We all enjoy a game, right? 

Whether it's Candy Crush on your smartphone or a quick game of football with your friends. Games have been a growing medium over the years, and the concept of gamification has gained prominence, especially for businesses. 

By understanding the intricacies of human behaviour, marketers can use gamification to turn everyday interactions into fun experiences. Let's delve into the psychology behind gamification and explore how it can redefine user engagement.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the integration of game elements, such as rewards, challenges, and competition, into non-game contexts to enhance user engagement and motivation.

A good example of this would be Pokemon Go, turning an everyday walk (which many know they should do but don't), into suddenly everyone wanting to get out and about because of the game. Not only was this a success for the creators but had many benefits for the people playing the game, including daily exercise and social interaction. 

Rewards is another good example and is a popular use of gamification for many businesses because we all enjoy being rewarded for something, right? 

Coffee chains and supermarkets, in particular, have excelled in their loyalty programs. Take, for example, Starbucks - with Starbucks Rewards customers accumulate points called 'stars,' with every purchase, leading to complimentary drinks and food items. This strategy promotes customer loyalty and enhances retention, and research has shown that 75% of customers would switch brands for better loyalty programs.


How do we Gamify? 

Gamifying experiences involves the strategic implementation of game mechanics and dynamics. This could include point systems, badges, leaderboards, and narrative structures. The goal is to create an environment that stimulates participation, fosters competition, and provides a sense of progression.

As a general rule, games tend to have the following:

  • Game mechanics - These are the tools that are used to play the game. This also encompasses the rules and highlights how a game ends or is completed.
  • Dynamics - This is how a player utilises the game mechanics to fulfil an overall objective or goal. These can be simple, such as the use of dribbling in football to score a goal, or buying a drink from Starbucks to accumulate points.
  • Game rewards/incentives - This is the payout for the player in the end. This can be done in the form of something physical such as a trophy or free drink, through to an emotional reaction such as joy and excitement or sadness and disappointment, depending on the game outcome.


Gamification Psychology

Gamification works because it taps into genuine human emotions, such as; feelings of happiness, curiosity, and excitement. These are all positive subconscious feelings which leave us wanting more. Businesses using gamification have experienced up to 30% rise in user engagement and an increase in conversion rates. This is why, when executed as part of a wider marketing strategy, gamification can help brands retain customers and build loyalty. 

Why do we play games?

People engage in games for a variety of reasons, and the motivations can differ from person to person. Here are a couple of psychological reasons why consumers might be influenced by gamification tactics: 

  • Intrinsic Motivation: Games tap into our internal drives, providing a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

  • Sense of Competence: Games allow us to showcase and enhance our skills, fostering a feeling of mastery.

  • Social Connection: Multiplayer and social aspects of gaming fulfil our need for social interaction and collaboration.
  • Clear Goals and Feedback: Games provide clear objectives and immediate feedback, promoting a sense of purpose.

  • Escapism: Games offer an immersive escape from reality, allowing users to experience new worlds and narratives.
How to build loyalty with gamification

Sustaining engagement requires a thoughtful approach to gamification:

  • Progression Paths: Design clear pathways for users to progress, unlocking new challenges and rewards.
  • Meaningful Rewards: Ensure that rewards are meaningful and aligned with user goals, providing a sense of accomplishment.
  • Personalisation: Tailor the experience to individual preferences, making users feel seen and valued.
  • Surprise and Delight: Introduce unexpected elements to keep users intrigued and excited about what comes next.


Know Your Audience

Before you can kick-start your gamification approach, you need to really understand your audience - their motivations and drivers, so that you can tap into these appropriately. Here are a couple of methods you can use to find out what motivates your users: 

  • Feedback loops - analyse user feedback to determine where the pain points are and optimise gamified elements based on audience responses. 
  • Social listening - find out what your audiences are talking about online, how they’re talking about it and identify any opportunities to address pain points with some fun!
  • User research - there are many different methods of user research such as interviews, surveys, and focus groups. These are great opportunities to dig deeper into what it is you want to know about your audiences and enable you to build a truly customer-centric gamification approach.
  • Analyse your existing data - look at the data you already have on your audiences to understand their behaviours and needs. How do they navigate your website? How long do they spend on each page? Can you decipher their needs from their interactions? What does the user journey look like? 


Final Thoughts

Applying gamification to marketing can enhance engagement and build loyalty across various customer types. It emphasises integrating game elements into non-game contexts and cites examples like Pokemon Go and Starbucks Rewards. The key to effective gamification lies in the strategic implementation of game mechanics and understanding human psychology.
Some of the psychological reasons for playing games are:

  • A sense of competence
  • Social connection
  • Escapism. 

Understanding the audience is crucial before implementing gamification, with methods like user research, and data analysis helping uncover audience motivations. By leveraging gamification and understanding human behaviour, businesses can execute marketing strategies that enhance customer retention and loyalty.
Gamification is a broad topic, and this just scratches the surface. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement Gamification techniques into your marketing strategy, get in touch with us today!


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Erin supports the Marketing Manager in execution of the agency’s marketing strategy and content plan. She uses her creativity and online knowledge to manage the agency’s social media accounts, where she strives to grow and expand the agencies online presence. While being a part of the agency’s vision and growth plans for the future, Erin supports on our key agency events including Aspiration Digital and our Brunch and Learn events.

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