Research tells us that games have never been more popular and satisfy some of our deepest human desires. So how can we apply this to customer loyalty?
How many people in the entire world play computer games? If you're only thinking about teenaged boys and internet geeks, then you're probably going to be wrong. You're forgetting about Candy Crush and Angry Birds.
Spil Gaming thinks that this could be upwards of 30 per cent of the world's population as of 2016, and the growth is coming from baby boomers, mothers and females who are all jumping on board at unprecedented rates. It's obvious to think how businesses would get excited about the new market opportunities, but it's actually shedding new insight into how to nurture loyal customers.
In 2013, 44 per cent of all internet users played video games.
Online gaming is normal
In the State of Gaming report published in 2013, Spil Gaming found that 17 per cent of the world's population were gaming, predicting a six per cent growth in players annually. But out of these, 700 million were playing games online. While that number may seem small in comparison, that's 44 per cent of everybody that has an internet connection.
It is because of the wave of digital multi-player games that are now accessible to smartdevice users virtually everywhere. These games are not focused on extreme graphics or a high-octane experience, but are instead designed on the premise of "easy to play and difficult to master", appealing to mass audiences at unprecedented degrees.
As with any disruptive social movement, we're seeing new commercial interest in the applications. But while the most logical connection is startups and consumer advertising, the psychological principles behind why people are gaming offer fascinating insights into customer loyalty. It begins by investigating what is really behind the reason people love gaming so much.
Satisfying psychological needs
Researchers Andrew Przybylski, Scott Rigby and Richard Ryan examined what motivates people to play video games, exploring the idea that they satisfy some of our fundamental human needs.
Games make people feel competent as they overcome easier challenges and are pushed on to master harder things. Through performance feedback and innovative rewards, video games tap into our inner desire for recognition and achievement, which both reduces boredom and increases the desire to keep playing.
Furthermore, video games give users a sense of control. They are able to shape the experience and make their own decisions as their own authority. But at the same time, it is the social aspect of video gaming that may be the most appealing. With opportunities to interact and share with others in many online computer games, collaborating and cooperating has become just as important as competing.
If we acknowledge that people are motivated to play games because the process satisfies our innate desires for recognition, rewards, competition and cooperation, integrating aspects of games into other domains, such as customer loyalty, can offer the benefits of greater participation, engagement, and satisfaction.
Gamification in other contexts
Gamification expert Gabe Zichermann told Entrepreneur that traditional loyalty programme models that just give something away are not embracing their full potential. He explained how loyalty programmes that draw from the elements above, such as including the ability to invite friends, can not only help attract new customers but also build a deeper relationship with them.
In Mr Zichermann's book on game-based marketing, he explains how other mechanics all offer the ability to foster engagement in multiple non-gaming contexts. He explains how using tools such as "points, levels, badges, challenges, rewards and leaderboards" are helping organisations to increase engagement levels with customers and essentially create strong communities.
So while customer loyalty programmes are primarily used to recognise high spenders and make your best customers feel valued, a new movement to gamify loyalty programmes and reap the benefits of a more engaged and committed customer base has begun.
To find out more about customer loyalty or to kick off a gamified programme for your organisation today, get in contact with Power2Motivate.