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Build On-Site Engagement with Gamification

By Gina Rau | Posted on July 06, 2011

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By definition, gamification is when websites or apps use game mechanics, psychology, and rewards to encourage users to engage in identified desired behaviors. One of my personal favorites was Whole Foods’ Missions iPhone app which was launched last year, where you earn badges and recognition by completing tasks along the journey to better health.


Courtesy of Whole Foods

While everyone is talking about adding game mechanics to their website or apps, the concept isn’t really a new marketing tactic. Remember the coffee shop’s “Buy 10 Coffees and Your 11th is On Us” punch cards? Retailers have been using loyalty programs for decades in similar ways to reward their best customers’ actions (I practically have an entire music CD collection free thanks to JCPenney’s early 90’s Spend $15, Get a CD fragrance program). So what’s new?

This new era of game mechanics plays to a higher level of human needs that stretches beyond status and rewards to include achievement, competitiveness and even self-expression. The old grocery store loyalty programs worked because it was the only way to get the best price. Airline loyalty programs were not only a way to earn free trips and accumulate perks, but they played to our egos by becoming a status symbol of the wealthy, or road warrior class.

With both of these examples, the reward was something kept to ourselves or in the case of the airline, was visible to strangers at the airport as we jump into the shorter security line or board the plane earlier than the rest. The social tools available to tell our friends on the social networks that we’ve unlocked the Super Cool badge, or earned the Great Almighty mayorship are a very new twist on traditional loyalty and rewards programs. With one click, we can broadcast our victory to those we want to influence or consider our community.

The Game Changer

That is what’s new for the user. But this is a game changer for brands as well as they are suddenly able to identify and reward true brand advocates within the context of on-site behaviors in real-time. Advocates move along an engagement ladder that rewards loyalty and deepens the brand relationship through exclusive offers or content, sneak previews or other invitations. That’s half the story. The other half is the simultaneously sharing of this with their friends and the qualified referral traffic this brings to the site. This is a powerful new way to take advantage of word of mouth marketing where rule #1 is provide something people will want to talk about.

Social media and game mechanics go hand-in-hand for brands looking to increase engagement and participation on their website while creating an entertaining and enjoyable experience. Learn more about Janrain’s new Loyalty, Rewards and Game Mechanics Solution and you can be on your way to building a stronger brand advocate community faster than you can earn the I’ve Won Dinner with the President badge.

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About the author

Gina Rau

Gina Rau

Marketing Communications Manager

With almost 20 years of marketing success, Gina is a brand engagement specialist who seeks out creative solutions for every marketing challenge. Her work has delivered results for leading brands like Whole Foods, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, JCPenney, Tillamook Creamery and more. At Janrain, she leads the charge to make sure our company, products and services shine through our messaging and content.

View all posts by Gina Rau