Get in the Game: Gamifying your Loyalty Program

Posted by Hilton Barbour on Mar 28, 2022 12:00:00 AM

If we’re being honest with ourselves, as a species we get bored real real easy.

 What was last month’s Bright Shiny Object is more likely to get a “meh” reaction today than that same breathless excitement it once did. We can blame social media, the deluge of always-on content, our reduced attention span but the simple truth is after we’ve interacted with something for a period, the bloom comes off the rose and it quickly becomes a commodity.

 Confession – when I first subscribed to Netflix the notion of unlimited content, no advertising and a recommendation engine that would serve up great movies based on what I’d watched previously, blew my mind. 5+ years later that stuff is still impressive but I’m not clocking 10-hour weekend binges on the platform as I once did.

What does this have to do with loyalty and loyalty programs?

Well statistics show that up to 50% of members in a loyalty program are inactive. Theses are folks who’ve chosen to register, download your app or get your card in their wallet but, for any number of reasons, they’ve stopped participating.

That’s where gamification becomes vitally important to keep interest and participation high.

 If you’re unfamiliar with the term, gamification is the way to add a degree of competition (or adventure) to an experience to heighten a consumer’s enjoyment. But, and this is critical, also to stave off the inevitable boredom that comes from those ho-hum programs where you merely swipe a card and you see your reward balance increase.

If we intend – and hope – those consumers will stick with our loyalty program for years, even decades, then adding a gamification layer is absolutely vital.

The right gamification process deliberately builds gaming elements into the experience and turn a loyalty moment from “yawn yawn” to “heck yeah”

What are some classic gamification tactics that you can consider?

Tokens of achievement

Always a winner but giving your members stars, badges, certificates as small tokens of reaching a goal or a milestone is a great way to acknowledge their participation. And nudge them to keep stretching for that next goal, that next badge, that next level. The folks at Starbucks, arguably the most profitable loyalty program on the planet, do this well with GOLD badge for every 5 beverages. Simple tokens that show you’ve reached a goal…and tee you up to go after the next one.


This is another classic that airlines, credit cards and fitness apps have been leveraging for decades. Higher tiers are another highly-visible token of achievement or participation. And those classic “nudge” messages that begin “ONLY 25,000 or 6 visits until you’re a Platinum Member” are another great gamification tactic. 

 Getting experiential

If you want to drive real game level engagement, consider how you might use elements like Easter Eggs or Scavenger Hunts within your program to reward members who are unusually active and engaged. Video game manufacturers have been employing these tactics for years to reward the most enthusiastic members to “find” those secret rewards and prizes that others haven’t. Again, remember gamification is about giving your members something different, novel and fun to break the monotony of just having a transactional relationship with you. Better yet, as the tokens point above, if what they win has some “brag value” within their social networks or groups, then even more likely they’ll play along.

 Loyalty programs, like any long-term relationship, require a little fun to spice things up and keep the interest levels high.

 Nothing fades faster than a relationship where one party feels like they’re merely a number or a transaction data point.

 With a little creativity, and a little commitment, adding a gamification layer to your program should be something that you want to deliver for your most valued customers.

 Especially if it can motivate that 50% of inactives to get off the couch and get back in the game.

Topics: Loyalty Strategy


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