4 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience with Game-Based Marketing


With the market shifting towards a self-directed shopping journey, improving the customer experience has skyrocketed to the top of many marketers’ priority lists.

According to Forrester, 71% of businesses prioritized improving the customer experience in 2016, a trend set to continue in 2017. [1]

But while companies seem to recognize the importance of a great customer experience, they don’t seem as committed to making those experiences anything other than average.

Instead of aiming for excellence, most brands and retailers have been complacent about making incremental improvements.[2] They’ve been settling for mediocre.

In fact, despite the majority of marketers prioritizing the improvement of their customer experience this year, over half of consumers rated their experiences as just ‘okay.’ Only 17% had ‘good’ experiences. And a mere 1% called their experience excellent. [3]

You may be thinking, what’s the big deal? As long as I’m ahead of my competitors there’s no problem, right?

Wrong. Customer expectations are growing at a lightning pace — and those expectations are based on their best experiences, not average ones.[4] That means those 1% of excellent experiences — regardless of where they had them — will continue to raise the bar for what qualifies as a positive customer experience.

If you aren’t consistently aiming to exceed customer expectations, your ‘average’ experience will quickly become negative. And a negative customer experience can expedite your route out of business — tanking your brand loyalty and leaving your customers searching for a replacement.

The reality is having an excellent customer experience is no longer a nice ‘add on’. It’s not an extra benefit. It’s not ‘nice to have if we can’.

It’s the only option if you want to capture and sustain market share.

Game-Based Marketing is a Strategy, not a Miracle Fix

Part of improving your customer experience comes from making it enjoyable to interact with your retailer or brand.  And there is growing recognition of the importance of engagement platforms that facilitate customer experience and manage or influence behavior. [5]

Many companies are turning to game-based marketing as a way to engage consumers and improve their experience. But to influence customer behaviour, game-based marketing needs to be implemented purposefully as part of an overall business strategy.

You can’t just add points or badges and expect miracles.

Crafting better customer experiences requires a strategic shift, one that’s based on an in-depth investigation of the current state of your customer’s journey. That means breaking down silos within your organization to get a clear look at what the customer experience is really like.  

Once you have a clear idea of what areas need improvement, game-based marketing can be used strategically to enhance your customer experience. You can gamify individual touchpoints or entire sections of the customer journey.  

Either way game tactics need to be tied to both existing modes of interaction with the company (i.e. browsing your website) and clearly outlined business goals. When consumers take action within the game, the result of that action should help achieve those specific goals.

Let’s look at some examples of parts of the customer experience where game-based marketing can be used to make improvements.

1. Gamified Product Exploration

Despite shoppers’ desire to be at the helm of their shopping journeys, they are often overwhelmed with the information available to them. Accenture found over 40% of consumers have made a purchase on another site or in-store because they were overwhelmed by too many options when trying to make a decision. [6]

To improve the product selection aspect of your customer journey, you could gamify the experience: adding a recommendation quiz, or turning product exploration into an interactive game like Sephora recently did with their tinder style app. [7]

Recommendations and interactive product exploration games make looking through products more convenient and enjoyable. Personal recommendations also improve the customer experience because they take the work out of searching for relevant products — everything the customer sees is tailored to them.

2. Game-Based Sweepstakes & Contests

Your marketing campaigns shape how your customers think about you — even before they visit your website, come into your store, or buy your products.  So it’s imperative that they also provide a positive brand experience for consumers.

Traditional campaigns tend to shove messaging at consumers. Consumers don’t choose when to engage with branded content and it’s often very sales centric.

Game-based promotions are different. They offer value to consumers in the form of fun games and appealing prizes. They let consumers choose to engage instead of pushing. They make it enjoyable to interact with branded content instead of annoying.

And they can help you achieve a whole host of business goals.

3. Game-Based Advocacy

Everyone likes to feel like they are part of something.  At a basic level, game-based marketing can add a social element to your customer experience by awarding shareable badges, prompting social sharing, and highlighting individuals on leaderboards.

But it can also help build social communities. Social communities instil a feeling of belonging among your consumers while providing access to helpful information or offers.

Gamification within social communities encourages consumers to engage repetitively by making the experience fun — even addictive.  

Just look at Nike+ or FitBit.  Both brands use social communities to maximize engagement with their consumers. Players can track and share their progress, invite others to compete against their high scores and see how they stack up against their friends.

Everything within the communities Nike and FitBit created is there to improve the experience of the customer. The social aspects humanize the brand, while the gamification elements encourage customers to interact with the community repetitively.

4. Game-Based Loyalty

A loyalty program is typically a company's main platform for developing long term relationships with customers. But for the program to be effective, you need to put your customers first. Loyalty programs focused entirely on sales tend to contribute to a negative customer experience.

Gamifying your loyalty program helps improve the customer experience because it makes it fun — and worthwhile — to engage with the program. There is something in it for your consumers, even if that something is just a really fun game.

Game elements like levels, progress indicators, personalized avatars, and branded games not only improve the experience of using your loyalty program, they can improve its efficacy. They make it fun to engage repetitively with your program. And when you tie business goals to actions within the program, these game elements can help encourage members to do things like make purchases, engage on social, or invite other people to join your program.

The Bottom Line

Consumers have high expectations when it comes to their experience with your brand. But game-based marketing shouldn’t just be tacked onto your existing customer experience.

You have to consider the customer journey as a whole, and identify areas that can be simplified or made more enjoyable.

Game-based marketing can help, but it’s not a miracle fix. Points and badges won’t make complicated processes more enjoyable. Game-based marketing has to be used as part of an overall strategy to make your customer journey simple, convenient, and enjoyable.

Improving your customer experience may not be simple.  But the reality is, it’s imperative to competing in today’s market.  

Customers already expect amazing brand experiences.  It’s now up to you to deliver.