Put simply, gamification is the process of adding gaming elements to non-game contexts in order to encourage engagement and participation. Usually, this process includes a digital or online element, such as an app, and always includes a reward of some kind, whether that be social recognition, free products, or larger prizes, like the chance to win a million dollars.
Loyalty programs are an example of a very common gamification technique. The My Starbucks Rewards program, for example, allows users to earn stars on a mobile app based on how often they visit a Starbucks store, move up to one of three different levels, and earn perks like free coffee and birthday gifts.
Besides loyalty programs, gamification has exploded in numerous ways across numerous industries. Let’s explore how we can use this concept in the retail energy industry for all customer segments.
What elements of games can be used to seduce (attract, engage and retain) customers in the retail energy industry?
Retail Energy is not attractive when it comes to sales and marketing of the commodity, however, there are parts of game design that can be transferable to target commodity customers in the industry. Here are 10 of the most commonly replicated game design elements for gamification that you can consider when marketing to your customers.1
- Fast Feedback
The concept provides immediate responses, reminders, and encouragements as players participate.
Creates competition and participant standings are clear and accessible to everyone in the group.
Customers have specific missions they need to achieve.
Badges are visual representations of accomplishments achieved by customers.
- Leveling Up
Levels show status and expertise within a contest and serve as a mean of achieving new prizes, badges, abilities, and other rewards.
Onboarding is a method of educating participants about the game by starting them on simple missions.
Competition allows customers to compete against each other for achievements, accomplishments, and prizes.
Collaboration allows participants to work together for achievements, accomplishments, and prizes.
Community involves placing customers into wider networks where achievements, accomplishments, collaboration, and competition gain greater meaning.
Accumulating points can allow the game to keep score or allow customers to purchase prizes or abilities.
Gamification efforts rarely use all 10 of these elements at once. More often, a few of the elements show up in each effort. However, the application of these elements ensures that the gamification achieves its goal of customer participation by creating a seductive experience that is entertaining, appealing, and ultimately rewarding.
How can gamification be applied to the retail energy industry’s sales and marketing efforts?
Gamification has proven itself to be a rapidly growing, popular, and effective means of creating engagement in customers across the marketing and sales efforts of many industries. But can it work within the retail energy industry? Multiple indications show that gamification can be a promising tool for industry participants to not only interest their customers in their particular brand, but also to encourage greater energy conservation efforts from their customers. Here are three ways in which gamification can become part of the retail energy industry’s sales and marketing efforts:
- Gamification can be used to reward consumers for saving energy.
In 2012, San Diego Gas & Electric joined with Simple Energy to launch the San Diego Energy Challenge.2 This idea turned energy conservation into a game with tangible rewards for the most successful participants. Instead of trying to interest customers in energy conservation on its own (because it is good for the environment, for example), gamification turned energy conservation into a fun competition that had the potential to reward customers and schools close to their hearts. That extra motivation is what made them willing to cut their energy usage in ways that they may have overlooked otherwise.
- Gamification can be used to make suppliers stand out from the competition.
Deregulated energy markets create natural competition among suppliers, who each want to offer attractive packages to win over (and keep) customers. Gamification, therefore, offers an appealing way for suppliers to differentiate themselves from the competition. After all, when faced with comparable rates, consumers may be more likely to choose a supplier who offers attractive rewards. Even small prizes, such as slightly discounted rates, smart thermostats, or refunds on monthly bills can develop customer loyalty.
- New technologies & behavioral data make it easier to incorporate gamification into the retail energy industry.
Most gamification efforts involve a mobile app, device or a digital element of some kind. New technologies make it easier to seamlessly incorporate gamification into the retail energy industry. Smart meters, for example, provide detailed information about not only energy consumption, but about when that energy is consumed so customers can optimize their energy usage. Suppliers could potentially leverage this kind of behavioral data to design gamification incentives.
With the adoption of gamification techniques and technologies, retail energy suppliers have the opportunity to improve their place in the deregulated market, encourage participation and loyalty from customers, and even drive energy conservation.
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