Gamification in Banking: The Guide to Creating an Engaging Banking App

Rare apps are as useful as banking apps. While having your steps counted or scrolling potential mates is definitely fun, it’s advanced banking software solutions with their possibility of paying bills via smartphone that have made our lives just so much easier. I know that, you know that, banks know that. Truth be told, banks don’t really need to gamify their apps. They don’t need to get you addicted ― you’ll use the app for your bank if you have a smartphone anyway, with no additional incentives. Moreover, if the app works well, the consumer is guaranteed to feel happy and thankful. The whole thing is just too satisfying.

Having said that, there’s still a lot gamification can bring to the banking market. In this article, we’ll explore how gamification can benefit the banks, what are some challenges banks may face when introducing gamification, and how to gamify banking apps without compromising the brand’s image.

But first, let’s break down the definition.

What is gamification?

Across education, business, and marketing, gamification describes the process of applying game dynamics from games to mobile applications. Game dynamics refers to the rules that guide games, making sure participants enjoy them and keep playing. In the same way, gamification in apps aims to entertain the user and keep them returning back to the app, even when they don’t have a rational reason for it.

Gamification triggers the sense of achievement, competition, and pleasure. The gaming elements that are used most often are rewards, quizzes, badges, virtual goods, leaderboards, and progress displays.

Should financial companies use gamification?

Quizzes and badges might sound like a thing for the kids. In fact, the biggest challenge for any given bank is to get over this false perception. When it comes to gamification, businesses of all kinds jump to make their products more fun, engage customers, provide knowledge about their niche, and increase customer loyalty. According to Statista, the gamification market is expected to grow from 4.91 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to nearly 12 billion in 2021.

Financial companies are not excluded from this trend, and it seems to work well for them. Tokara Solution reports that gamification encourages user adoption, increases lead conversion, and speeds up sales cycles. For financial companies that utilize gamification, change in annual revenue was found to be almost twice bigger than for companies that didn’t, and the change in lead conversion rate was 1,1% for the gamification group and -1,9% for the non-gamification group.

The goals of financial companies may differ from those of the other industries. The typical domains in which financial companies could use gamification are to boost saving culture, encourage and teach financial management, increase knowledge of financial services and products, etc. It’s unlikely banking apps will ever use gamification to the point that Uber or Duolingo does. Banks don’t necessarily want to nudge their users into spending more than the latter can afford, or to take credits that they won’t be able to pay off. What they want instead is to create advanced banking solutions that teach the financially illiterate public and change the user’s behaviour to a better one in a more global way. For example, banks could nudge users to use less paper and pay by card. This way, banks come out as secure, sustainable and ethical, and let’s not forget that reputation is every bank’s biggest asset.

Other than that, however, banks have similar problems to most other companies: the competition is fierce, the niche is boring, the services have to be sold, and the user should enjoy the experience as much as humanly possible.

Gamification can help with both specific and more common challenges and goals that banks face.

How do banks use gamification?

Banks and banking apps evolve slowly. And they are only partly at fault: customers are generally averse to new technology (recall your older relatives or even yourself cursing each time something has been updated), and the change is even more painful for the users when it’s something as essential as a banking app. However, not some banks have already tried out gamification as a part of their strategy.

For example, recently Barclays experimented with a credit card that encourages financial education and responsible credit habits. The card implies gamification through two aspects: social interaction and rewards. The first aspect could also be described as teamwork. We as human beings enjoy being a part of the team ― it gives us a sense of belonging and socialization. So Barclaycard Ring Mastercard was described as a social debit card. It had a community of card holders who participated in a forum and provided feedback. The community could vote for terms, and had to work together to receive rewards. Rewards were issued for good behaviors, such as switching to paperless spending. Working together could be collectively staying under an overall percentage of collective limit, for example.

Emirates NBD took a whole other approach to promote themselves and their savings account. The leading bank in the UAE decided to combine people’s desires to save money and to get healthier. Both are popular goals, and both are hard to achieve. Unless you’re playing a game! Emirates NBD created a savings account that would reward users with higher savings for moving more. Lucky users got to set daily goals ― number of steps, and earn up to 2% interest everyday depending on how many steps they made. The idea was a huge success: partnerships with fitness brands drove usage and the bank’s reputation went through the roof.

BBVA, a digital bank, even received an award for its gamification platform (which sort of makes them a winner in gamification). BBVA Games looked like a typical game that encouraged customers to use the group’s online services. BBVA has created a virtual economy based on a points system. Customers could win music downloads, films and tickets. In its first six months BBVA Game has attracted more than 100,000 players.

How can banking use more gamification elements?

Gamification might be one of the easiest and most delightful ways to influence your customers into using your services, making savings, getting more familiar with finances, and even staying fit. It’s also a proven strategy for attracting new clients and keeping the old ones from experimenting with your competitors.

So what are some gamification ideas you can use for your banking app?

  1. Give rewards

Rewards are one of the most common techniques for gamifying banking apps and apps in general. Rewards don’t necessarily have to be that valuable, as long as they coincide with the customer’s goals. For example, if the app rewards saving money or using less paper. If the app rewards something more self-serving, like shopping at the retailer that your bank is partnered with, the reward could be a gift card or something along those lines.

  1. Track progress

Whatever goal you’re after, it’s important to show your customers where they are now and how much they have left until something wonderful happens (they reach a daily goal, or get a reward, or a tree is planted in their name). The display of the progress acts as a visual stimuli that keeps people motivated.

  1. Incorporate social media

Allowing your users to share their results on social media could work to encourage competition, social interaction, or community building, depending on the goals of the app and the logic behind the game. While social media usually implies traditional social networks and forums, interaction could also happen in closed, in-app communities.

  1. Test your customers

Quizzes, crosswords and puzzles have been proven eternally popular. If your goal is to increase financial literacy, testing it via engaging and fun methods will be both useful and entertaining for your customers. And of course, getting a reward, if only a badge, might motivate them to learn more (and use your app for learning, if you’ve got the right content).

  1. Make it easy to win

It’s important the customer doesn’t feel too challenged by the app. No one ever (ever!) enjoys that feeling. To keep your customer motivated and willing to do more, the wins should come easy enough. However, the longer the customer uses the app, the harder the challenges could become. And the bigger the rewards!

Inspiring examples for gamification

While banking is an industry that still has to catch up with the latest marketing trends, there’s a niche that’s already perfectly there: money apps. There are financial apps for saving money, keeping tabs on all accounts (see our software case study for custom accounting services), investing, and educating yourself on financial matters. For any banks that aspire to make their apps more engaging, I strongly suggest taking a look at money apps. Here’re some examples to get you started:

Long Game

Long Game rewards their customers for saving money with their own banks by providing them access to mobile games. If your customers enjoy playing games on the phone, they’ll definitely like this idea. Long Game partners with banks, which should hint that it’s also possible to partner with other apps instead of improving or creating your own.

Quapital

Quapital is an app that helps customers save money to a set goal. Firstly, the user sets the goals (as many as they want) and then creates their own saving rules. For example, one can have Qapital automatically transfer a set amount of money to a set goal on a certain day of the week or month. Or the app can help the users save by rounding up every little purchase to the nearest $2 and transferring the difference to the saving account. Quapital uses gamification elements to encourage the users to follow their own rules. It also uses socialization: one can save up together with their partner, for example. And finally, the app offers tools to aid with smart spending and investment. It’s a perfect example of what every banking app should aspire to.

Final words

Gamification makes everything more fun, even not buying something you want, or learning about finances, or bookkeeping (a custom accounting service could save anyone’s life). Introducing gamification doesn’t have any real risks, just endless possibilities for entertaining and educating your customers, and nudging them to change their behavior in the way that’s good for themselves, the bank, and third parties (charities, environment, etc.). And dare I say, it’s so much more satisfying than any actual mobile games.

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