How to win more customers with gamification

April 15, 2014

By Imran Sayeed, CTO, NTT DATA, and Pernian Faheem, Retail Lead for the Social Mobile Gamification practice, NTT DATA

Customers don't have time to wait in line nowadays, and restaurant owners can solve that problem by incorporating social media and mobile technology to offer a seamless way to order and pay. While these solutions are readily available, another technology is also available to help operators gain traction amongst customers: Gamification.

Gamification is certainly not a new phenomenon; however it is a solution that can solve everyday hassles and tremendously help the hospitality industry.

Gamification is the application of game design principles to business applications designed to increase engagement, productivity and overall profitability for enterprises and their customers. All these aspects make gamification very useful to service companies because of the ability to reinforce certain types of behaviors in consumers and employees.

One example of game mechanics in action is the introduction of progression bars pioneered by the professional networking site LinkedIn. The site prompts its members to furnish their profiles with detailed information about themselves. The key principle is that a LinkedIn user is motivated to see their progression bar reach the 100 percent mark because completion results in the ability to make use of the site's more advanced features — a simple effort-reward model.

As a technology solution, gamification applies to all types of industries and addresses a multitude of business problems. While the restaurant industry is not just now recognizing the effectiveness of gaming — after all, who can ignore the amazing success behind McDonald's Monopoly game which started in 1987 — it is adopting it with increasingly open arms when its principles are mixed with today's technical advancements.

To address the customer-waiter scenario, Pizza Hut recently adopted a game mechanics initiative and is now piloting interactive touchscreen tables at select locations that allow restaurant-goers to customize their own virtual pizzas, which are then used to place their order. If a customer's phone is placed on the table, it allows him or her to select an online payment method, so a person can essentially "dine and dash."

And, while customers are waiting for their pizzas and drinks, they can play games at their tables.

Gamification to improve customer experience

There are three core elements to gamification that, if used properly, can foster greater efficiency and an overall improved customer experience between customers and businesses: competition, progression and rewards and recognition. Restaurants in the recent past have built strong loyalty programs that give points to customers for dining. These points can later be redeemed for prizes or discounts, which help attract new and returning customers, and generate more business. But in order to create a loyal customer base, attract new diners, and promote efficiency, the core elements mentioned above need to be adopted in tandem.

Using these three elements, here are some of the things that restaurants can do to engage their customers:

  • Encourage customers to create gamified profiles — Incentivize customers with a points system to share information on the restaurant's website about their favorite menu items, as well as any dietary restrictions. With redeemable points for every additional piece of information, the customer gets one step closer to earning a reward. The restaurant benefits from gaining valuable customer data, which could inform new and revised menu offerings.
  • Invest in a recommendation engine — Based on a customer's taste profile, a restaurant can recommend menu items, as well as create more targeted offers such as special discounted prices on a customer's favorite product. The objective is to provide a more personalized service to each customer, and make him or her feel like they are more important than just the Average Joe that walks in from the street.
  • Embrace the power of points — Look into creative ways to gamify a customer's entire dining experience. Introducing a tier system of points with scalable prizes will motivate customers to compete for more points, more personalized services and ultimately more rewards.

With gamification as part of the experience, both restaurants and diners emerge as winners. Competition in this industry is fierce and restaurants must look to new ways to engage customers. If you can ensure that your patrons will have a fun, rewarding and memorable time when they dine at your establishment, you've already differentiated yourself in a dense market and made each of your customers feel like they're someone special.

Cover photo: Dining 3.0 - Gamified mobile apps that allow you to create personal profiles, customize them according to your dietary preferences, find deals, book the best restaurants and share your experiences with friends.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Online / Mobile / Social, Pizza Hut

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