Need More Engagement? Try a Game

  |  August 8, 2012   |  Comments

Use gamification to create more interactive and entertaining emails that include fun challenges and contests with clear rewards and incentives.

Are the engagement metrics for your email marketing program declining? You're not alone. Opens and clicks on email campaigns are dropping across the board as more email crowds your subscribers' inboxes.

Consider these statistics, which show engagement metrics dropping while volume keeps rising:

  • 25 percent increase in email volume among top 100 online retailers (2011-2012 Responsys Research)
  • 87 percent increase in email per customer since 2007 (The Wall Street Journal and Responsys)
  • 34 percent decrease in open rate since 2007 (Harte-Hanks)
  • 28 percent decrease in click-through rate since 2007 (Harte-Hanks)

Sending more email messages is not the answer. Promotional messages can easily become just noise in the inbox.

Instead, look for new ways to engage with consumers, such as "gamification," which integrates games dynamics (competition, challenges, and goal achievement), rich media, and social media into your email program. Gamification can drive higher participation in your emails, which boosts engagement.

With gamification, you can capitalize on the national fascination with gaming. Nielsen reported recently that Americans spend more than 407 million hours a year playing online games.

How Does Gamification Work?

Making a tedious task more fun will encourage people to complete it. Thus, develop incentives to encourage subscribers to do things they might ordinarily find boring, such as:

  • Smartphone check-ins on Facebook or Foursquare
  • Online survey or preference-center completions
  • "Likes" for products or Facebook pages to gain VIP access
  • Reading emails
  • Visiting your website

Rewards can include discounts, upgrades, special access, exclusive prizes or content, or free products.

Games like these will get the engagement ball rolling, but eventually you'll have to "level up" your game to keep your community of gamers interested.

If you want to nurture your new leads and keep them on track to become customers, you could send them on a series of missions, such as visiting specific web pages, downloading a white paper or trial software, or watching a video, and then take a quiz. Rewards can include discounts, upgrades, or other premium content.

With gamification, you create more interactive and entertaining emails that include fun challenges and contests with clear rewards and incentives. These can drive deeper website engagement, stronger product knowledge, and strong encouragement for leading the prospect or new customer to become a long-term satisfied customer.

What Are the Benefits?

The most effective benefits are real rewards for liking, tweeting, or +1ing content that align user effort to reward and continue to build engagement with valued segments.

They include:

  • Exclusive access to content or deals for specific achievements through triggered emails
  • Special features, unique deals, advanced accounts, award badges, exclusive email designs, and more to progress to greater brand engagement levels
  • Providing indicators to benchmark progress and awarding users with points for clicking links or browsing pages is a great example of a brand integrating gamification into its marketing campaigns. The company discovered a way to make tracking finances, managing budgets, and saving money more fun with its easy-to-use personal finance website.

Game tactics, such as integrating the financial "Fit Score" and highlighting missed achievements, have allowed to attract more than 6 million users since its 2007 launch. Ninety percent of them say they have changed their financial habits as a result of using the service.


Encouraging your subscribers to submit their own content to your website or Facebook page is another great example of successful gamification.

MetLife encourages subscribers to submit their own photos of their cars stuck in a blizzard or to participate in its monthly user polls. The subscribers get a chance to win prizes and rewards, while MetLife drives engagement with its brand and email programs throughout the year.

The Last Word

Gartner estimates that 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one game application by 2014.

Games can encourage more subscribers to take positive actions: engage with an email, visit the site more often, register for newsletters, browse at length, invite friends, participate in campaigns, take surveys, and more. Tap into the human tendency to keep routine tasks fresh by making your email fun.

If you align user effort with rewards and build engagement with valued segments with compelling calls to action and rewards, you will build a large, engaged, and active subscriber base that will keep your email program a strong revenue generator for years to come.

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Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and

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