It seems like yesterday when list segmentation and email personalisation was the thing to do to stand out. Addressing your subscribers by name so they felt like you crafted the message just for them was the bar. And it worked. Now if I had a dollar for every unopened email with such specifics!
Don’t get it wrong, those things are still important. They just aren’t enough anymore. That’s the thing about marketing (and progress in general): It’s ever evolving forcing you to do more; be better. In that spirit, email marketing has progressed from those simpler times and now there’s a great new-ish way that marketers are using to get the attention of their audience.
Email gamification refers to the introduction of games to email marketing in order to influence desired behaviour. As is the nature of games, the elements of participation, competition, and reward help turn an otherwise uninterested audience into an engaged and excited team.
This strategy is helping brands improve their open rates and get more in touch with their subscribers. In this post, I’m going to show you its unique advantages and give you some ideas which you can incorporate into your marketing campaign.
Email, as it is, is a great marketing tool. Gamification is the supplement that you introduce occasionally to create an air of excitement and anticipation to your marketing messages. There are great reasons why it works and some are specific to the strategy, by degree or nature. Meaning, if you don’t try it out, you’re missing out on a lot.
Here are some of them:
1. It’s interactive
The standard email is only interactive as far as the click-through, at best. On the other hand, a gamified email is an active call to engagement. You’re not only asking the user to interact with your brand but also making it easy for them to oblige. The reward goes the extra step of leaving it in their best interests to do so.
Rewards are said to be a better offer than deals and discounts. It’s easy to see why. As a consumer, when brands offer you a discount, isn’t it easy to be cynical and think they are angling for something (the sale)? On the contrary, if you see that the deal is a reward you get from winning a game, you might be more interested and that much less cynical.
Your own subscribers are no different. More interaction brings with it the benefits of that deeper level of engagement.
2. It’s entertaining
There’s little to say about the entertainment factor of games. As long as you love the game, it’s fun to play.
The challenge is to you, the marketer, to make your email games interesting to your audience. Using a data-driven approach, you can tell which games will be a hit with your subscribers. Email segmentation can help ensure the games get to the right people. The basis should always be what you’re trying to accomplish.
Remember you’re not just creating fun games for your audience. In fact, they will appreciate seeing a sense of direction from you. For instance, a game where you give out free tickets to an event is a clear sign that you want them at said event. This makes it more memorable and should you happen to hold such an event in the future, they will be anticipating the game.
3. It’s diverse
The field is wide when it comes to ideas for email games. From those that have been tried and tested to those you can come up with internally and inspirations from other brands, there is no shortage of games to incorporate in your campaign.
Most marketers just need to get the idea of email gamification and they are ready to venture into the field. Of note is the need to test various games at different times to see what works. Some will work repeatedly while others are only one-time. Yet, others might fail. The interactive nature of the process means you can quickly tell how your games are doing and take appropriate measures.
4. It offers opportunity to show authenticity
If you do a search on the technique of email gamification, you’ll see many examples of brands that did it right. More importantly, you’ll note that the quoted brands achieved their success in a unique way. This originality is something that consumers like to see from businesses.
Luckily, the nature of the strategy calls for the marketer to be authentic in the execution, even for those ideas that are inspired by others. This means you get a chance to show your subscribers that you’re not just a brand following a template but can very comfortably colour outside the lines. All the better if it works.
Some Types of Games to Try
Getting started is always the hardest. These examples of types of games that have been used by brands just like yours will demonstrate how easy and fun email gamification can be:
i. Gamified survey
Surveys are probably the most accurate way of gaining information about your audience. But you know what’s better than a survey? That’s right, a game-style survey. Games and playfulness help take the “boring” out of “survey” and, according to experts, can improve the quality of information given by the respondents.
One way to turn a survey into a game is by reframing the questions to be more game-like. A question like, “what’s your favourite movie?” turns into “imagine you got to act just one movie, what would it be?”
You can also incorporate a reward and feedback mechanism. Instead of asking, “how old are you?” try instead, “find out what your birth year reveals about you.”
To tap into the competitive spirit, don’t ask, “what marketing blogs do you read?” Rather, you can challenge, “30 seconds to name your top five marketing blogs. Go!”
ii. Quiz, test, and trivia
Imagine getting an email with the subject line, “only 19 percent of people know this” or “only half of our customers got 100 percent on this test.” Wouldn’t want to see who dare challenge you?
Now what if you opened and found that you’re part of the 19 percent or the smart 50 percent? I bet that would brighten your day.
Quizzes, tests, and trivia make people think. And people do like to think. This is one game you can incorporate into your email marketing campaign with almost guaranteed success. You can make the quiz, test or trivia about your own company as the occasion demands.
This is one of the games that offers immediate rewards. When this lands on your inbox, the FOMO is so intense and the effort so little that you just gotta.
Here’s an example of a scratch card:
It’s not that difficult to create a scratch card. There are plugins that can help you recreate one with ease.
You can also design a quest towards a specific end. This may involve a series of games and a sequence of emails. Interested subscribers will remain glued waiting for your next email until the quest is done. This is sure to improve engagement levels.
One popular quest that went well was organised by Litmus in 2016 in promotion to its upcoming conference. The audience was asked to keep an eye out for hidden text or image in each of the five emails in a sequence for a chance to win a free ticket to the event.
You can read all about it in this case study.
Some games come but once a year, during a specific holiday or event. It is a busy time and inboxes are usually full. But it also means you have the chance to leave your mark.
This popular holiday card by EmailMonks was sent more than two years ago and it’s not gone out of fashion:
Email gamification presents a whole new range of opportunities for marketers to engage with their customers. It’s unique strengths suggest the possibilities that businesses now have amidst the crowds. As seen, many are already implementing the strategy. That’s what it takes to lead the pack: Identifying the opportunities early and taking advantage of them. Are you going to be implementing email gamification?
If you enjoyed this post and would like to try out some of the ideas, leave a comment below and I’ll follow this up with tips to help make your games more effective.