The Gamification Of Email

I've recently seen a few marketers introduce gaming into their email programs. You can use  this technique to effectively drive engagement and motivate subscribers to seek out ways to tap the value of your messages. And, since you are awarding points for behaviors you already track, like opens, clicks, and conversions, the concept can be very straightforward to employ.

If you currently use gamification, or plan to begin, here are some things to consider:

Is your customer motivated by gamification?

If you are a gaming brand, this answer should be relatively easy, but if you are not, this is something you need to consider very closely. One way to think about email gamification is as an extension of an existing loyalty program. You could use it as an additional way for program members to earn points. But remember, not all consumers care to earn points; for some, the rules of engagement and caveats to earning and redeeming points can become a hindrance.



What does the customer stand to gain?

There are typically three major categories of motivation for a consumer: recognition, savings, and altruism.

1. Recognition can be achieved by awarding badges or otherwise acknowledging status based on achievement of specific activities. Showcasing your most active customers in your newsletter, or even providing early access to inventory or content in advance of a public release, are common ways of rewarding with recognition. Recognition is a reward that also often comes at little cost to the brand, which can help when it comes to getting buy-in from your organization.

2. Savings may be the motivator marketers use most often in their email marketing messages today, but allowing customers to earn savings based on email behavior can be complex. Make sure the reward is considered carefully in ROI calculations, so while it motivates the customer it is still profitable for your brand.

3. Altruism, giving back to others, is another way to motivate. The decision to use altruism is often driven by your company's brand promise or your customer base's demographic. Allowing customers to exchange points for donations to charitable causes can be both a motivator for the customer and the brand, making everyone feel good.

Use a two-step process to determine what will motivate your customers. First, actually ASK them what would motivate them most. Be specific in the choices you provide and ask them to put them in priority order, from most to least motivating. Then test the top three motivators with a sample set of email subscribers against a control group, over a period of time, to determine what will best drive the desired behavior.

How do you weight the point scale?

Break out your calculator on this one and dive into some hypotheticals to determine how you want your customers to earn points. If you have an existing loyalty program in place it may be a bit easier to determine, but you will need to consider the impact on points redemption either way.

First, decide what engagement behavior you are trying to motivate: open, click, conversion, time on site beyond the click? Next, define how you want to affect that metric; say, for example, your open rate is currently 30% and you want to increase it by 5%. Last, assign points to the behavior. Maybe it is .25 points for each open, or perhaps it is one point. This is something you should test, but weigh the behavior, looking at the importance of the action as it relates to the bottom line.  

Gamification isn't for every brand, but it can be a fun and effective way to drive engagement with your email programs. Imagine a scenario where all your subscribers receive one point for every open, two points for a click and five points per conversion on an item featured in the email you sent them. Picture allowing them to use all those points for free shipping, or 15% off the next purchase... .Hmm, I smell a reengagement strategy coming on!

1 comment about "The Gamification Of Email".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, June 12, 2013 at 4:25 a.m.

    This is a very cynical joke, right? "What lab rats can tell us about the power of rewards":

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