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gamification in ecommerce

Gamification in eCommerce: 7 Brands’ Tactics to Increase Engagement

Written by
Chris Chan

It’s a great time for gamification in eCommerce. Did you know that the global gamification market was valued at over $5.5 Billion in 2018? Not only that ― it’s also projected to grow more than 30% by 2024.

The effectiveness of using Gamification in modern performance branding is undeniable. According to a Forbes Gamification Trend Article, brands have experienced astronomical results after implementing gamification features (like a 600% increase in new users in one case, for example).

Gamification in eCommerce: What Makes It Work?

Gamification is the use of typical gaming strategies (levels, points, rewards, etc.) in the context of a non-gaming environment. Brands can apply gamification techniques before, during, and after conversion. 

eCommerce gamification ties tasks, goals, and rewards with a branded experience to cultivate brand loyalty and increase customer lifetime value. It helps engage and retain consumers by incentivizing interaction, creating fun experiences, and creating a sense of ownership over a brand’s products.

The mechanisms that make gamification successful are rooted in psychology and hormones. Gamification works because it influences a user’s brain.

Task completion triggers dopamine in the brain’s reward center along with stimulating the Hippocampus, the center of memory retention. Through gamification, brands can leverage those neural pathways to increase brand affinity and make users more likely to think of their brand first when considering purchasing.

7 Top Brands Using Gamification Techniques

We’ve rounded up 7 great examples of all-star brands that are using gamification techniques the right way. Here’s how they are succeeding using gamification to increase brand loyalty and maximize customer lifetime value.

1. Acorns – Gamified Investing

Unlike other companies, gamification isn’t an add-on feature within Acorns’ marketing plan; it’s their main selling point. 

Creating and implementing micro-investing features has led Acorns to allow for slight, automatic investments with everyday purchases. Acorns leverages gaming elements in their User Experience (UX) to make investing a seamless, enjoyable experience.

By allowing users to passively manage their wealth through real-time round-ups for a small monthly fee, Acorns can acquire and retain new users over long periods, effectively boosting user lifetime value.

The results of Acorn’s gamification process are profound; since its founding in 2012, Acorns has reportedly grown to over 9 million users and has invested over $4.3 billion in assets under management.

In addition to Acorn’s monetary success, the brand promotes the positive impact of small financial decisions, which allows users to feel a sense of accomplishment and empowerment.

2. Starbucks – Loyalty Rewards

Loyalty programs are a staple in brand gamification, and Starbucks does it best.

As of late 2020, a jaw-dropping 47% of Starbucks’ annual revenue is generated from their customer loyalty program.

The Starbucks Rewards program has over 19 million active members earning points (also known as “stars”) within their application.

The rewards program is accessible through the Starbucks app. Users earn and accumulate stars which they can eventually exchange for free drinks or snacks. After reaching 300 stars in a year, Starbucks will ship users a personalized card for in-store purchases.

To maximize the frequency of store visits, users can opt-in to the Starbucks push notification function, which will alert their mobile device when there is a Starbucks near their location.

Speed and convenience are other attractive features, since the Starbucks Rewards app is the only way to order ahead and skip the lines during busy rush hours. Members also receive other perks, such as a free birthday item and free refills on coffee or tea.

Here are just a few of the ways the customer rewards program benefits Starbucks:

  • Allows customers to feel a stronger affinity with the brand, increasing loyalty
  • Gives customers a sense of ownership over Starbucks products
  • Reduces friction in the purchasing/payment process
  • Eases manual work through mobile orders
  • Lowers the cost of current customer retention
  • Facilitates the shift to online ordering post-2020

3. eBay – Seller Levels and Performance Standards

On the flip side of eCommerce, eBay focuses on gamifying the experience of selling products, not buying them. Since eBay makes the majority of its profit based on seller transactions, it must convince high-performers to sell more merchandise on their platform. 

Seller levels and performance standards allow top-level eBay vendors to receive exclusive labels based on their previous customer experiences. eBay has several seller levels and rankings, including Top-Rated Plus, Top-Rated, Above Standard, and Below Standard.

Top-Rated Plus sellers must hit yearly benchmarks, sales numbers, transaction amounts, shipping times, and return policies. Aside from earning banners on their product listings, Top-Rated Plus sellers can enjoy a 10% reduction in eBay transaction fees.

Not only does this help eBay encourage top performers to sell more on their platforms, but it also helps weed out lower-performing sellers boosting the brand equity of eBay in the long-term.

4. Nike – Run Club’s Fitness Tracking

As a fitness industry leader on all fronts, Nike uses gamification on several platforms in its marketing.

Among their most successful digital campaigns are Nike’s free training resources like the Nike Run Club.

The Nike Run Club App gives users complementary music, motivating messages, and guided run audio tracks that easily integrate with other applications like Headspace. Additionally, users can track their friend’s running patterns, receive personalized coaching, and track their shoe usage for run time on the apps.

By gamifying their application to track runs, users can feel a sense of ownership, accomplishment, and camaraderie with their fellow run-mates. Sharing runs on social media through the app creates earned media for Nike, which can, in turn, boost brand engagement.

5. Grammarly – Insights Reports

Gamification techniques are not just for customer acquisition techniques; they are also central to retaining quality customers.

As a subscription-based software product, Grammarly is one example of that type of success. Since its founding in 2009, Grammarly has been a top player in the online software tools space for business and personal use.

Grammarly has found success attracting and retaining more than 20 million active users in part due to its outstanding AI gamification features.

Their integrated AI strategy takes the form of weekly insight reports that provide personalized grammar statistics and recommendations to each user. 

Weekly reports include a user’s overall words written, mistakes-to-correct word ratios, unique vocabulary, top grammar errors, spelling adversaries, and overused words to make proper grammar an engaging experience.

However, weekly reports are not the only gamified feature within Grammarly’s interface; it also ranks writing based on tone score, plagiarism, and usable synonyms.

Not only has gamification skyrocketed Grammarly to a top spot as one of the most-used online grammar platforms in the world, but it’s also made it one of the most profitable; Grammarly expects to bring in over $73.2 million in yearly revenue.

6. LinkedIn – Profile Completeness Meter

In the last decade (2010-2020), the professional social networking platform LinkedIn has grown from $243 million to over $8 billion in annual revenue.

LinkedIn’s profile completeness meter is an exceptional example of gamification in social media. Upon creating an account, each user is assigned a profile to optimize for professional visits.

Profile strengths rank up to “all-star,” and completed profiles can increase Google page rankings for names and job titles.

While the user can only view profile strength, a complete profile can allow potential employers and clients to gain deeper insights into a user’s skills, education, and experience.

Since LinkedIn makes a majority of its revenue through talent acquisition (recruitment) services, advertising, and premium memberships, retaining employers and potential employees on its platform is crucial.

The profile completeness meter gives incentive for new users to complete their native LinkedIn profile and makes them more likely to stay on the application for professional connections or job searches.

7. Duolingo – Streaks, Achievements, and Levels

Duolingo leverages gamification tactics in their free language learning application to drive revenue to their premium subscriptions.

Despite its relatively late entry to the market at the end of 2011, Duolingo has become the leading language learning platform in the world. Their secret has been maximizing those gamification features that tap into basic game psychology. The addictive elements of Duolingo’s streaks, XP points, and banners make it a perfect learning platform.

By gamifying its entire learning process, Duolingo has acquired over 38 million monthly users and $36 million in annual revenue

Gamification’s Long Game

Gamification is an effective performance branding strategy, and it’s here to stay.  Its success lies in its ability to tap into users’ psychology ― namely the need to overcome challenges, feel empowered, and enjoy a sense of ownership.

By making effective use of gamification techniques, you can enhance your brand experience’s addictiveness by keeping your users engaged. The end result is increased brand loyalty and customer lifetime value.

If you’re interested in learning more about incorporating gamification to increase your profit margins, let’s talk.

Featured image by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.

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Written by
Chris Chan

Chris Chan is a content writer at WITHIN who loves martial arts, gospel music, and all things brand marketing. His favorite pastime is watching online course videos and his favorite food is sushi.


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