Psychology of sticky digital consumer experiences – how gamification keeps customers engaged, loyal and repeat buyers

Published by Yannick Schneider

Gamification may be nothing new, but no marketing strategy makes better use of fun, reward, and recognition. It’s the perfect way to get in touch with customers in a playful way.

Gamification, the use of game elements in a non-game context, offers a great way to keep customers engaged, loyal, and repeat buyers. There are a number of different objectives that can be pursued through gamification. Before the next paragraphs deal with this, it is necessary to look at how gamification can be implemented as part of a marketing campaign. 


A good example of how to make customers interact with brands is gamification through Connected Experiences. Here, QR codes are placed on product packaging that leads the customer to either a specially created app or website. Once there, the participant can take part in games that are closely linked to the brand. In the case of a fun game created by Appetite Creative for the LEGO company, participants could choose between different characters with which they could play different games at a funfair in LEGO style, such as ‘can knockdown’ or ‘high striker’. The game generated an outstanding participation rate of 85%, resulting in an average dwell time of 70 seconds. This allows Gamification as part of the marketing campaign to create additional touchpoints with customers. 




When it comes to motivation, playful elements in a marketing campaign can provide compelling engagement. Through gamification, participants interact intensively with the brand and are encouraged to participate in a playful manner - such as in the previously explained LEGO Game. It’s an effective way for the brand to differentiate itself from the competition and can increase loyalty.1

There are many approaches and implementation tools for gamification via a web page or app, such as: 

  - Awarding collected bonus points to customers 

  - Encouraging participants to overcome levels or goals by breaking them down into compelling individual steps 

  - Offering small incentives or rewards for engagement such as money off vouchers 

  - Give users the option to compete or share with others creating a challenge element 


A major advantage of gamification is that customer data can be collected to establish brand engagement and understanding, dwell time, and product preferences, among other trackable data points. In the case of Kitkat, for instance, Appetite Creative has created a game in which the user controls a figure that evades flames by jumping and can collect KitKats floating in the air. The more KitKats the user catches, the more points he gets. To participate in the game and get on the scoreboard, players had to register. This enabled KitKat to collect revealing data about their customers.




Gamification can be used to encourage customers to interact more regularly with a brand for a short timescale, for example when rewards are only offered for a limited period of time. One example is the Cup Flip Game from Starbucks developed by the team at Appetite Creative. In the Starbucks game, a user could attempt and practice the tricky task of flipping in an instantly recognisable Starbucks cup onto a platform. Scores were shareable and after earning enough points, users won bragging rights among friends, as well as vouchers to use in the store. The game provided an average engagement time of 60 seconds. Not only with the game, but above all with the brand itself! In addition, there is a 90% engagement rate. Starbucks' incentive targets were clearly achieved with 110%! 


Longer-term, Gamification can motivate participants to reach new game levels to obtain certain incentives or other rewards, for example, airline frequent flyer miles. With every flight booked, points are collected which, depending on the number, take you to different status levels. The higher the customer is rated, the better incentives are offered, from access to airport lounges to transportation to the aircraft in a private car. 




Gamification creates a change in buying behaviour, with customers becoming more loyal and affectionate towards the brand. They want to keep obtaining rewards and achieve certain status levels, gifts, or discounts. As a consequence, sales are boosted and profits increased.2 

As part of the marketing campaign, Gamification offers the opportunity to create additional touchpoints with the customer, allowing them to further interact with the brand. This is proven to keep customers engaged, loyal, and repeat buyers. 





1: Hamari, J.et al. Does gamification work?—A literature review of empirical studies on gamification. In Proceedings of the 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI, USA, 6–9 January 2014; pp. 3025–3034. 

2: Zichermann, G.; Linder, J. The Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics to Crush the Competition; McGraw-Hill Education: New York, NY, USA, 2013.