One of the most effective marketing techniques to emerge over the last decade is also one of the least well known. “Gamification,” or applying common elements of gameplay—e.g. point scoring, strategy, competition—is an extraordinarily effective way to get your audience to engage with your product or service. Games stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers, and studying this type of physiological response is a growing and increasingly crucial area of marketing research.

Web design/development companies who gamify their own and their clients’ websites can boost their respective marketing efforts in several ways. First, games are extremely appealing to people of all ages, sexes, and backgrounds; however, it is likely that millennials, because of their increasing burgeoning market power, are the target audience. Moreover, gamification tends to induce a great deal of social interaction. It is also a good way to educate customers and improve brand loyalty, and it gives your company a good reason to develop a mobile app or mobile-friendly website. Several ways in which gamification can boost your marketing efforts are explored further in the following sections.

Improve Social Interaction

By its very nature, gameplay is a social activity. Competition adds spice, and players naturally want to win when playing head-to-head against a competitor. Even when the competition is not one-on-one, like in quizzes or trivia games, players want to find out where they stand and how well they score in relation to others. This encourages social sharing of results; e.g., “I scored 9/10 on this Classic Rock Trivia Quiz. How well do you know the music of the ’80s and ’90s?”

Note how well gameplay like this synergizes with social media. Such posts can result in a gamified site quickly going viral and reaching countless new audience members as they scramble to score higher than their peers and share their results.

Appeal to Both Men and Women

When one thinks of “gamers,” one often imagines bespectacled young men in ill-fitting t-shirts navigating an online, multi-user dungeon. That may be true of traditional gaming. However, that is not the case with social gaming. In fact, distribution is fairly balanced; research indicates social games appeal to women too.

In fact, a survey of social gamers revealed some surprising statistics; for instance, 55 percent of social gamers are female, while only 45 percent are male. And social games do not just appeal to teenagers; the “average” social gamer is a 43-year-old woman. Women are also more avid players, and are more likely to play several times per day. Men, however, are more likely to play with strangers, while women are more likely to play against people they know.

Increase Brand Loyalty

The early precursor of social gamification was the customer loyalty program. The “Buy 10, Get 1 Free” card is a well-known example. Such programs have multiplied over the last decade, but many are underperforming. That is why “gamification is among the hottest trends in loyalty.” Users can earn points by playing games online or through a mobile app, and they can redeem these points for meals, hotel rooms, show tickets, and other rewards.

To maximize effectiveness, web designers/developers who embrace this trend should give users a clear goal, and they must spell out how users are to progress. In other words, decide what behaviors to reward. Also, realize that many users are not even incentivized by redemption, but simply by the competition itself and their status as “leaders.”

Educate Customers

Gamified learning works in the classroom, so it can certainly work for your company’s marketing efforts. Turning learning into a fun game improves engagement and retention, which can only benefit your brand. For instance, you can recognize customers who complete a game/course by rewarding them with a “skill badge.” This is an ideal marketing technique for web designers/developers and other knowledge- or skills-based companies.

As an example of game-based education, AXA Insurance created an iPad app that has players try to navigate their way across the country with their family without suffering the cruel misfortunes of fate. The purpose of the game was to educate users on the importance of life insurance.

Optimize for Mobile

As if you didn’t have enough cause already, gamification is yet another reason to develop a mobile app and optimize your site for mobile use. Mobile device use overtook desktop use in 2014; as smartphones continue to multiply and users increasingly move away from home devices, mobile app development becomes critical rather than optional.

Gamification adds another brick in the wall. Users are much more likely to play a game on a mobile app than on a computer because their mobile device is convenient, portable, and always at hand. This is not to say that businesses should discard traditional web design/development in favor of mobile apps. Rather, the idea is that multiple points of engagement—i.e., web, mobile, print, etc.—allow your customers to find you wherever they prefer to look, which improves their loyalty and engagement as well as impresses them with your ubiquitous presence.

Gamification is simply one more way to attract your audience wherever they may be. However, you must not neglect mobile, since it is clearly the trend of the future.

Help People

The traditional uses of gamification have been to improve brand loyalty, recruit new customers, reward faithful customers, or simply to have some fun; but when used creatively, game mechanics can actually make a real positive difference in people’s lives. Organizations have pioneered numerous ways to provide effective solutions to actual problems: e.g., games can incentivize users to complete a job task, finish a yoga workout, track goals, and eat healthily by rewarding them with a digital badge, a number of points, or a discount coupon to a favorite store.

This union of gaming, business outreach, and technology is particularly valuable for millennials, who are more likely to be motivated by non-monetary rewards, such as corporate social responsibility, self-improvement, and social awareness and other causes. By targeting people of this age group and allowing them to earn rewards by performing tasks that align with their values, organizations can simultaneously leverage a powerful force for change and develop strong brand loyalty amongst a huge target audience.


For web designers and developers, gamification can be an important and powerful tool in the marketing toolbox, yet it is largely untapped because of a bias that games are merely “silly” or “nerdy” or perhaps, it is simply misunderstood. However, savvy businesses are embracing this trend and are adding some gaming elements to their apps or sites. It is a great way to stimulate engagement and social interaction, and social games appeal to a wide range of users. It lets you educate your audience while improving brand loyalty, and it is yet another reason to develop a mobile app. Moreover, it lets you make a real difference in people’s lives while producing actual increases in value and market share.

Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Sean Huang is a Business Analyst at Clutch responsible for research and analysis of web design agencies. He is a lifelong native of Maryland and earned his BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. In his free time, Sean enjoys playing pool, bartending, and exploring the outdoors.