How gamification is changing consumer behaviour

Gaming principles are revolutionising the way people spend and save

4 min readDec 3, 2018
Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

In an increasingly interactive world, gamification is steadily reconfiguring our relationships with everyday tasks and experiences. To ‘gamify’ is to use game mechanics, such as levelling, points and goals, in non-game contexts to reward users and drive engagement. These strategies, which are used to motivate people on an emotional level, recognise that consumers want to participate in something enticing and rewarding, as well as engaging and fun.

As the digital space has become more and more overcrowded, companies looking to stand out have been imitating the competitive, connected and personalised world of online gaming. In 2011, Gartner even predicted that by 2014, more than 70% of the top 2000 global companies would have created at least one type of gamified application. Likewise, in a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 53% of respondents said that gamification would be widespread by 2020.

Humans have a natural tendency to enjoy games and there is a strong connection between gamification and motivational psychology. Because of this, its results can be impressive in both personal and commercial contexts, proving it to be a powerful tool for brands and businesses. Perhaps most significantly, gamification is changing the way consumers manage and spend their money.

Chip and Plum, two money saving apps founded in 2016, are just two examples of fintech startups using gaming elements such as goal-setting features, levelling and chatbots. Both use secure, read-only access to users’ bank transactions to analyse their spending and calculate small amounts of money they can save or invest. With Plum, users can change their savings settings to different levels, while Chip allows users can set and save for specific goals, such as buying a new car.

Goals are an intrinsic part of gamification and these apps work by helping to fulfil some of the key steps to achieving them, from identifying and committing, to tracking progress. Chip will soon start employing competitive strategies to help its users reach their goals. It is set to launch a new group feature allowing friends to effectively compete against one another in a race to save for a shared goal, such as a group holiday. Plum is about to launch a new feature that allows you to invest as little as £1 at three different risk levels.

But it is not just saving that is being gamified, the way consumers shop is undergoing a similar transformation. The trend for limited-edition ‘drops’, as pioneered by streetwear brands Supreme and Palace, has paved the way for more sophisticated retail strategies that encourage competition between consumers. These include augmented reality treasure hunts, which brands like Nike are employing for the limited release of various sportswear products via its app. Social media giveaways are another example, where consumers compete for a prize in exchange for engaging with a brand’s social media account.

With the number of mobile shoppers steadily rising, games-based advertising and promotions have emerged as an effective method for customer and audience interaction, not to mention sales conversions. At the beginning of 2018, DeepMarkit started rolling out its Gamify app — a plug-in that provides retailers with the ability to leverage customised, branded games that aim to convert app and web visitors into customers. According to the Canadian company, Gamify has helped accelerate growth of the DeepMarkit’s merchant base by 61%.

Applications like Plum and Chip are spurring consumers on and making saving feel more immediately rewarding with a stream of positive reinforcement and regular notifications. Most importantly, gamified elements are also offering a more engaging way for users to manage their money. At their simplest, they enable users to perceive their progress through incremental achievements. This is particularly relevant to saving, which can satisfy a certain sense of growth.

Introducing gaming principles to the shopping experience can provide consumers with a similar sense of achievement, especially when there is a competitive element. Competition alone can be a major motivator, but when it is combined with other gaming elements, such as status or social connectedness, the challenge and potential reward can hold significant appeal for people.

The potential for gamification is only just starting to be realised, but organisations do not need to overhaul their business models in order to gain competitive advantage. Even making small design changes to digital platforms, or introducing marketing initiatives such as loyalty and rewards programmes and social media giveaways, are likely to yield positive results.

Further reading

Maximising customer engagement with gamification

AR in retail

Why drop culture works