By Kelsey Jones

Gamifying your customer service experience isn’t new. A classic example, which has been done for decades, is allowing customers to earn credit card or airline points for purchases that can be redeemed for other purchases. This reward system gives users an incentive to spend more, and ensures businesses are more competitive with reward programs and bonus offers.; Dozens of websites and books exist to inform consumers about how to get the most bang for their bucks when it comes to earning points. It’s a valuable example of just how powerful gamifying the customer experience can be. More and more companies are making their user experience more fun, which leads to higher customer loyalty, a greater overall spend, and increased interest in the company’s offerings.; Gamification also has psychological perks: Game developer Jane McGonigal, author of Superbetter, explains that playing games can have several benefits in your life, including increased positivity and better communication skills, both of which can lead to a better overall experience with your company. Here are more reasons why gamification benefits your customer experience.

Gartner report on gamification found that more than 50 percent of those in charge of company innovation are adding some sort of gamification. If you look back at some of the most popular customer experience and integration campaigns in marketing and advertising history, many involve some sort of gamification. One long-running example is McDonald’s annual Monopoly game: This campaign has been going for 30 years and over $40 million in prizes have been given away. Every time it runs, it increases McDonald’s sales one to six percent at their stores.

But besides literal games for customers, such as McDonald’s Monopoly, other companies have tried participatory activities that keep customers’ interest and make them feel like that are a part of something larger, while also giving them the chance to win or earn products.

Social media has helped many companies do this successfully. For instance, American Express has a Twitter and hashtag program; once users connect their Twitter account, they can tweet special phrases or use hashtags to get deals on restaurants and other purchases. The tweets earn customers money off on food and other buys, and act as promotions for the businesses and American Express.

Another popular example of using social media to create a community and drive incentives for customers is ToneItUp, a fitness and lifestyle brand that offers paid and free workout and nutrition programs. They often have seasonal challenges, such as their annual pre-summer swimsuit challenge, and users who sign up can complete daily check-ins after their workouts as proof of their accomplishments. In the winter of 2017, the challenge used the hashtag #lookforlove; on Instagram alone it has over 228,000 posts.

According to Lisa Evans in an article for Fast Company, this strategy of building a community has been proven to help people lose more weight, versus when they keep their goals and progress to themselves. ToneItUp has thousands of members, and their regular, unique hashtags for challenges have allowed them to organically grow their user base (again, by acting as relatively “free” publicity via users’ social media accounts). Those hashtags have also helped ensure the success of programs: There’s a correlation between accountability through social media and more weight lost.

When it comes to getting the right verification, design and usability are key. A great gamification idea can only go so far if the user experience (UX) just isn’t there. According to The New York Times, users have an average online attention span of eight seconds: If what they are looking at doesn’t catch their eye within that time frame, they move on to something else.

This means that when gamified experiences are rolled out, they need to be flawless. Spend the time and budget user-testing experiences before publicly announcing them. Many services can do this for a relatively low cost with real users.

A great example of an integrated gamified shopping experience is Target’s Cartwheel app.. This app is a free download and allows users to get exclusive coupons and discounts on items in the Target store. These can be combined with manufacturer coupons and Target’s REDcard discount. Users can either browse by category and select coupons ahead of time, or they can scan the barcodes of products in the store to see if there are any available discounts.

By allowing users a more interactive role in the buying process, customers are more likely to feel rewarded when they snag a good deal, even if they would have bought the product without the discount. It also sets Target apart from its competitors.

Another way to make sure your gamification efforts are user-friendly: Integrate them with social media. Cartwheel, for example, can integrate with a user’s Facebook profile to show customers who among their friends uses the app, which deals they are claiming, and how much money they’ve saved. Tying your gamification into social media creates another level of good-natured competitiveness and personalization: According to Smithsonian Magazine, most people tend to surround themselves with those who have similar lifestyles and goals. People usually have the same buying trends and patterns as their friends, making the “your friends claimed” call to action within Target’s app especially well-placed.

If you don’t want to make people hunt for discounts or prizes, consider enabling customers’ strong sense of curiosity and fear of missing out (FOMO). Many brands gamify the purchasing experience by offering discounts in exchange for being able to randomly select the user’s purchase.

Golden Tote is a great example of tapping into FOMO. This online retailer has an online boutique, but also offers two new totes each month: a $59 version with two items and a $149 version with five items. After filling out an online profile, stylists create each customer’s tote based on their style preferences and body type. Users can choose one or two items that will be in their tote (depending on a pre-chosen price level), but otherwise have no control over what items the stylists choose. Golden Tote, with an annual estimated revenue around $1 million, creates a strong brand by capitalizing on the element of surprise and the booming subscription box industry.

Other ways that brands have gamified customers’ curiosity is by offering “random” discounts when a user clicks on a link in an email campaign or visits the company’s website. Brainstorm, implement, track, and refine the ways you can surprise your customers and give them a more exciting experience with your brand. Find your most-trafficked avenue—your website, app, retail store, or somewhere else—and think of how you can gamify the experience there.

f your team decides to gamify any campaigns or aspects of the customer purchasing funnel, establish specific goals. Gamification is not a temporary fix for something that needs a lasting solution. For instance, it doesn’t matter how many codes you give out for free coffees if the ordering and pick-up lines are so long users feel frustrated and leave. The same goes for products that don’t perform as expected: Offering free replacement or earned products through loyalty rewards may soothe some customers, but your reputation—and your customers—deserve better.

Make sure your gamification campaigns are easy to use, serve a purpose, and add to the overall positive customer experience. You’ll find that customers who engage with this type of marketing have a higher return rate, more engagement, and better brand sentiment.

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