How Customer Gamification Can Unlock Business Growth

A light green background with the text "customer gamification," along with a vector illustration of a phone screen with likes and emojis

Imagine a small grocery store where customers earn points every time they make a purchase. They can redeem these points for discounts and free products. Better yet: The grocery store adds a scavenger hunt—a quest—where customers can earn even more points if they find hidden clues and codes throughout the store.

What’s known as customer gamification can make shopping fun and rewarding, encouraging people to return and buy more. Here’s a deeper look into customer gamification and how to incorporate it into your business.

What is customer gamification?

Customer gamification is the application of game design elements and principles in non-gaming contexts to engage and motivate customers. It encourages desired behaviors, such as making purchases, participating in loyalty programs, or sharing content on social media.

In other words, companies can use the same techniques as the creators of notable games like Call of Duty and Minecraft to build an engaged community of loyal customers. Gamification means customers aren’t just buying something; they’re also enjoying the experience of playing a game, earning rewards, and competing with others.

Customer gamification takes different forms. Specific tactics and marketing strategies vary depending on the business and its goals. Tried-and-true techniques of customer gamification include:

  • Points and rewards. Reward programs offer customers points or other rewards for completing specific actions, such as making a purchase or referring a friend. Customers can then redeem these points for rewards, such as discounts, rebates or exclusive products.
  • Progress indicators. Progress bars and other visual indicators show customers how close they are to achieving a specific goal, such as earning a reward or unlocking a new feature, motivating them to continue engaging with the product or service.
  • Leaderboards. Leaderboards rank customers based on engagement or performance, letting them see how they compare to other users and encouraging participation and purchasing.
  • Badges. Badges are virtual symbols that customers can earn for completing actions or achieving milestones. Badges can be displayed on customer profiles, for example. Customers might earn a badge for making their first purchase or leaving a review.
  • Challenges and quests. Challenges and quests are game-like activities. A store might have a challenge where customers complete a certain number of purchases within a specific period to earn a reward. Quests could be more complex, requiring customers to achieve multiple tasks to earn a bonus.

How does customer gamification work?

Customer gamification creates an enjoyable and engaging experience for customers and encourages them to interact with a business more meaningfully. It works for the same reason video games are so popular: Game-like mechanics tap into our natural desire for competition, progress, achievement, attention, and status. Gamification can also create community among customers, increasing their loyalty to a company or brand.

Bi-Rite Creamery’s punch card is a successful and low-key example of customer gamification. The branding hasn’t changed for over a decade, but locals always have partially punched cards they’ll give to friends, since they never expire. It proudly proclaims in all caps: “BUY 10 ICE CREAM PRODUCTS, GET A SINGLE SCOOP FREE!” 

Four benefits of customer gamification

  1. Improved customer engagements
  2. Increased sales and revenue
  3. Valuable customer data
  4. Enhanced brand awareness and reputation

Here are the four main reasons companies consider implementing a customer gamification strategy:

1. Improved customer engagement

Gamification helps engage customers in a fun, new, and interactive way, improving their overall experience with your brand. More engagement can lead to increased brand loyalty and a stronger emotional connection with your company.

2. Increased sales and revenue

Offering rewards and incentives through gamification can increase customer retention and encourage repeat business, leading to more sales and revenue for your business.

3. Valuable customer data

Gamification can be a powerful tool for gathering customer data and insights. By offering quizzes, surveys, and other gamified customer interactions, you can collect information about customers’ preferences, interests, and behaviors, which you can use to improve your products and services.

4. Enhanced brand awareness and reputation

Gamification can encourage customer engagement with your brand, leading to increased brand awareness and a better reputation. For example, you might reward customers for sharing an ad on social media, helping spread the word about your brand, and increasing its visibility.

Gamification can also boost your reputation by providing a positive and memorable customer experience. You might use gamification to make customer service more engaging and interactive by offering rewards and incentives for providing feedback.

Creating a customer gamification strategy

There are several things to consider when crafting your gamification strategies. Here are five key questions to guide your process:

  1. What is the goal of your gamification strategy? What do you want to achieve by incorporating gamification into the customer experience?
  2. Who is the target audience for your gamification strategy? What are the characteristics and needs of the people you are trying to engage?
  3. What game-like elements do you wish to use in your gamification strategy? Is it points, badges, leaderboards, challenges, or something else?
  4. How do you reward customers for their engagement and participation? What rewards are you offering, and how are they earned and redeemed?
  5. How do you measure the success of your gamification strategy? What metrics do you use to track how well your approach achieved its goals?

Customer gamification FAQ

What is an example of gamification?

A well-known example of customer gamification is customer punch cards for return visits. Customers can earn stars or get a card punched for every purchase they make. They can later redeem those for drinks or food.

Do customers like gamification?

The effectiveness of customer gamification—and whether customers like it—varies depending on the strategy's goals, target audience, game-like elements, and rewards. Gamification is a powerful tool for engaging with customers and driving brand loyalty when the approach is well planned.

How does gamification increase customer engagement?

Gamification increases customer engagement by making customer interactions with a product or service more enjoyable and rewarding. By incorporating game-like elements such as points, badges, and leaderboards into the customer experience, businesses can motivate and engage customers, increasing satisfaction and brand loyalty.