Why Gamification in Hospitality is so effective

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Since gamification’s humble beginnings, it has always lent itself towards the hospitality industry, the use of game elements to help make promotions, loyalty programs and staff training more engaging has always been quite effective.

Gamification first became popular a few years back, when a number of hospitality brands experimented with the concept. Unfortunately, most of these early attempts at hospitality gamification were pretty clumsy and often had glaring issues that simply weren’t accounted for.

Since these early cases, gamification has had enough time on the ground for marketers and companies to grasp a better understanding of what gamification is capable of achieving and the most efficient ways of utilising it. Not only does gamification open a world of possibilities for making the industry more profitable and productive, but it also makes the guest and employee experience more fun.

KFC Japan partnered with Gamify in order to create a marketing campaign that not only informed customers but also incentivised them to try KFC's new Shrimp products through discounted voucher rewards. The campaign concept was a Fruit Ninja style game, with the story of Ebi shrimp taking over the chicken dominated world of KFC, and it was up to the player to defend the KFC castle.

The results were huge, with 195,628 unique players, KFC Japan definitely created some noise around their new product, and in turn, generated an overwhelming amount of sales. The game campaign was so successful that it led to the new product line struggling to keep up with the influx of customers and eventually sold out. 

KFC, in the end, had to cut the campaign time in half in the hopes of stabilising KFC Japan’s supply and demand. 22% of people who played the game, redeemed their rewarded voucher within a store. The store sales figure increased by 106% compared to the previous year.

Gamification makes boring, repetitive, or unpleasant experiences fun and engaging. By making an experience more enjoyable, we can see huge lifts in both revenue and satisfaction. So what ways can we apply gamification to hospitality and how will it enhance the overall experience?

Ordering App Rewards

A lot of cafes have adapted with both technology and their customer flow to bring out apps that allow for customers to order their food and drink in advance to even walking into a store, in an effort to skip the line and save time.

With examples like Starbucks, throwing out the stamp card in place of an app equivalent that tracks a user’s collection of “Stars” (Points) in the lead up to their next free drink. This form of gamification is nothing new, as mentioned before, the stamp card has been around in hospitality long before apps took centre stage. The bottom line is, this simple game mechanic with incentives attached is very effective in garnering the attention and sales of a company’s customers.

Another alternative to gamification in an ordering app can be found in earned rewards. This goes beyond the simplified stamp card, customer loyalty system. Certain cafes have wanted to drive more business engagement and positive association through branded mini-games.

When a business has a mini-game in place that offers customers the opportunity to earn a discounted rate on their next purchase, a free product or a major prize through a gaming platform competition, the reward redemption rate is much higher than a generic handout. In fact, Gamify’s independent studies have shown that rewards are redeemed 7 times greater through a competitive stream, than that of a coupon offer or discount code handout.

Social Media Engagement

Social Media has become an increasingly powerful way to promote any and all brands. To have a social context in which a brand can connect with its customers in a more low-key environment is currently one of the strongest fronts for marketing.

One of the easiest ways to engage with your audience with trackable results is to promote competition through your brand’s social channels.

The beauty of Gamify’s software being structured around HTML5 means our games can be easily shared across your various social media channels with simple links and embedded play buttons. 

Social Media channels are the best environments to cultivate a competitive and social buzz around your campaign and brand, having the ability to engage directly with your audience, responding to any questions or posts directed at the brand, promoting game challenges and rewards, along with praising the successful leaderboard entrants and finally crowning a winner at the end of the campaign.

In-store incentives

When it comes to building atmosphere, some stores just want to have people present (think about how much more enticing a place looks when people are inside as opposed to an empty store). That is why certain chains and independent cafes/restaurants have adopted in-store competition as a means of keeping customers in seats.

With prizes like discounted future visits or freebies. These games can be played on customer phones or in-store mounted tablets/kiosks positioned in parallel with the order line. Having in-store leaderboards seems to only further stimulate competition amongst customers. These games are an immediate way to incorporate a social element to a customer’s visit to a store location and improve that all-important first impression of the property.

In-store gamification is also a more effective way to distribute coupons to customers that they’re more likely to redeem.

Employee Onboarding, Training and Assessment

Hospitality companies have been leveraging gamification into all aspects of the employee experience: from recruitment and professional development to incentivised performance. Everything from the onboarding process to checking off individual and team responsibilities, to learning the table layout of an establishment, can all be turned into a game. gamification makes the workplace experience more enjoyable for everyone.

It’s not just more fun – it’s actually more effective. People who learn through games are more likely to retain information and remember an experience more positively than when non-gamified teaching methods are used. A report from the 2006 Summit on Educational Games by the Federation of American Scientists found that learners recall just 10% of what they read and 20% of what they hear – but remember 90% “if they do the job themselves, even if only as a simulation.”



Enjoyability is now a vital KPI for any hospitality company. It’s what sets apart the ordinary from the unforgettable. With this new focus on enjoyability, hospitality companies are uncovering new sets of data that most industries haven’t thought to analyse yet, they’re finding new approaches to differentiate their properties in a crowded field, and they’re discovering new ways to surprise and delight guests.

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