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What is Gamification and Why is it Good for the Banking Sector?

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The world of banking, perhaps more than any other industry, has undergone significant change in recent years. As technology, strategies and partnerships progress, we’re beginning to see new avenues of growth such as gamification, which according to Karen Wheeler, Vice President and Country Manager UK at Affinion, may hold the key to enhanced customer engagement for the banking sector.

The digital revolution has transformed the way people interact with their banks, within-branch visits falling  as the rise of mobile banking has led to customers being able to manage their finances whenever, and wherever they are. And this trend is set to continue, with new figures from CACI revealing that mobile transactions are set to rise by around 121% between 2017-2022, and the average branch visits dropping from seven to four by 2022.

Traditional providers have also been faced with the uprising of challenger banks, which are striving to capture the attention of millennials with their agile, digital offerings. The territory of the high street stalwarts is being encroached on by the likes of PayPal and ApplePay which have disrupted the payments market, traditionally an area which banks dominated.

To stay relevant and encourage loyalty in an increasingly competitive industry, banks know they need find new ways to engage with their customer base. With today’s consumers never far from their smartphones, and moving fluidly between digital platforms, could gamification be the answer in the quest for greater engagement?

Gamification explained

Gamification originates from the computer games industry, and aims to engage with the principles of basic human psychology. In particular, it involves an understanding of what motivates people, how we want to be rewarded – and what will make us play again. Or, for banks: stay loyal.  At its core, gamification has a human centred design; optimised for feelings, motivation, insecurities and engagement.

Some of the aims of gamification include: driving a level of competition within users that results in increased usage and engagement; tapping into the human need for esteem and self-actualisation to increase the levels of motivation; playing on the human desire for power in an attempt to drive users to log back in and increase their status; and evoking similar reactions to those elicited by gaming by releasing chemicals which invoke feelings of excitement, euphoria and pleasure.

So, what does this mean in practice; how can gamification be used within the customer experience?

Bringing gamification to life

There are normally a number of different mechanics used in gamification which include points (normally the main method of currency in a gamified system, as they play on the human urge to collect resources), and rewards, when a user earns points which can be translated into a ‘currency’ for exchange of goods and services (whether real or virtual), and gives the user something to work towards.

Building on the idea that we are all naturally seeking power and status, badges are also used to symbolise accomplishments and play on the human desire to show competence, and leaderboards are used to recognise achievements and promote friendly competition between users.

In recent years, gamification has evolved from its traditional rewards-based platform, to one fuelled by sophisticated data-driven capabilities which allows businesses to offer personalised, user-centric experiences. This is no surprise when you consider the way we now live our lives; the proliferation of devices, apps and social media channels means our expectations of the digital customer experience are high.

How can banks use gamification in the customer experience?

Gamification is actually not a new concept in banking; it has always been part of their  set-up and is now growing, driven by customer behaviour and digital capabilities. Back in 2011, Gartner predicted by 2015, more than 50 percent of organisations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes. With this date now far behind us, how accurate was this prediction?

Back in 2013, Spanish bank BBVA led the way with incorporating gamification into the experience it offered customers. The provider analysed how its customers interacted, and found that many felt more secure in going to the branch to complete their transactions. BBVA Game was launched to encourage customers to use its digital platform; with the ultimate aim to improve their customer retention and online customer experience.

The game allows people to make account enquiries, pay bills and carry out different kinds of transactions. Where the gamification element comes in to the mix is that, with each completed transaction, the users will earn points. There are also challenges and missions for users to undertake, with medals and badges being rewarded – which can then be shared to social media.

What can traditional banks learn from challengers?

BBVA has also invested in the development of Atom, the digital bank leading the charge for challengers. In a clear sign that Atom wants to its customers something different, it acquired software company Grasp, which specialises in games and virtual reality development, to build its digital platforms. Atom claims to “celebrate your individuality in every way”, by allowing its customers to choose a logo, name and colours to personalise the app experience.

By allowing customers to adapt the interface to suit their preferences, Atom is tapping into the psychology of taking control by allowing customers to make their banking experience truly unique. European bank OTP banka Hrvatska has also recently announced impressive results from its new gamification platform, with 16.1% more clients signed up for mobile banking services and the number of clients using prepaid Mastercard increasing by 12.8%.

The future of gamification

Banks have to work hard to keep customers loyal, so changing the perception of banking away from a boring necessity to something more engaging is essential if they want to maintain their relevance and value in people’s lives. Gamification should be seen as a route to engagement; a part of the customer journey, not something separate.

Gaming creates positive emotion, drives social relationships and fosters feelings of accomplishment, by combining banking with fun, personalised and reward-based games.. This shift away from ‘banking as a service’ to ‘banking as an experience’ gels with the gamification model, and is one we can expect to see financial providers – both new and old – capitalise on as the digital revolution marches on.

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