29 Sept 2023

Technical challenges in implementing gamification

Reza Javanian

Mohammadreza Javanian

Talon.One loyalty expert

technical challenges in gamification implementation

8 minutes to read

Gamification is a hot topic in promotion marketing, with more and more companies considering a gamification strategy. It’s not just in ecommerce, with finance and delivery apps increasingly seeing gamification as a central plank in wider digital transformation. But why is the word gamification driving so much interest? It’s simple: it drives user engagement, and retention and, in many cases, helps differentiate brands in a competitive online marketplace.

Gamification strategies and gamified elements have proved hugely successful for big brands like McDonald’s, Lazada, and Starbucks. However, to do gamification well, brands need to be equipped.

This requires a solid strategy that makes use of gamification best practices to drive results. But brands also need to ensure they have the necessary technical tools to prevent their campaign from failing. This is a challenge for brands that are just starting out on their gamification journey. But by taking a few common-sense planning steps, you can give yourself the best chance at success.

Which type of gamification are you pursuing?

As we mentioned already, gamification is a buzzword, but what is gamification, really? Making the abstract term concrete for your use case is an important first step to creating a fleshed-out plan. 

At its core, gamification is a process in which game design concepts are used to engage users, build loyalty, or change behaviors. Gamification can include social components, point systems, and leaderboards, but also takes other forms as well.

Before you can create a plan, though, you need to evaluate your company’s current situation and identify possible areas for improvement.

Here are some common problems that companies encounter when implementing gamification:

  • Lack of a clear definition

  • Lack of a goal or desired outcomes

  • Lack of buy-in from stakeholders

To avoid these core issues, it’s important to define what gamification means for your company. Ask yourself: What problem do we want to solve? What do we want to achieve with gamification? 

The answers will vary depending on your industry and business model and might even change over time. But by defining these elements at the outset, you will better position yourselves for success down the line.

Testing for success

As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat, and similarly, there are many ways to enhance your users’ experience with gamification. But with so many possible ways to add gamification elements, you need a surefire way to be able to tell whether your strategy is working or not.

Once you’re getting results from your initial testing, it’s time to identify where it can be improved — either at the input level (targeting, audience, eligibility) or output level (level of reward, type of reward, frequency).

Running A/B tests or incrementality tests is a good way to narrow in on the approaches that are seeing good results.

This approach has helped Duolingo polish its app, which relies heavily on gamification to encourage users to participate in language learning. But past a certain point, A/B test insights become statistically insignificant.

“To ensure A/B tests give meaningful results, ensure you limit each test to three variables. This way you can narrow down the best features iteratively.”

There are ways to conduct A/B testing manually, but customer data platforms and other specialized BI tools make this process much easier, quicker, and more effective.

You can progressively fine-tune your app as it gets closer to launch, but remember — the real testing comes after launch when real behavior can be observed. It’s the job of your marketing or product team to monitor real behavior and see how it matches up to the KPIs you set originally.

Equipping your tech stack

The most effective gamification provides data that you can use to inform other business processes. To facilitate this, you need a stack that’s able to gather and reroute data to relevant parts of your business. This data can provide valuable insights.

The process of gamification implementation is a bumpy road as your team would need to deal with certain technical roadblocks. What challenges are there? How can they be avoided or tackled?

Complexity Challenge

Games are multifaceted artifacts and game engineering is a complex process that requires knowledge of design, psychology, and programming, to name only a few. 

Similar to games, gamification aims to invoke engaging experiences among users. However, as a study on gamification design shows, designing gamified elements is even more difficult than designing games because the gamification context is marked by operational requirements that restrict the unlimited design space of games. 

Integration Challenge 

On top of the complexity challenge comes a bigger concern, i.e. integrating the gamified elements into your pre-existing processes and platforms. Gamification is most effective when it adapts to usage patterns, markets, and social trends specific to your company and customers, so integration should also be a top priority. 

The more flexible your software stack, the more likely it is you’ll be able to scale gamification as you develop your strategy. However, designing and implementing a gamified platform from scratch is expensive and requires a massive amount of development and programming time. 

It’s also important to ensure that gamified elements are consistent across channels because your gamification strategy has to tie into inventory management, CRM, webshop backend, and other processes.

Endless Update Challenge

Businesses should implement future-proof software solutions to drive gamification so that it can be iteratively updated; otherwise, it will be game over. 

According to American writer and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” So true, but when it comes to gamification, the real work begins once the gamified project is launched to the public

Gamification is an agile process that should constantly adapt to use patterns, customer behavior, industry trends, and even game updates to remain relevant. Whatever the reward, you don’t want to - and you can’t - entice your customers to play an outdated game. 

Gamification and UX/UI Design

When it comes to customer success in a smartphone or website context, UX/UI design is a top priority for companies. How does gamification interact with UX/UI design? What challenges and opportunities are there?

Narrative Challenge

This is something that many businesses struggle with. Gamified elements should stand out enough to encourage use, attract the customers’ attention and entertain them. However, if it’s too conspicuous, gamification can detract from the shopping experience and have a negative impact on brand perception, particularly among new or potential customers.

The key here is to create a game narrative that:

a) is consistent with the company’s product and brand image

b) encourages users to connect and interact with each other

c) is entertaining enough to encourage users to increase their engagement with the company

KFC Japan used such a gamified narrative in one of its marketing campaigns in order to raise awareness about its new product Ebi Shrimp Puri. The game narrative told a story in which Ebi shrimp were taking over the chicken-ruled world of KFC, and it was up to the player to defend the KFC castle. 

Data released by Gamify showed that 22% of players redeemed their rewarded voucher within a KFC store. The gamified element helped increase the store sales figure by 106% compared to the previous year.


When it comes to gamification in UI design, the same applies. Any gamification you do implement should be distinct, otherwise, it can distract and detract from the rest of the shopping experience.

What matters is to build a narrative where gamified elements stand out while they consistently invoke what the brand stands for. Take Lazada for example, which gamified the shopping experience itself, with a particular focus on human interaction.

“Consumers think of Lazada as a platform where we help them to connect with each other and a place for them to be entertained and relaxed.” - Michelle Yip, Chief Marketing Officer, Lazada

Even though gamification is Lazada’s specialty, and something that all customers expect when shopping with the brand, Lazada still has to highlight and signpost gamification. 

Lazada makes use of explainers, banners, and alerts to help customers participate in gamified in-app features.


Gamification and Cybersecurity

Back in 2011 and 2015, cyber attacks affected millions of Xbox and PlayStation gamers. Although companies such as Google and Apple keep updating their third-party cookie policies in a bid to strengthen their stance on personal data, the protection of gamers’ data is still a big challenge for the gaming industry.

Data Privacy Challenge

Incorporating a gamified element into your marketing mix would similarly be a big challenge in terms of gamers’ data privacy. 

In the marketing context, the protection of personal data is even more crucial because the gamers are either your prospects or your existing customers. Any personal information breach would endanger the trust that your customers have put in your company. 

Build vs. Buy

Gamification can be a game-changer only if it operates coherently with other components of your promotion scheme. 

Adding a gamified element to your marketing mix can create more loyalty and drive more sales but it also means that your team of developers has to face all the concomitant technical challenges of implementing a gamified platform. 

Implementing a gaming environment is a complex task that requires constant updating. More importantly, the gamified component must be integrated with your tech stack because you never wish to make costly and time-consuming changes in your current technical processes. 

The game itself must be complete and entertaining enough to turn your customers/prospects into gamers. The game shouldn’t look like a simple puzzle that your gamers can do with their eyes shut. At the same time, the challenges shouldn’t seem insurmountable because everybody in your target audience isn’t a professional gamer. At the end of the day, you want the gamers to collect some points and redeem them in a way that drives more revenue.

With all that being said, now you are at a critical crossroads: build or buy?

Investing in lengthy in-house development, empirical studies, and testing may meet your needs today but inevitable changes in gamification could require total redevelopment. 

Luckily, Talon.One is running thousands of campaigns for companies, which require minimal set-up. A dedicated team of experts ensures the campaigns are working well.

With Talon.One you never need to worry about the integration challenge. You will have flexibility out of the box, meaning your gamified platform will be easily integrated with Talon.One’s promotion software. 

The global gamification market was valued at $10.19m in 2020 and is expected to surpass $38m by 2026. If you want to have a fair share of this thriving market, you can rely on Talon.One to provide you with scalable and actionable data about customer behavior in your gamification project. With such data, you can arrive at a gamified component that attracts your target group and leads to a significant surge in sales.

For more information on how gamification can help your business, check out our ebook, How gamification drives customer loyalty.

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