Gamification: The only game in town?

Have you ever gone into Starbucks and ordered a coffee using your phone? Every time you made a purchase a golden star appeared or a progress bar showed how much you needed to level up to gain the next perk. If it sounds like you were playing a game it’s because you were. Starbucks is one of many brands who’ve tapped into the concept of gamification and used it to their advantage.

Gamification is the process of taking something that already exists, like a website or online community, and integrating game mechanics to engage people. The My Starbucks Rewards app is a powerful example of how a brand can utilise gaming to create incentives for their customers.

It works by encouraging users to pay for transactions on their phone and adding a golden star each time. After 5 stars, a milestone is reached and the customer unlocks a special perk such as free refills the next time they buy a drink. Once a person had gained 30 stars they earn the benefit of receiving a customised gold card to indicate their status.

These features and rewards were designed to motivate customers, enough that at the close of 2012’s first fiscal quarter, one-in-four people used their My Starbucks Rewards app to buy a drink.

Understanding the difference between games and gamification

When thinking of gamification it’s easy to picture a game created for a business purpose. Rather than creating something new, gamification enhances a core experience by applying the motivational techniques of a game. This has the advantage of brands building a stronger relationship with customers through compiling data and generating loyalty.

What are the advantages?

The benefits aren’t limited to an increase in sales, as gamification allows a business to use their customers as a sounding board. It can be used for crowdsourcing by taking customer feedback generated from the game and applying it to an issue the business is trying to solve.

Gamification is also useful as an educational resource when introducing a new product. Similar to giving a free trial, customers can test out the product in the form of a game teaching them how to use it. This has the added benefit of a brand remaining relevant, as it reminds customers you are present and engaged with them.

Tapping into the potential

While Starbucks have been successful, they aren’t the only brand to make a name for themselves with gamification. Urban Sports Club, a fitness flat-rate business, worked with Gamewheel to devise a rock climbing game that gave customers the chance to win a 3 month contract for free.

The game involved a man climbing up a digital rock wall and the higher he climbed the more points a customer received. All players were entered into a leaderboard, their data was recorded and the top three won a contract.

The results showed increased engagement, with most customers playing the game at least 3 times. The customers who were hooked the most played over 25 times and a 39% increase in organic traffic was recorded to the Urban Sports Club website.

The next step

A recent study forecasted the gamification market will increase 46% by 2020, so it’s safe to say there is much to be gained from brands branching out, whether in social media or creating a reward system. The appeal of gamification is part incentivising, part prospect theory. When combined they create a bridge between business and customer built on loyalty and trust