Retail Banking Gamification: Why Design Isn’t the Only Factor

22 Sep 15

Designing an app? Solving a problem app? Wanting to build that dream app? Quite often you need to consider how gamification can enhance the user experience. Defined as the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts, gamification helps to encourage people to engage with a company. Mashable says gamification:

“…works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors, by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by helping to solve problems and not being a distraction, and by taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming… [It] encourages people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, filling out tax forms, or reading websites.”

You are probably already an active player in gamification and don’t even realize it. Adam Penenberg, author of the book, Play at Work: How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking realized games were virtually everywhere. He cites examples of airline frequent flier miles that reward loyalty, Nissan’s in-car gaming system that encourages drivers to be more efficient, or Twitter where the game is gaining more and more followers and a greater number of retweets. If you are using a smartphone to track your fitness goals to keep motivated, that’s an activity that’s been gamified. Even the way operating systems display apps is game like.

Gamification is becoming a highly significant trend with predicted increased adoption over the next five years. Innovative companies and early adopters are embracing the concept to enhance and differentiate their app to the market.

Gamification in Retail Banking

By now many of us engage with our banks online or via an app. When using gamification as a means to design this app, banks can achieve real business results. Extraco Bank, according to Bank Systems and Technology, used gamification to score success:

“When this U.S. bank wanted to remove free checking accounts in 2011, it used an online gamified application to explain the new proposition to customers. To address customer concerns and increase retention rates, the game walked customers through the key reasons and benefits of the account changes. As a result, conversion rates jumped from 2% to 14%1 on the platform.”

Banks can use gamification to help change customer behavior. While you may use an app to keep motivation to workout, consider instead of a fitness goal, a savings goal. The Financial Brand says “Instead of a workout log, there might be charts and credits that show how a customer is doing against household budget targets…Getting a friendly pop-up message on your phone, congratulating you for keeping a monthly balance high enough to waive a fee, is infinitely more compelling than seeing a balance credit entry on a bank statement.”

Retail banks can use gamification for a variety of opportunities – boosting deposit numbers, educating children on banking principles, helping customers match product needs, and broadening awareness of apps and online services. An Australian bank developed a gamification project that took participating customers through an online game site that simulated the life cycle of an investment property, getting people familiar with the obligations and implications of things like property taxes and insurance. The “game” is here to educate customers and inherently lower the lending risk for the bank.

Another great way to think about gamification is when you ask your child to do his or her homework. Just asking seems like a chore, but as Business2community puts it, “re-contextualize it as a fun challenge with rewards at the end, and it becomes a game. While the end result might be the same, the voyage to get there is a lot more enjoyable. And you as a parent are able to build positive associations with behaviors you want to encourage.” When you are attempting to encourage customers to have positive associations with your brand, gamification can help because we are “hard-wired to love winning.”

Loyalty programs are a basic example, but effective mobile app gamification strategies use puzzles, slot machines, contests or scavenger hunts to appeal to its audience. Retail Dive cites two examples of where this worked well in the retail industry which can be applied to retail banking:

“L Brands’ Pink Nation, a subsidiary of Victoria’s Secret, offers in-app games such as Pink-O to deliver exclusives, prizes and other incentives. Last year during spring break season, Pink added an in-app scavenger hunt to target its college-aged core customers.

The Home Shopping Network (HSN)—a believer in gamification since its HSN Arcade helped the company register more than 700,000 shoppers—added an in-app slot-machine game, Spin to Win, in 2013 to target young, affluent shoppers with discounts and prizes.”

The result of gamification? Improved customer retention and engagement (HSN CEO Mindy Grossman said a lot of focus in our company is on the mobile experience—giving the customer a reason to check in with us in the morning, just like she would check the weather”). Imagine if your app did that?

Think a Great Design is the Only Gamified Factor? Think Again.

Gamification relies on a cool and innovative design – after all who wants to play ugly, tedious games. But we would argue what’s more important is data – the timeliness in which you can deliver it—that makes or breaks your gamified apps. What applications really care about is the structure of the data, how it changes, which bits are important, and which are less so. It is data that brings your web and mobile apps to life.

The data required for gamified apps can live in dozens, sometimes hundreds of systems, and it often changes frequently – retail offers based on action taken on a website, bank transactions and balances – most of that data is transmitted over the Internet, and the volume of data is growing exponentially.

Gaining the benefits of gamification relies on a great user experience. And user experience relies on great performance – the most important differentiator when it comes to adoption. Research shows that the issues consumers and employees complain most about is the speed of the app, its capabilities, and the information available when using the app. The challenge that many face as they adopt a gamification strategy is a lack of control over client capability, available bandwidth, intermittent, unreliable networks and network configuration and operational restrictions. Combined with having to deliver useful data over the Internet and at scale to serve thousands or even million users, many companies end up with a problem app.


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