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Banks inventing digital games to attract consumers

Any bank serious about customer experience will have to take a hard look at the growing gamification trend, as when well considered and executed, it speaks to the base nature of just about anyone who likes a challenge and contest.
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By introducing game mechanics such as rules, challenges and rewards for achievements, bosses can motivate and engage their audience like never before. It’s no wonder then that M2 Research predicts gamification will grow from being a $100m market to $2.8bn by the end of 2016. Similarly, Gartner maintained it wouldn’t take long for “more than 70 per cent of Global 2,000 businesses to have at least one gamified application.”

However, banks have been slower to come to the game table than other companies, with an Infosys study having revealed gamification is still in its infancy in regards to the finance sector. The study of 160 banks found less than ten per cent had activated a gamification program. But more important was the fact that two-thirds of banks had plans in the works – something Gartner analyst Stessa Cohen thought of as “about time”! She is of the belief that banks can’t afford to ignore this trend. 

“Gamification, carefully considered and applied well, can be a very meaningful part of the customer experience, education and service mix for banks, just as it is for the millions of people using sensors, apps and GPS to track fitness,” she said.

Of course, some gamification efforts are purely about fun, emulating arcade games as branding tactics. For example, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia developed a gamification project that took participating customers through an online game site – entitled Investorville – that simulated the life cycle of an investment property, getting people familiar with the implications of things like property takes and insurance.

Another bank, Spain’s BBVA, has a game that gives customers points for using its website. The bank wanted to improve its customer retention and online customer experience, claimed Bernardo Crespo Velasco, BBVA’s head of digital marketing in Spain and Portugal. The game is made up of challenges that include watching videos on financial education and making simple transactions. The BBVA Game also allows users to earn points and medals that can be used to enter sweepstakes for prizes such as tickets to Spanish soccer games.

The bank grew interested in gamification because it was looking at new avenues to increase use of its website, Velasco said. This interest was echoed by Alex Bray, Misys’ retail channels director, who claimed that bank bosses needed to look beyond the game to what it was they wanted to achieve.

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Misys introduced its own game for tablets as part of its product line, giving customers points for making deposits in their savings account. “As with any initiative you need a specific view of the expected benefits,” said Bray. “The app helps with customer experience, but it also helps by attracting deposits.”

The users can also share the rewards they earn in the game with their friends and contacts via social media, Bray said, allowing players to compete with each other to earn the most rewards. “By adding competition you can ramp up the customer’s interest another level,” he explained.

The general consensus is that financial firms are turning to games to attract a younger demographic that may be impervious to advertising. Take the ODBC Bank of Singapore’s Playmoolah for example. It is an online game designed for children to teach them financial literacy and the value of saving. 

However, just because the fun has been placed online, doesn’t mean it’s the preserve of the younger crowd. In fact, Velasco claimed that BBVA Game’s has players in 44 per cent of the villages in Spain, and most of the users are in their 30’s, 40’s and even some in their 60’s. “We’re creating a way to reward people who are really heavily financed, people with mortgages and with loans. It’s not for people under their thirties,” Velasco explained.

Bray echoed the sentiment, claiming that banks should discard the idea that gamification is just for younger customers and look to target specific customer segments with the game’s rewards during the design stage of any gaming initiative. That is why, Bray said, Misys allowed users to choose from different rewards. “Young customers might want a badge that they can share on Facebook while older customers might want better interest on their savings,” he explained.

So while banks may be new to designing games, it is no excuse for bosses to hesitate in joining this trend. Cohen said banks needed to look at other finanical institutions that are already involved in gamification and look at successful gaming initiatives in other industries. “Banks have to see what the games look like. They’re rich in design and colour. They don’t look like your typical banking site,” she says.

As such, Cohen encourages banks interested in gamification to “take some chances, get experimental, and see what works.” 

With games in mind, what does the game World of Warcraft and social platform Facebook have in common, apart from being online? They can be completely addictive.

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