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Email Marketing: How to Gamify Outbound Engagement

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When it comes to outbound marketing, there’s nothing that works better than email.

Proven to have a massive ROI (return on investment), email marketing gets us $38 for each $1 we spend.

But not all emails are alike. It takes a formula to make sure they’re perfect for the audiences we’re targeting, and it also takes something a little extra to make sure we’ve got enough engagement.

The solution?

Gamification marketing. Or, to be even more specific, gamifying outbound engagement through emails.

Let’s take a look at all the hows and whys, and start getting the best returns from our email marketing!

The Basics of Gamification Marketing

In marketing, we always put the needs and interests of our customers first. Gamification marketing follows the same line of thought, and then adds engagement.

Typically, gamification features are the following:

  • Collecting points
  • Leveling up
  • Getting rewards for points
  • Keeping score and leaderboards
  • Achievements and badges

We know these features from video games, but what do they do in (email) marketing?

They motivate (potential) customers to engage with our content.

Let’s think about a typical email: there’s some content, and then the readers are invited to take an action (e. g. share or buy).

What gamification marketing does is make engagement irresistible. If we’re getting points for every time we share content, we’ll be more likely to do it. And if buying a product gets us rewards in the long run, you can bet that’s what we’re going to do.

And if we’re competing?

Well, the world better get ready because we’re in this to win it.

We don’t have to look further from Google and Gmail motivating users to set up their Gmail profile:

How Can We Use Email Gamification Marketing to Improve Outbound Engagement?

Now that we’ve cleared up what gamification is, and how sleek it can look, it’s time to talk strategies:

  1. Adding Excitement with Gamification Marketing

Our email subscribers want to be excited about what we’re telling them. But if there’s nothing new and flashy to show, then the excitement won’t occur.

A great way to build excitement and improve outbound engagement (no matter the stage of the funnel that a subscriber is in) is by setting up contests and offering rewards for taking action.

Litmus Marketing’s “golden ticket” example

In order to promote their conference, Litmus Marketing made a challenge out of winning free tickets. Subscribers had to take action and participate in a virtual game to get a ticket.

By turning the free ticket contest into a game, the conference became all the more desirable. Many subscribers checked out the conference and ended up buying the tickets.

  1. Rewarding Loyalty (and Stimulating Referrals) with Gamification

Gamification in business originally started with loyalty programs, back in 1896, and it still works!

Loyalty programs frequently include tiers (levels) and members are constantly motivated by prizes and perks to reach the higher tier or, to put it in gamification marketing words: level up.

Image from Emerald Street's loyalty club displaying the user's level and explaining their benefits
Emerald Street Loyalty Program

The subscribers who reached this level get exclusive discounts, and they’re motivated to keep shopping because the ranking goes up and down (just like a leaderboard).

At the same time, this outbound approach keeps the engagement rising, which is a smart move since 40% of revenue comes from repeat customers.

Not to mention that rewarding customers is great at generating referrals.

  1. Refer Friends, Get Points, Win Rewards

Image of Taco Bell's email marketing game that reads 'How fast can you meet your friends?'
Taco Bell’s quirky email game

Gamified emails like the one Taco Bell sent out to their subscribers are a great way of motivating customers to refer their friends.

This particular email is set up as a choose-your-own-adventure game, and it works great!

It even reminds people that enjoying great food is best in company. So why not visit Taco Bell with a friend?

  1. Making Surveys Fun with Gamification Marketing

There are very few customers who enjoy surveys in Google Forms that aren’t giving them any extra value. It’s always more likely we’ll hear from customers who weren’t satisfied.

That’s where gamification helps, too.

Image of survey gamification by Feedier
Survey gamification example by Feedier

If we incentivize customers with rewards and vouchers to participate in a survey that almost looks like a game, the next email survey we send out is going to get a much better response rate.

  1. Promotion Based on Preferences

Finally, while emails shouldn’t be straight-up promotion 100% of the time, that doesn’t mean we can use email marketing to promote our products in a way that’s personalized to each customer’s preferences.

A great example of gamification marketing with emails is Channel 4’s fun quizzes:

Channel 4 keeps it personalized

Channel 4 could’ve just listed every new show that’s appropriate to Valentine’s Day, but they gamified the process and made it personal to each subscriber who filled out the questionnaire.

Instead of just displaying their catalog, Channel 4 used gamification marketing to not only acquaint their customers with their shows but to entertain them.

And that’s exactly how gamification marketing helps us get great results from each email we send.

Sales Increase

Put those insights into practice.

Set your team up for success by improving their performance through gamification.

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