action today -- especially with brands that allow you to try on cosmetics or eyeglasses, for example.
Warby Parker’s Virtual Try-On feature allows shoppers to try on different styles of glasses in the comfort of home to get an idea of what frame styles and shapes look best for their specific features.
Instead of requiring shoppers to spend time going in-store, the virtual try-on feature uses AR to show users how selected glasses will look in real time.
So what’s the difference between what we know as AR and gamification? It’s this, in a nutshell: when thinking about gamifying the shopping experience (as opposed to just using AR), it’s important to provide and incorporate a good balance of both physical and digital experience if you go that route.
Instead of just offering a digital experience – like we see in the Warby Parker example – think about incorporating something physical, as well.
Snoop Dog’s 19 Crimes Wine is an example of blending both AR and physical experiences together. After downloading a specific app, customers who purchased a bottle of 19 Crimes wine pointed the phone at the label and watched Snoop Dog come to life and share a story.
As there is a collection of bottles, this unique experience entices customers to try different varieties and listen to stories tied with other 19 Crimes bottle labels.
Don’t lead with an ask, give value first
As with all things related to a positive customer experience, a good campaign using gamification looks to engaging with a customer first.
What does this mean?
It means letting users try the game out before asking them to sign up for an email list or purchase anything. By doing this, you’re putting value front and center – which leads to increased engagement and even brand loyalty later on.
Value could be something as simple as getting to know a game first. The less a customer has to navitage, the more likely they are to keep exploring.
In the example of Pokémon Go, users have the ability to play before actually signing up for the game and handing over personal information. Another point? The game starts with providing value to the individual first before it starts to leverage that user’s network.
For a lot of brands, this is where mistakes are made. Right off the bat, brands want to leverage users and get value out of them – whether it’s through time or access to a user’s network of friends on social media.
Instead, Pokémon Go used this format, which could be helpful to brands looking to emulate the success of the platform:
- Playing the game as a single person, while getting to know the features
- Creating an account to unlock certain goals or quests
- Leveling up through increased skill
- Reaching certain levels before connecting with friends (both in the physical and digital world) to compete together in certain quests or battles
Arguably, the success of the game boiled down to this: the game was fun to play alone but as users continued to play, the fun was compounded with the addition of friends. Other social games require users to depend heavily on their social networks from the start and when that starts to wane, the individual’s experience decreases also.
Zynga’s Farmville is a great example of this. Why did players eventually lose interest in the game? Because a lot of your success as a ‘farmer’ depended on whether or not your friends were playing. Once your friends stopped playing, there was little you could do to advance.
Here’s something to keep in mind: Want to make your brand’s gamification experience successful? Focus first on the individual and provide them value.
Retail brands are starting to implement gamification features. So what does that mean for everyone else?
Brands looking to add features of gamification are on the rise. The market is expected to grow to $40 billion dollars by 2024 – a sustainable gain over the last valuation in 2018.
Why the growth?
Brands have started to learn over the last few years that a customer’s shopping experience is key to developing loyalty. And even though some of the traditional engagement and retention tactics used by brands is beneficial, there’s a demand for something fresh and new to keep customers coming back for more.
Tapping into the natural competitiveness and motivation of your customer through gamification is one solution in elevating the shopping experience and creating long-term brand loyalty.
Starbucks + Star Rewards
Look around and you’ll already see some forms of gamification. Loyalty programs are popular and encourage customers to take action to earn rewards, then offer them something tangible as a thank you.
Consider how Starbucks does this with its Starbucks Rewards program:
- Customers create an account within the brand app
- Through consistent purchasing and loading funds into the app, customers earn Stars
- Stars are easily redeemed for food, drinks, and select merchandise
It’s how customers can earn Stars that tips it into the gamification category. For example, while a coffee-loving customer might rack up those Stars through an everyday habit, Starbucks offers games and incentives to get customers buying more (and more frequently).
The more a customer does, the more Stars are earned. For example, using the app to make a purchase rewards customers with a single Star per dollar spent. Preloading funds onto the card? You’ll get two Stars for every dollar. This tiered reward system offers incentive to any customer but packs on the rewards for certain actions.
Starbucks also encourages customers to earn higher rewards through purchasing beverages on certain days, such as Double Star Tuesday.
Other ways Starbucks encourages frequent purchasing? By offering bonus stars when certain actions are taken two or more times. Here’s an example: Buy an Iced Macchiato four times to earn 150 Stars.
This format works for two reasons. First, it rewards the existing diehard customers for the brand. They’re going to purchase food and beverages already, so earning Stars is like providing a little thank you for their loyalty. Second, it motivates and incentives others – those who drink sporadically or prefer seasonal offerings – to make more purchases over time to earn rewards.
What else can gamification do for your brand?
Builds brand awareness + community
You might think a brand like Nike doesn’t need any help gaining attention for its brand, but when new features are added it makes sense to build brand awareness and community. Let’s take the Nike + Run Club, for example.
Whether you’re brand new to running or a seasoned marathoner, the app-based training program takes customer experience to the next level through personalization and rewards.
Fostering a community is also key here, too. From earning trophies and badges to connecting with like-minded peers, Nike uses the Run Club to create a sense of community while also pointing back to consistent brand messaging.
Encourages loyalty + incentives earning of rewards
Repeat purchasing is pretty crucial for brands and using a reward or loyalty program is one of the most common ways to do this, bonus points if you make it more fun.
While we already looked at how Starbucks uses gamification to reward and motivate customers into taking action, another brand to look at is oVertone.
This at-home color solution has gained popularity over the last few years – especially as more customers are becoming more aware of hair health and desirable ingredients.
The Color Club is the brand’s reward program, which offers incentives for a variety of actions taken – things like creating an account, earning points for every dollar spent – and allows customers to redeem rewards for a discount on future purchases.
Unlocking features leads to a better customer experience
CEO of Condens, Alexander Knoll, recommends providing customers with a limited experience at first, then adding the potential to unlock features as customers become more familiar and take specific actions.
Going this route is helpful for a few reasons:
- The limited experience makes it easier for customers to get familiar with the app and features. Too many features and your customers are more likely to get overwhelmed and don’t move forward in the process. By offering only a few key features, customers can participate to their comfort level and they’ll feel more confident with usage.
- They’ll feel accomplished when they unlock previously hidden features. We all love being rewarded. When your customer completes certain actions and they see achievements met along the way, they’re more likely to keep going and doing more to unlock additional benefits.
- Customers will value rewards more. By going through a process, customers view earned rewards higher than if they had those benefits from the start. They don’t want to lose progress, so there’s a greater chance they’ll continue to play as long as it benefits their shopping behaviors.
Keep things simple and go for a structured gamification strategy – think going through tiers, earning badges, even tracking customer purchases through a progress meter.
The bottom line is you can get creative with how you engage customers in a reward, loyalty, or gamified shopping experience.