The Value of Implementing Gamification vs. Points Rewards Programs

By: ITA Group
channel program leaderboard
What drives motivation and behavior is a sense of recognition and competition. Savvy incentive programs address this by adding gamification to their strategy to help increase engagement, create a sense of community and boost brand loyalty. These programs often use points as rewards to facilitate gamification. 
Want to know more about gamification and points programs? Along with defining each, let’s breakdown the benefits, a few successful examples and the reason it makes good business sense to use both gamification and points rewards in any program strategy geared toward motivation and changing behaviors.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the use of game mechanics and experiences to motivate people to act.
From points and badges to levels and leaderboards, gamification influences people by using innate human motivators like competitiveness, reward-seeking behavior and the fear of missing out.
“Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.”
We’re all familiar with the frustration that comes with playing a “friendly” game of Monopoly. We’re also familiar with the elation of making it around the board for that cash reward we desperately needed after landing on Boardwalk just a moment before. That feeling of competition and excitement at the possibility of reward is but a small aspect of gamification.
Gamification leverages data insights and creates experiences to push desired behaviors. And gaming is nothing new. Game principles date back millennia—long before the advent of modern gaming. People have participated in games their entire lives for generations. Often, games were a mimic of real life to help develop key skills, but in an engaging and enjoyable way. 
Benefits of Gamification
Gamification within your program is highly effective when used appropriately. It has a positive impact on even the best programs by motivating audiences to participate more often and more deeply. Adding an element of fun to what might otherwise be a flat user experience, game design includes psychological motivating features that help with:
1. Participation: Gameplay elements alleviate boredom, encourage a bit of competition and add more fun to the environment. These tools motivate program participants to maintain a high activity level.  
2. Performance: Competition can increase performance using leaderboards, comparisons, peer groups, goal setting, etc.
3. Intrinsic Motivation: Inspire intrinsic motivation by helping participants visualize the progress they’re making. Some intrinsic motivations include:
  • Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed and in control of one's own life. Think about self-selected learning.
  • Mastery: The urge to get better and better at something that matters. Think about achieving different badges or levels.
4. Visualize Progress: Visual representation of goals, rules, earnings and promotions can help people desire to achieve. Think of things like thermometers, speedometers, thumbs up or down, etc.
5. Engagement: Using gamification allows organizations to take engagement to a whole different level. When used in programs, gamified systems help participants stay involved and know what action to take next while offering both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

What Is a Points Reward Program?

A points program issues points to the recipient each time they engage in a certain behavior. The recipient redeems their points for awards that are meaningful to them. Points programs are great for offering flexibility and behavioral change. They can be especially effective in non-sales incentive programs.
Benefits of Points Rewards Programs
Points-based incentive programs are easy to communicate and to understand by participants (“I do X and get Y points to use on Z award.”). Unlike other types of rewards programs, points programs can readily adjust to the organization’s changing needs and objectives.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to earn a strong ROI with incentive marketing. Additional points program benefits include:
1. Scalability: Using points to reward behaviors or activities is scalable and allows program admins to roll out something quickly. This is especially true if organizations need to see an uptick in a behavior at a specific time—or even to target a specific segment with a tailored strategy.
2. Memorability: A points-based incentive supports a more direct association with a specific activity or behavior. It’s important to draw the action and the award as close together as possible to create a line of sight between the behavior you're driving and the positive award reinforcement.
3. Flexibility: By offering freedom and flexibility when it comes to earning points and awards, businesses can make their programs more valuable to participants. Organizations can adjust the amount of points earned based on value attached to each behavior to reward for small or large activities.
4. Consistency: Points programs are common around the globe with many familiar to their rules. This helps account for parity and conversions while maintaining reliability in base global programs that offer points and conversions upon redemption.
5. Value: It’s easier to incent people to act when the award isn’t easily converted to a dollar amount.

Examples: Gamification vs. Points Reward Programs

Gamified experiences drive channel performance, generate leads or motivate employees by incenting partners to engage with products and/or perform certain activities. Giving partners points encourages repeated engagement. In essence, rewarding partners for promoting your product solidifies their loyalty and generates positive emotions that make them want to repeat the action.
1. Encourage Program Participation With Tiering Tied to Exclusive Elements: Engaging virtually came to life via an integrated approach designed to grow the experience using gamification, badging and communications before, during and after the event. Tiers tied to exclusive elements during the event encouraged participation in ongoing incentives.
2. Boost Ongoing Engagement With Relevant Awards: Quizzes and additional gamification encouraged participants to visit the program website and regularly engage with their objectives. Aspirational awards, including tangible items, experiential choices and personalized options for high earners, motivated both dealership and individual participation.
Points Program
1. Offer a Multitude of Options for Everyone: Feeling that cash is too easily forgotten, this insurance company added world-class award experiences to their program to create meaningful connections between participants and the brand. Everyone had access to an extensive catalog filled with name-brand merchandise, activity experiences and philanthropic options.
2. Infuse New Excitement in Well-Established Programs: Revamping and shifting a manufacturer’s program to points led to a significant increase in sales. Looking for new ways to capitalize on the program, the client asked us for strategic ways to expand the pay-for-performance concept outside of year-end growth awards.

Using Both Gamification & Points Rewards Systems In Loyalty Programs

Gamification supports engagement. Points support flexibility and perceived value. Together they are a powerful motivator that offers a lot of benefit to program owners. While certain incentive strategies might use one or the other, it’s a best practice to incorporate both gamification and a points reward program. This positions the program for maximum engagement and motivation while providing flexibility for the future whether it be earnings, rewards, regions, etc.
Looking for tips on how to drive adoption of your behavior-based incentive programs more effectively? Communicate priorities and value propositions to partners, as well as the rewards to reinforce alignment. Learn more about developing successful behavior-based incentive programs.

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