Gamification: Fun for Consumers, Strategic for Marketers

Gamification is just what it sounds like – the process of implementing a game dynamic in an area that normally wouldn’t include it – with the goal of engaging your users. Gamification has been part of email marketing since someone decided to include a quiz in a message or invited subscribers to participate in a drawing for a prize – which means it’s been around a very long time. But it’s still going strong. Very strong, in fact.

“Gamification, as the name implies, involves making everyday tasks more fun and engaging by incorporating elements commonly found in video and mobile games,” writes Neverbounce. “As a marketer, using this concept to improve your email marketing campaigns could boost your engagement by giving your audience incentives to genuinely look forward to seeing your messages in their inboxes.”

Games, in general, are bigger than ever. If there’s a teenager in your life who you haven’t seen in a while, chances are good he or she is engaged with Fortnite, an online game sensation that has attracted more than 125 million players. (So maybe you are playing it, too!)

“Gamification is still having a huge moment,” writes Alex Bickov.  “According to the latest Nielsen report, 64% of the U.S. population (13+) are gamers and a typical millennial spends up to 96 minutes a day playing games on their phone.”

Gamification is a strategic marketing tool, not a fad, he suggests: “What started out as hype by a handful of marketing experts has developed into an industry that’s estimated to be worth up to $11.1 billion by 2020. Gamified strategies are expected to become key practices for businesses by increasing brand engagement and customer loyalty. It is a way to trigger real, powerful human emotions that can trigger better customer experiences, increased engagement, and unbelievable brand loyalty.”

Zizzi_voucherThe Italian restaurant group Zizzi used this online roll-the-dice game in their email marketing to more than 2 million subscribers. “The campaign helped to drive bookings as well as generate social sharing and general positive brand sentiment,”eConsultancy reported.

Gamification’s superpower: Attracting and retaining subscribers
Given the innate appeal of games and the fact that simply signing up to receive messages can be the price of admission to all the fun, it isn’t surprising that gamification has the unique power to attract and retain subscribers.

“Gamification can be a great way to attract new subscribers and keep them, with interactive elements helping to make emails more memorable and more engaging long after the initial sign-up,” writes Nikki Gilliland on the eConsultancy blog. Games, of course, can ask much more of recipients. You can request them to virtually scratch off coupons to reveal bargains, to “catch” something moving on the screen using a cursor, to work their way through a maze, or to complete a puzzle – whatever type of game you dream up could probably be executed in your email marketing on behalf of engaging recipients.

In addition to engaging existing subscribers and driving new ones, Kevin George writes at Email Monks that gamification can:

  • Build your reputation as a fun company
  • Increase conversions and grow ROI
  • Delight subscribers with design and functionality
  • Drive desired subscriber behavior
  • Amplify your existing user experience
  • Establish deeper customer loyalty and satisfaction

“As a marketer, using this concept to improve your email marketing campaigns could boost your engagement by giving your audience incentives to genuinely look forward to seeing your messages in their inboxes,” suggests Neverbounce.

gwynnie bee animated gif

This message from the Gwynnie Bee, a clothing-subscription company, offered recipients a virtual scratch-off card, which revealed a variety of offers.

The bottom line: Fun creates engagement

“Your gamification email should not only fascinate your subscribers but also create awareness among them,” George writes. “Determine the motivators that can drive the desired behavior from your subscribers and design a gamification strategy accordingly.”


It’s a simple truth: People will think well of brands they associate with fun. And gamification is all about fun (and deploying it strategically).