What is gamification?

Gamification is the use of game-like elements, mechanics and design in non-game settings. In the marketing context, gamification uses game-like concepts and elements to make a customer’s shopping experience more compelling.

While most of the newest and most creative gamified promotions are digital, the idea of gamification has been around for a long time. 

In fact, gamification has been around in some form or another as long as modern promotions have been a thing. Coupons and prize giveaways are good examples of gamification before digitized versions of gamified elements became popular. 

Gamification has become a key focus for many brands, so much so that the gamification market is expected to reach a valuation of $30.7 billion by 2026.

How does gamification work?

Gamification taps into the brain’s reward mechanism to encourage sales. Just like normal promotions, gamification uses head-turning deals and discounts as rewards to engage users. 

What sets it apart is the additional ‘gamified’ mechanisms that trigger the brain’s dopamine reward system. This is usually triggered when we experience something exciting or complete an achievement.

This reward mechanism is what makes games fun and rewarding. But it can also be triggered by incorporating elements of games into the shopping experience.


Gamified elements should stand out enough to engage and entertain users. The key to success is creating a game narrative that:

  • Is entertaining.

  • Is consistent with the company’s brand image.

  • Creates a community of users. 

Gamification best practices

As more businesses are vying for a higher place in the hearts and minds of customers, gamification can move the needle by adding delight and excitement to the shopping process.

Successful businesses are leaning into gamification to boost customer engagement and drive revenue. Some of the best examples of gamifying the customer experience are:

  • The Starbucks loyalty program certainly owes some of its success to clever use of gamification. Collectable stars earned with each purchase can be saved up to exchange for discounts, free menu items and other rewards. The Starbucks Rewards app sets challenges for users to complete, such as providing a free drink to users who buy a certain amount of a specific product within a week. It also has time-sensitive offers, such as double stars on certain days, to create a sense of urgency among users.

    Starbucks rewardscourtesy:

  • Tech-based coffee chain, Flash Coffee, gamified their loyalty program with Talon.One. Using a spin-to-win functionality, which encourages a daily log-in to play a mini-game with the chance to win unique prizes, they added excitement to their loyalty scheme. 

    flash coffeecourtesy:

  • M&M’s Eye-Spy Pretzel was a successful gamified attempt that aimed to promote their new pretzel product. Users were asked to find a pretzel amidst a large number of M&Ms. The campaign which ran on Facebook was hugely successful in terms of customer engagement.

  • Indonesia’s leading used car marketplace, Moladin, used Talon.One to add gamification to their omnichannel platform. According to Moladin CPO, Praz Perkasa, “One key pillar for Moladin is our agents' gamification and incentive framework. When creating an extensive network of sales agents, motivation is a huge factor. We see gamification as a vessel to help us guide our agents in doing behaviors to reach specific milestones.” 

To learn more about the benefits of gamification for your business, check out our white paper, “Promotion gamification: How and why it works.”

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