Written by Catherine Pearson Content Writer
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28 Apr 2019  |  Guide

Game On: Increase Customer Engagement With Gamification

6 minute read

So, you’ve lost a whole evening slaying your enemies in the wild west or hoping the candy falls just right. We’ve all been there. That’s because games have a lot of elements that we can’t get enough of. A sense of progress to motivate you to finish each level or quest, increasing complexity to hone your game-playing talents and the promise of unlocking new abilities and features as a reward for your progress. What if we were to tell you, then, that you can imbue your SaaS product with all of these enticing features to increase engagement with your product?

How do you go about ‘gamifying’ your SaaS product?

This isn’t about adding a fun game on your website to cheer up your SaaS audience (we’re not suggesting you recreate Google’s T-Rex game when its homepage won’t load). This is about using the thought processes behind games to get people using your product with the aim of nurturing happy users who are invested in your service and advocate for your brand.

The more your users enjoy your product and the more invested they are in the game elements of its function, the higher the likelihood that freemium users will expand their use of your service in the form of add-ons and upgrades, too. Let your platform give your users the same sense of satisfaction of levelling up in their favorite game and see your revenue grow.

Compelling Your Users

‘Gamification’ is the use of gaming features and design elements in a non-game context. Essentially, it’s the process by which a non-game product or service borrows some of the qualities that make games so fun and addictive and use them to boost interest and engagement.

While ‘gamification’ is a term that first captured the minds of software companies worldwide in 2010, it’s more relevant now than ever in the SaaS sphere. Not only is it valuable to keep up with the numerous companies already effectively employing gamification (as we explore below), it’s also a tactic that couldn’t be more compatible with the aims of the majority of SaaS companies.

SaaS companies focus on acquisition, reducing churn and building strong customer relationships, very often by way of offering value upfront in freemium versions of their product. Game psychology is perfectly aligned with the SaaS business model, where users are nurtured via engagement with your product to encourage them to convert into a paying customer. There are few better ways to compel your users to convert than by making their experience both fun and goal-orientated.

So, what are some of the things that get us invested in games in the first place?

  • No-faff onboarding: much like with a SaaS product, people don’t want to read a long PDF or email explaining how to use a game. They want to learn by doing; something a game’s first level enables by introducing concepts slowly and simply before increasing the difficulty.
  • Progress bars: games give you a sense of achievement by displaying how far you’ve come. According to Psychology Today’s article on addictive gaming, “when one is close to leveling up a skill, it is easy to justify playing for a few more minutes to reach the next level before quitting”. We often increase our time spent playing a game to reach the next level.
  • A structured journey: while there may be surprises along the way, games offer a challenge and a clear goal to achieve. We are told the steps we need to take and have a goal in sight.
  • Rewards: along the journey to the ultimate goal, games encourage continued play with unlockable features and by granting access to new abilities as a result of your persistence and loyalty.
  • Leaderboards and sharing: what’s the point in achieving something if you can’t tell people? Games enable you to compare your performance against other players, play against friends and share your progress with others. I’m sure you don’t need to be told that this is all in the name of enticing you to play more and improve those skills!

Levelling Up

There is no shortage of companies out there offering the tools to implement game psychology in ecommerce products. Platforms like Bunchball enable companies to integrate game elements in their website and products, while Spinify offers a platform for companies to employ game features in the workplace to grow a thriving office culture.

Let’s take a look at how you can incorporate key gaming elements in your SaaS products by looking at the companies already using gamification to increase engagement and, in some cases, drive conversions.

LinkedIn

This is where you’ll begin to see how many products utilize gamification to encourage increased use. Professional networking site LinkedIn rewards profile strength with badges ranging from ‘beginner’ to ‘all-star’ and provides a progress bar for users to see how ‘complete’ and optimal their personal profile is.

This is particularly effective when initiating new users, encouraging them to spend more time on the site, during which time the benefits of LinkedIn’s premium features are signposted. Here LinkedIn taps into the fear of missing out, highlighting how an incomplete profile can reduce the effectiveness of your profile in order to encourage conversions to their paid services.

Freshdesk

Customer support software Freshdesk has embedded gamification into its product, adding an element of competition to agents using the platform. Businesses benefit from their staff being incentivized to use the software, who are awarded points for a job well done which amount to achieiving different levels from ‘beginner’ to ‘guru’.

Salesforce

Customer relationship management platform Salesforce has created a programme called Trailhead which offers a fun way of learning how to use the platform. Onboarding is transformed into a clear journey with an end in sight, encouraging new users to stick with the programme (and the platform!) during that tricky learning phase. With badges to be achieved along the way, users are given a sense of achievement and progress as they better understand how to use Salesforce.

Snapchat

What started out as a way to send quickly vanishing photos to your friends as a means of communicating has become a game. The multimedia messaging app awards you points for each snap sent, which contributes to a running total and rewards you with recognition for running streaks. You’re essentially rewarded for every use of the app and encouraged to continue using it regularly. If you’ve sent a picture to your best mate every day for 95 days, you’re likely to want to continue your daily use of the app, if only to break that 3-digit barrier.

Not only this, Snapchat now offer trophies that you can unlock in your ‘Trophy Case’ in order to encourage extended use of its product. You can unlock a trophy for all sorts, from hitting a particular Snapchat score to sending snaps with the temperature filter below freezing.

Todoist

The incentive to achieve the items on your to do list is heightened with task manager app Todoist. Not only do you want to get jobs off your plate, the app keeps track of the number of tasks you’ve completed and when, plotting a graph of your ‘karma’ to track your progress. No one wants to break a positive streak - and with the promise of a badge displaying your karma level you’re bound to want to check in with the app regularly to check off those pesky jobs. Also the more you use the app to organise your life, the more you’re going to want the additional features that the premium edition offers, including reminders and the ability to create more projects.

Mission Complete

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