Gamification To “Green” Customer Behavior

(This is Part 1, which explores how gamification can attract customers and “green” their behavior.  Next month, Part 2 will explore how gamification can “green” employee behavior in order to achieve business goals.) This post also published by

Leading-edge companies are using gamification to attract and “green” customers. In fact, in the next two years more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one “gamified” application, according to Gartner.

What is Gamification?

Gamification applies game design to make otherwise boring tasks more engaging.  Think of airline points and loyalty cards. However, the rise of social media and mobile internet (smart phones, tablets) has taken games to whole new level of consumer engagement (some say addiction!) and online sharing of brand loyalty.

Gamification hooks us by meeting our basic human needs for achievement, appreciation, reciprocity and a sense of control over our little corner of life. Here are some of gamification’s addictive inventions:

  • achievement levels rewarded with badges
  • a progress bar or other visual meter
  • virtual currency
  • systems for tracking and exchanging points

Now, let’s see how gamification is being used to attract more customers and promoting sustainability by greening their behavior. (In Part 2, we will explore how gamification can green employees behaviors in ways that also helps achieve strategic business goals.)

Greening Consumer Behavior

We’re looking for that tipping point where most consumers are motivated to go green for “fun and fame, not guilt and shame.”  How do companies move people from occasionally just turning off the lights to adopting and sharing a new way of life?

Let’s look at some of the gamification strategies that leading-edge companies are successfully using to increase their customer base while helping their customers, their companies, and society, become greener.

Reward Green Actions
Recyclebank attracts customers by offering them points for taking green actions like recycling, saving energy, and learning about sustainability-related topics.  Members can also earn points by correctly answering quizzes or making certain pledges. These points can be redeemed with reward partners for food, health, home, clothing, and gifts.

Enable Social Comparison
The Nissan Leaf’s Carwings is a digital tracker that both measures fuel consumption and ranks drivers according to fuel-efficiency. An online portal lets drivers know how well they are conserving energy compared with other nearby drivers. The most efficient drivers receive virtual bronze, silver, gold, and platinum “medals.” What had been solely a matter of personal virtue—driving more efficiently—has become a community activity.

Encourage Friendly Competition
Opower motivates customers to save energy by appealing to their competitive instincts and their desire to save money. Opower does this by mailing their utility customers personalized reports on their energy consumption and compares it with their neighbors.

Reinforce Reuse
TerraCycle has a game called Trash Tycoon that is played on Facebook. Players earn points by cleaning up a virtual small town and building sustainable businesses from the trash. The game reinforces the real-world effort of school kids who recycle packaging materials to raise funds for good causes.

Give Groupon for Good
To join The Mutual, a member picks a pledge level and a charity to steer the donations towards. Members, in turn, are rewarded with perks from business members looking to connect with a big pool of green-minded consumers.

Individually, these strategies won’t solve global environmental issues like climate change. But companies are betting that small actions can add up over time, AND that they will attract more, and greener, customers.

What do you think?

  • Do you play games or interact online in some way to earn points, badges, or rewards?  How has that impacted your behavior?
  • Do you think gamification is just a fad? Or a viable business approach for attracting and “greening” consumers?
  • Do you think that gamification will really lead consumers to adopt more environmentally-friendly behaviors?



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