Remember when you were a kid, and you fought your brother for that box of Captain Whizzo Cornflakes? Not because of the cereal, but because of that super-secret decoder ring “hidden” inside the box?

Nowadays, you probably don’t buy cereal for the plastic rings or baking soda frog men.

But getting that “free” flight on your miles last week felt pretty nice. Or maybe you won a bet that you could lose more pounds in a month than your co-worker. You won crowing rights and you’re skinnier, too!  Whether we are eight years old or 80, people are generally motivated by gameplay and game techniques.

Okay, throwing gamification techniques into your business may not be the just-add-water solution some articles claim. Still, a judicious and well-conceived gamification plan can dramatically increase user engagement and, ultimately, retention. As previously mentioned, 80% of your profit comes from repeat customers.

Gamification can be, and should be, a significant weapon in your arsenal of growth hacking retention strategies.

What Exactly is Gamification?

Forbes states, “Gamification, by definition, is about applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. Tap into people’s natural desire to compete and play, and it results in high levels of engagement.”

In other words, gamification involves making your business more fun for your users.

But I Can’t Give Away a Tesla

Gamification doesn’t have to be expensive. Of course, it would be great to run a multi-million-dollar, lottery-style giveaway contest. But gamification is so much more then that, and you don’t have to break the bank to implement many gamification techniques.

What is important is that whatever activities you promote or rewards you offer have direct relevance to your brand.

Gamification should be integrated into your overall marketing strategy. As such, take advantage and use it as a core branding tool. This will help not only your brand, but also the game activities themselves.

Add a point-and-badge system to your user experience

To be clear, despite recent hype, a point-and-badge system is not magic dust. But done right, it can tap a person’s innate competitive drive and keep a user coming back for more.

Points can be awarded for completing any of the regular tasks your user might be expected to complete. In addition, or instead of, points can be attached to completing discrete activities (see below).

Badges work best when the reward (the badge) has meaning for the user. While this may be a physical or monetary prize, other rewards may involve reputation—like a Facebook brag—or humor, such as a silly cat picture.

Add game activities and tasks to your website, app or even brick-and-mortar business

For example:

  • Create a brand-relevant quiz.
  • Add a mini-game to your website.
  • Conduct a scavenger hunt where users submit photos of certain objects.
  • Hold a “funniest” (or most moving, or ugliest, or whatever) photo contest.

You get the drift. Again, as you brainstorm ideas, keep only those that are directly relevant to your product.

Make Your Games Social

Whether they know it or not, your users are already a part of a community: the community of your users. As you already know, helping that community stay active will increase retention and, ultimately, return on investment. Support your community by encouraging sharing and friendly competition.

And since gamification techniques can also increase your rates of user adoption, be sure to encourage users to share their experiences within their own social networks.

And Finally…

Successful gamification is about making a non-game experience enjoyable. It’s about helping sober, responsible adults relive the thrill of finding that secret decoder ring. That thrill—the fun of the experience—will be what transforms new users into repeat customers. Have fun with it!