Leveling Up with Gamification and Customer Rewards

If you’ve ever played a video game before, you know that they’re fun, addicting, and surprisingly motivating. Between the leaderboard on the side of the screen, the powerups and special items, and the thrill of crossing the finish line, the idea of winning keeps you moving towards a goal. Even if you lose, the excitement of playing is enough to bring you back to play again.

If you’ve ever played a video game before, you know they’re fun, addicting, and surprisingly motivating.

Between leaderboards on the sides of screens, power-ups and special items, and the thrill of crossing a finish line, the idea of winning keeps you moving toward a goal. Even if you lose, the excitement of playing is enough to bring you back to play again.

These game mechanics can also be effective in other areas, including your ecommerce business. Known as gamification, the use of game mechanics outside the video game world has the power to dramatically change your customer retention efforts. It becomes even more powerful when combined with other loyalty efforts, such as rewards programs.

From punch cards to tokens to mobile apps to loyalty coalitions, rewards programs have rapidly evolved to meet customers’ lifestyles and expectations. Since these systems are designed to bring customers back, introducing a bit of competition can go a long way toward keeping people engaged with and excited about your brand.

Let’s take a look at three ways you can use ecommerce gamification to “level up” your retention efforts and increase your revenue.


Start Your Engines: 3 Ecommerce Gamification Strategies

1) Build the Perfect Leaderboard With VIP Tiers

One of the most motivating elements of any multiplayer video game is the leaderboard — an easy win for ecommerce gamification.

Typically displayed directly in the playing window, the leaderboard shows each player where they rank among their fellow players and, as a result, how far they have to go to be victorious. This is known as the Local Ladder Effect and plays into our desire to know where we stand in relation to our peers. The further we are from the top, the harder we work to get there.

A tiered rewards program is the easiest way to introduce this type of competition to your customer experience. By separating your customers into distinct categories based on how they interact with your brand, you create an exclusive group of “top performers” that customers flock to. Because who doesn’t like to win?

Tiers introduce an easy and effective way to take advantage of the human desire to win — especially if the rewards increase in value! With better transactional rewards or exciting experiential prizes on the line, your customers won’t want to lose their coveted VIP status. Customers who know they’re at the top want to stay there, which motivates them to keep making purchases to retain that added value.

2) Offer Valuable Power-Ups With Bonus Points

The Star has always been one of my favorite elements of any Super Mario Bros. game. Whether I’m trying to defeat Bowser or speeding around a racetrack, power-ups like the Super Star give me that exciting extra boost. In a matter of seconds, I can go from losing the race to leading the pack, reigniting my motivation to finish the game victorious.

In ecommerce gamification, a bonus points campaign can do the same thing for your rewards program.

When you give your customers the chance to earn more rewards for a limited time (say a weekend or holiday), you immediately make completing a purchase more valuable. This is largely a result of the loss-aversion principle, which states that the effect of a real or perceived loss is always stronger than that of an equivalent gain. In other words, humans are wired to avoid loss wherever possible, whether real or perceived.

Your bonus points campaign, then, motivates customers to return to your store more quickly to avoid missing out on the value you’re offering — especially if they’re close to redeeming a reward.

With something they want on the line, customers will want to earn as many points as possible, increasing their average order value. The positive emotions associated with those bonus points then impact their overall perception of your brand, making it both more valuable and more memorable.

3) Award Customers Trophies With Exclusive Rewards

Why does anyone play a game? Most of us want to win, and it’s from that desire that competition is born. However, simply winning isn’t always enough. We also want a reward for our efforts.

I know whenever I start a new video game, I’m always looking forward to that coveted “Congratulations!” screen, and I’ll keep playing until I get it. We can apply this principle to ecommerce gamification as well.

You could argue that rewards of any kind are the prize your customers are vying for. But why stop there?

As discussed earlier, a tiered rewards program is the perfect way to separate your most valuable purchasers (MVPs, if you will) from the rest of your customer base. These customers are purchasing machines; they deserve a gold standard of reward that stands out from the rewards of the masses.

Exclusive top-tier rewards provide a tangible “Congratulations!” screen experience for your best customers. These perks might include special events, early access to sales, or a lower reward redemption threshold — whatever you decide.

With a tiered program, you reserve these rewards for a select “winning” few. It’s like adding a badge or trophy to each of your customers’ experiences with your brand. Aspirational rewards provide that extra something that makes your best customers feel appreciated and inspires the next wave of MVPs to step up their game.

It’s a profitable cycle that keeps customers engaged and makes the finish line (your top tier) worth it.


Beat the Competition With Ecommerce Gamification

When you incorporate ecommerce gamification into your rewards program, you offer a brand experience customers can’t resist “playing,” spiking engagement rates and customer satisfaction. This acts as a valuable switching cost that keeps your customers’ eyes on the ultimate prize: a VIP membership with your outstanding, one-of-a-kind brand.

Guest Post by Kirsten Burkard at Smile.io

Kirsten Burkard is a Rewards Marketing Expert and lead editor of the Smile.io blog. She’s passionate about excellent customer service, art and design, bows, and anything Disney.


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