Gamification: The Formula for Inspiring Customer Experiences

Gamification, like customer experience, is a shrill term. Gamification in consumer experience is a new buzzword that more and more brands apply. In this article, I shed light on the meaning, possible areas of application, and tried-and-tested success criteria of gamification.

No marketing strategy uses emotions better than gamification. (Getty Images)

Gamification can make sense – provided there is a suitable use case!

The marketing term is derived from “game.” According to Wikipedia, the term gamification refers to the use of common game elements in a fundamentally non-game context.

Humans have an innate need to improve their skills, learn new things and compete with others. Games take up these needs that are typical for us humans. With unique mechanisms, such as puzzles, experience points, level-ups, increasing difficulty, or through awards and trophies, games motivate us to keep going and to improve constantly.

If the proven game principles are used in a non-game context, this can increase motivation, improve perseverance, and influence behavior accordingly. Gamification can make even a tedious, monotonous task much more enjoyable. It motivates the user to deal with even more complex problems and tasks.

Both younger and older target groups can be addressed. The fascination with games can be used by companies either internally (internal gamification) to motivate employees, or it is used externally (external gamification) to win new customers and users and to bind them to the company.

What does gamification mean?

Gamification should support the buying process, not distract from it.

The classic gamification element is the progress indicator. Here, the user can clearly see the status of the work. It means that they can see at any time how far they have progressed in the process. If the status is made visible to the user, the motivation to complete the work can be significantly increased.

The digitalization of communication tools makes it even easier to introduce game-like components into applications. It is essential for the success of the gamification process to place the product or service meaningfully in the game and to generate a lot of interaction with consumers.

Gamification of applications promotes a positive brand image and leads to advertising messages being associated with pleasant experiences. Multi-channel marketing, in particular, is enriched by the possible interaction with users that gamification offers.  

How does gamification work?

A game should trigger something positive in the user, such as the motivation to have a great experience or to create an ambition. Once this is triggered, the user often takes action, i.e., plays a game or gets more information. In the last step, the user should receive rewards (feedback) in the form of points, badges, etc. The real challenge is to motivate the customer to progress and keep on engaging. The real challenge is to keep the customer in the game.

The best examples of gamification

The spot “The fun theory – Piano Stairs” from 2010 shows how much fun environmental protection can be: In an experiment lasting several days, VW converted a Stockholm underground staircase into a piano. The initially irritated passers-by eventually hopped from step to step, enthusiastically playing little pieces of music – and hardly ever used the escalator.

Further examples of gamification

Achieving savings goals

What does it take for people to achieve their savings goals? The saver joins a savings community and receives achievements and bonuses, e.g., in the form of higher interest rates or an amount of money, for mastered savings challenges.

Idea management

How can employees be encouraged to contribute many good ideas? Employees who contribute ideas are rewarded – on the one hand, with a status visible to all, and on the other hand, with incentives such as holiday days.

Smart Meters, Smart Grids

How can people be encouraged to save electricity? The individual’s behavior is compared with that of the community to develop an awareness of electricity consumption. Various challenges encourage people to change their own behavior.

Possible areas of application for gamification

No marketing strategy uses emotions better than gamification, the playful contact with the customer. Gamification, therefore, describes nothing other than the transfer of elements from games into a context that is completely detached from them. It means that in this context, principles from game design and mechanics from games are adopted.

But what do companies or individuals use gamification for?

– Marketing: in apps and on websites to attract new customers

– Education and training: to improve learning effects

– Recruitment: to test qualifications or make a pre-selection

– Sales: to increase closing rates through awards and rankings

– Product development: to increase customer loyalty

– Health management: to improve the fitness of employees

– Quality management: to optimize data quality

Five proven criteria for success

1. Know your customers and target groups

Before using gamification elements, you should be clear about what you want to achieve. A clear definition of the goals is the first important step.

2. Simple and seamless user experience

Gamification thrives on simplicity. In order to create easy access, the “mechanics” of the game must be easy to learn, but the game must be challenging so that it does not seem dull.

3. Use channel diversity and appropriate tools

Depending on the approach, it is advisable to integrate different channels. It must be clear on which channels the action actually takes place and which channels are used for promotion.

4. Test, test, test

In order to implement gamification elements, continuous user tests are mandatory. It makes it easy to see whether the idea is perfect or there is still room for improvement.

5. Precise measurement and evaluation

Suitable measurement and evaluation criteria are among the most demanding tasks. Because only with exact data can it be determined how well the campaign actually works.


Tried and tested gamification methods can be used to convey messages in a humorous and/or playful way. New information usually sticks in the memory for a long time. In addition to increasing customer loyalty and learning success, gamified elements can also generate user data.

One difficulty of gamification is the optimization dilemma: if a game is too playful in its presentation, the perceived seriousness suffers. However, if a gamification component is designed too soberly or boringly, it is not much fun to use, and the dropout rate increases as a result. It all comes down to the right mix.

Critical voices wonder whether gamification can exist as part of a product or is only perceived as a marketing gimmick. Above all, there is potential for gamification in solving particularly dull tasks, designing internal processes, or for inspiration in brainstorming sessions.

Written by Cyrill Luchsinger

Read more

Wikipedia on Gamification

Gamification explained in 3 minutes

Examples implemented with Dialog Automation

Winning new customers playfully – the trade fair example