Gamification – where a company encourages brand engagement through game play – is a hot topic in business at the moment.

Gartner say that by the end of 2015 more than 50% of organisations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes – but how can we make the most of this opportunity?

Since the beginning of the gamification industry in 2010, over 350 companies have launched major gamification projects – including consumer brands like MLB, Adobe, NBC, Walgreens, Ford, Southwest, eBay, Panera and Threadless among others. For B2B companies such as Oracle, SAP, Jive, Cisco, Pearson and Salesforce, gamification has also emerged as a key element in the consumerisation of their enterprise strategies.

What gamification is?

We can define it as the process where you encourage your audience to engage with your brand or product through typical game play elements (points scoring, competition with others, rules of play etc). To make that happen you need to apply game mechanisms and dynamics into a non-gaming context, such as project management, marketing, training, recruitment and finally customer service.

What gamification is not?

It’s very much not an attempt to turn all work into play! Gamifying something just for the sake of tapping into the trend can bring more harm than benefit. In fact, Gartner reported that by the end of 2014 over 80% of gamified processes had failed to achieve their objectives due to reasons such as poor design or ineffective rules.

However, in last five years alone consulting behemoths Deloitte, Accenture, NTTData and Capgemini started practicing targeting gamification of Fortune 500 companies, with customer relations playing a key role in this process. So how can you improve your customer relations using gamification?


1. Turn the downsides into benefits

Richard Branson is an expert at this. Take for instance his approach to a his customers’ experience of waiting on hold on the phone. He recognised that hearing “your call is very important to us, please hold…” is very irritating for the customer and so tried a different approach. Of course, the removal of the waiting time isn’t practically possible, so how can we turn everything upside down and to ensure clients enjoy the experience?

On Virgin Atlantic’s customer service line, callers hear the following: “Hello, my name is Richard Branson. I’m the owner of the airline. Now all operators are busy. This is a disorder. Let’s proceed as follows: after 18 seconds if no one answers, you will receive a discount of £450. I’m starting the countdown – 18, 17, 16, 15…”

Through this compelling but very simple process, Virgin Atlantic helps it’s customers with the frustration of waiting. Simple!

To turn problems into benefits you need to ask yourself the following key questions:

  1. What are the downsides of customer relations in my business?
  2. For each specific issue, how does my client feel at that point? Are they bored, irritated or disappointed? And what’s the opposite feeling – do they feel entertained, calm or pleasantly surprised?
  3. What are the 3 craziest ideas I can think of to move my client from “bored” to “entertained” point for example? (NB you don’t have implement them straight away, just write them down!)

Having left these ideas for a while, come back and reread everything. How crazy do your ideas look now? Can you implement any of them and suddenly turn the downsides of your customer service into benefits?

2. Improve product knowledge

It’s very difficult for customers to be your brand ambassadors, and be happy with you overall, if they know next to nothing about your products and services. Gamification can help you to give people a clear overview of your Unique Selling Points. It can also introduce clients to new products or services that are relevant – based for example on their previous searches.

The game should not necessarily be long and should not involve installing apps, filling in registration forms. According to research by Microsoft Research, customers only spend 10 seconds on average on your website before they decide whether they stay or leave, so you need to get their attention quickly!


Keeping it simple has clear benefits too. For instance, gamification can simply be a nice interactive chart which your clients can hover over to get more information about the benefits of dealing with you – whether you are selling gold and oil or laptops. Follow the links to see how a simple chart like this example (right) comes alive with a bit of interaction.

To improve your customers’ product knowledge ask yourself the following key questions:

  1. When it comes to improving the product knowledge of my customers what would be valuable to them?
  2. How can I present the information in an interactive and fun way?
  3. How can I optimise the learning process so that it becomes attractive and easy for the customer?

3. Give to get

Brands like Adobe, Ford, eBay and hundreds more like them continue to experience a boost in customer engagement and loyalty – viral distribution, increase in time on site, repeat visits and more – by an average of 30% thanks to gamification. And it’s not just a brand engagement exercise either.

The revenue generating potential of gamification is huge. For example, Autodesk raised its trial usage by 40% and conversion rates by 15%, while Extraco Bank raised their customer acquisitions by a staggering 700% thanks to gamification. Meanwhile, IBM’s gamified Innov8 platform has become the company’s biggest lead generator.

The theory goes that giving your clients an extra something can turn casual buyers into lifelong customers. The key question is what is that “extra something”?

Comic 2

Dozens of brand-based loyalty programs where the rewards are small and the investment in time is significant do not “wow” the customer like they used to. Gartner Inc. and Yotpo research suggests the following:

  1. Build a cross-brand sponsorship and participation. If a lot of brands and retailers are the part of the program, as a customer I’m more likely to get involved.
  2. Use the rewards to drive customer loyalty to thebrand community. As a result brands that are not part of the community become “outsiders” and therefore less attractive to customers.
  3. Make your points a transferable virtual currency. This means that points can be broadly exchanged for goods, services or other rewards, and can be transferred to other people.
  4. Use rewards that fit well into a brand message. When Perrier wanted to appeal to younger people, they re-branded the drink as a “drink for a party”. In order to do that they launched an interactive live-your-own adventure game to back up their rebrand. The game was highly personalized and required real effort to get to the prize: tickets to an awesome concert. Perrier successfully used a game and a reward that fitted the new brand image they wanted to spread.
  5. Personalize your clients’ experience. And no, your company is not too big to do that. Take Coca-Cola for example, who managed to personalise game experiences by targeting specific markets individually. In Japan, where avatars are popular, the company introduced scannable QR codes on the vending machines which allowed customers to create a virtual avatar identity. While in South Korea interactive vending machines challenged buyers to dance for free Coke. While being regionally specific, Coca-Cola was wildly successful at spreading their core global message: “Coca-Cola makes you happy”.

Finally, to get full benefit from a “give to get” approach with gamification, ask yourself a simple but key question: “what extra something can I give to my customers that will be of value to them and will encourage them to be loyal?”

That’s it for today and Happy Gamification!