How To Add Gamification To Your Program: The Basics

How To Add Gamification To Your Program: The Basics

  • Posted by Aaron Martens
  • On December 18, 2015
  • Comments

For about five years now, gamification has been a buzz word clients have thrown out on their “wish list.” Now it’s been seen out in action for a handful of loyalty programs, so that means it’s time to start seriously acting on this wish.

Where do you start? Although there is a wide range of mechanics available to loyalty programs, we focus on the core four: competition, cooperation, feedback and recognition.


In the loyalty setting, competition usually takes the form of limited-availability resources, such as upgrades or early-check in. In gamification, the goal of competition is to motivate specific behaviors, not to make the player feel bad for having lost. The most common way this competition is expressed is through a basic leaderboard/ ranking system.

Leaderboards can be powerful guiders of behavior, the key to any program is not simply in ranking customers by miles flown (points earned), but rather by focusing on specific behaviors that can be driven by a competition. An example is to push users to explore a wide range of routes and destinations to maximize miles flown (points earned) during the promotional period. If it’s well designed, and the audience is competitively inclined, leaderboards will influence more spend.


The downside of competition is that for every winner, there have to be a loser, and unfortunately the basic leaderboard leaves many losers. This is where cooperation comes in – the gamification mechanic that allows users to collaborate on a goal together and achieve their objectives.

The goal of team play is to get a group of people to focus on beating a shared goal rather than beating each other. One example from the gamification world is the early days of Groupon or Kickstarter, the basic premise is to get people all on the same page to complete a task in order to unlock a prize, in Groupon’s case it was a smokin’ deal on a product someone wants. In Kickstarter’s case, it’s to unlock exclusive access to a brand new, never owned before proudct.


Because meaning develops over time, engagement is key to ensuring users have a great first experience and keep coming back. That’s the role of the feedback game mechanic, a design concept that puts the emphasis on rewarding users early and often.

In the classic loyalty sense, this means an instant reward for users the first time they stay, rather than waiting for them to attain the first status tier. It may provide a better sense of reinforced value, and ensure users that their loyalty will be rewarded over time, even if the recognition takes the form of a simple badge or even email.

Consider how to optimize the program sign-up flow to reduce the form field entry and speed up the pay off. Retail marketers have been doing this for a long time, but it can happen without a discount or freebie.


Let’s face it, well-recognized interactions will bring the user a feeling of achievement that they’ve made the right choice by choosing to be loyal to you. What they want from the brand, in return, is recognition that their loyalty is worthwhile.

While programs are often in a challenge to manage recognition, for many customers actual recognition comes only when something goes wrong (not just through loyalty).

Gamified recognition, however, can happen all the time and should come with a bit of surprise. Consider a range of approaches, including sending an unexpected badge to a user for a job well done.

There you have it, if you are looking to add gamification to your program, keep it simple!