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Time to Level up Your Loyalty Program: Top 10 Ways to Tap into Gamification

People love games for a variety of reasons: they fuel our competitive sides, challenge us, offer an escape from the daily grind, and help us feel a sense of victory and accomplishment. Most of us are naturally attracted to activities we find stimulating, and game-like experiences satisfy that hunger—even via loyalty and reward programs. Gamification opportunities also provide organizations with immersive and interactive ways to engage prospective and existing customers, boost awareness of promotions and available rewards, and drive loyalty.

But while leveraging games as a means of transforming mundane tasks into thrilling experiences is nothing new in the marketing realm, it is a relatively new concept to the banking and fintech space. Introducing game-like opportunities to promote banking, credit union, and other loyalty program participation is a largely untapped strategy for encouraging relationships between FIs and fintechs and their target audiences, despite the benefits posed by this approach. 

To provide your loyalty and rewards program members with the gamification options they crave, here’s a list of features that can help you customize your brand experience and nurture ongoing customer engagement: 

  1. Badges: Many people swell with pride when given visual representations of their accomplishments. Badges can be earned as symbols of specific milestones or achievements within your loyalty program, such as making a certain number of purchases over a certain value or participating in special events. You can customize badges for each accomplishment with clever names and creative designs to add a personal touch sure to enhance a customer’s sense of achievement. Take the Conscious Choices program from Etihad, for example. Participants can earn higher tier status and customized badges for choosing more sustainable travel (e.g., checking less luggage, purchasing eco-friendly products from Etihad’s store).
  2. Personalization and custom rewards: Customers’ experiences with your brand can be highly personalized based on peoples’ preferences, behaviors, purchase history and digital shopping insights. With gamification capabilities, you can leverage your knowledge of your customers to craft custom discounts on frequent purchases or provide a tailored list of rewards options based on your customers’ interests and legacy interactions with your brand.
  3. Loyalty currency: Miles, points, and cashback are foundational gamification elements. They represent tangible rewards that can be earned for a variety of actions, such as referring friends, making certain purchases, and engaging with your brand on social media. You can disburse customized loyalty currency values by assigning value (in points, for example) to different actions customers can take. Take Flying Blue for instance, which offers 500 miles as an introductory offer for a customer’s first online purchase. Other organizations may give out loyalty currency for strategic purchases made on popular shopping holidays (e.g., Black Friday) or points bonuses to celebrate individual loyalty members’ birthdays. 
  4. Virtual currency: Not to be confused with loyalty currency, virtual currencies can add an extra layer of interest to your loyalty program beyond tangible “real world” options, like points or cashback. They come in different virtual forms like coins, tokens, or gems customers can earn for completing certain tasks. Virtual currency can be redeemed to unlock exclusive content or rewards while providing a sense of achievement. You can even customize virtual currency promotions with special events or limited-time offers to earn bonus virtual currency—generating a sense of urgency and buzz of excitement.
  5. Leaderboards: When it comes to gamification, many of your customers will yearn for and appreciate a sense of healthy competition against each other. Leaderboards can display ranks or points totals for competitions—which, naturally, spurs a competitive fire in many people who will then strive to attain a higher position or more points than others (helping drive added engagement for your brand). You can segment leaderboards based on user behaviors or demographics (e.g., geographic location, purchase history) to create more of a unique experience that is directly relevant to different participant groups.
  6. Tiers and levels: A clear sense of progression in different gamification opportunities helps participants feel as though they’re achieving something for their investments. For instance, customers can begin at a base level and as they engage in specific activities or accumulate more points, they can advance to higher levels of your program—each of which offering increasingly valuable benefits and rewards. With each new tier, you can tailor rewards to match the perceived value of more difficult tasks and customize rewards for participating customers. 
  7. Unlockable achievements: Similar to gamification tiers and levels, providing opportunities for participants to unlock achievements for significant accomplishments within your loyalty program can create a sense of discovery, surprise, and satisfaction. These milestones can be tied to unique events or actions and may only be revealed once customers make progress toward a goal they may or may not be aware of in advance. Accorand Etihad routinely use this tactic for raffles and prize drawings to increase loyalty member engagement while Aer Lingus and British Airways run campaigns that reward loyalty program members with bonus points earned through different promotional transactions (the higher the value of the transaction, the higher the value of the bonus).
  8. Special events and challenges: Limited-time offers, special events, and time-sensitive challenges can inject your loyalty program with added variety and excitement your members will enjoy. These gamification opportunities often require task completions for challenges during specific timeframes—leading to exclusive rewards or bonus loyalty points. Virgin Australia’s frequent flyer program, Velocity, uses this strategy with an annual Christmas countdown campaign where new challenges are posted during each of the seven days leading up to Christmas.
  9. Social collaboration and interaction opportunities. Your customers may relish the opportunity to collaborate, form teams, and compete against each other. These friendly interactions create a sense of camaraderie and community (even digitally) to help drive brand loyalty at a high level. For instance, featuring team-based challenges can encourage loyalty program members within the same household to work together toward a collective goal. Those members could earn, pool, and exchange points collected on everyday purchases with different merchants and within different categories for different program experiences and customized group rewards. 
  10. Storytelling: Incorporating a unique narrative into your loyalty program creates a much more immersive experience with your brand. A promotional storyline can evolve over time—introducing new events, challenges, and even characters to keep participants engrossed. When your loyalty program members become more emotionally invested in that narrative, they are more likely to become engaged with your program and loyal to your brand. 

There’s no better time to leverage gamification to power up your loyalty program. By incorporating a variety of gamification features like those mentioned above, you can create a more immersive, tailored, and dynamic brand experience that will directly engage customers on a personal level. Emotional connections and engagement go hand-in-hand with brand loyalty, customer lifetime value, and spend—and both can be created and nurtured with a well-executed gamification strategy to help you stand out from your competition. 




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James Berry

James Berry

Managing Director


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06 Sep 2023



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