If you want to increase your word-of-mouth referrals, look no further than sculpting brand advocates out of your existing returning customer and fan base.

One powerful way to encourage word-of-mouth marketing is to leverage a gamification strategy that incentivizes social shares and heightens customer engagement. In eCommerce this could mean implementing typical game mechanics like competitions or points to motivate consumer participation.

We take a look at the powerful connection between gamification and word-of-mouth-marketing and show you how to get the best of both worlds for your eCommerce strategy.

Make consumerism into a game

To gamify something means to apply native gaming elements to an existing non-gaming experience, such as online shopping or uploading a photo, or to existing structure, like a business model, product or website.

Concrete incentives such as coupons, loyalty points or limited-time offers drive engagement, increase customer retention and encourage brand loyalty.

Ultimately, loyal customers and brand advocates are the most reliable source of word-of-mouth marketing.


Word of mouth marketing is when information or opinions about a product, company, or brand are shared organically between consumers. When one consumer is raving about something they bought, their friends are much more likely to buy it.

A recommendation from a friend, versus traditional marketing content, is a more targeted and trusted referral for purchase. This is much more valuable to your store than any marketing your brand can do by itself.

Build on customer trust

Brand advocates, who are essentially unsponsored influencers, simply spread the word to their friends or people like them, which is more likely to generate customer trust in turn.

In fact, 92% of consumers believe a recommendation from a friend over any other form of advertising.

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Leverage customer loyalty

Don’t underestimate the value of your loyal customers. They deserve just as much attention as new customers, especially since they make up over 30% of money spent at eCommerce stores.

The more loyal your customers, the more likely they are to recommend your brand to their friends.gamification

The power of brand fans

Brand fans appreciate and connect with your products and are valuable to you, not necessarily by converting, but by word-of-mouth advertising.

These brand advocates, who don’t need to be existing buyers, are powerful sources of word-of-mouth marketing that can draw paying customers right to you.

Good to know: Word-of-mouth marketing generates more than 2 times the sales of paid advertising. Offers shared by trusted advocates convert at 4-10 times higher rate than offers posted by brands. Overall, customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.

It’s worth investing to turn returning customers into brand ambassadors. But how?

Get people talking through gamification

Implementing a system of challenges and rewards, gamification will enhance your consumers’ online shopping experience, making it more social, competitive and fun. All while building long-term brand loyalty and fortifying your customer retention.

A great way to harness the power of gamification towards word-of-mouth marketing is by offering rewards for social sharing and customer content submission.

For example, asking a previous buyer for a product review and incentivising submission to gain loyalty points.

Do they like your brand? Ask your existing customer base to write a review, share a photo and use your hashtag for the chance to win a free product or earn an exclusive discount.

Yotpo data shows that when stores combined review requests with discounts, the conversion rate raised from the industry average of 2% to an impressive 26.83%.

Boost engagement

The more interactive the gamification strategy, the more consumer engagement it will yield.

Social sharing is the best way to engage with your customers in the digital era. So why not offer social interaction opportunities encouraging those who came from a social share to continue and share on?

One example of a very successful gamified marketing campaign that truly capitalized on the benefits of word-of mouth advertising through user engagement is Starbucks’ White Cup Contest Campaign.



The game offered consumers a platform to share their individual creativity and participate in a little social competition by drawing on the iconic disposable coffee cups and uploading photos of them to social media.

Starbucks’ gamification tactic allowed people to interact and talk about the brand, strengthening their reputation. This also gave them a surge of reusable customer content – over 4,000 entries – with people around the world talking and thinking about Starbucks, where otherwise they might not have.

Get your gamification strategy down to a T

Keep these points in mind when you’re crafting a marketing strategy with gamification:

Create something buzz worthy – Determine what “game” elements will function in your campaign based on the interests and motivations of your brand community. It can be super simple, like most popular game concepts are (like CandyCrush etc).


Let consumers in on something “exclusive” – people want to feel like they are part of something unique or that they know something that others don’t. If your campaign has an invite-only participation function you’re likely to get more buzz around it.

Give your users something to engage withFogg’s Behavior Model states that humans engage when motivation, ability, and triggers overlap. These are all key aspects of gamification. Not to mention, engaged customers tend to be more loyal and are more likely to become brand advocates.

Incentivize sharing – In the digital era, if someone has something to say, they usually say it online. A brand can now quantify how much buzz they are generating based on their mentions on social media. So make sure to include a step in your campaign that encourages social sharing to win or participate in the game.

Make it easy to share Monetate data shows that 40% of consumers buy more from personalized shopping experiences across all the social channels. Integrate social media outlets to your marketing campaign so your players can share and purchase on social with ease.

Build a community with gamification – Once customer content is collected and word-of-mouth marketing effects are in full swing, create a forum or platform for your participants to congregate in that makes them feel part of a community.

gamificationTop Takeaways

To put it most simply, marketers seek to create something worth talking about with gamification and then actively encourage people to talk about it.

There is no shortage of eCommerce gamification examples out there showing actively improved sales and conversions by double or even triple digits towards the right direction as a result.


  • Use your gamified strategies to create brand fans; data-backed research shows that 4.7% of brands fans are responsible for 100% of their social referrals that end in conversion.
  • When people like your brand they will shop at your store when they need something, when customers love your brand, they’ll spread the word and have their friends shop there too.
  • Rewards and incentives like coupons or special offers can be paired with requests for reviews or other user-generated content to double the customer engagement impact and increase customer retention. Not only will customers return to your store to redeem their coupon, but they will also feel more engaged with your brand after leaving a review for it.
  • By nature, we enter situations questioning “what do I get out of it?” so it makes sense that gamifying your commerce site is one of the most effective incentives to boost engagement and, ultimately, sales. It’s just that much more rewarding to earn points with every purchase than just receiving a sales receipt and a depleted bank account.

People like to get something back. So give a little and get a lot more in return.


Ruthie is a Co-Marketing Manager at Yotpo, helping eCommerce sites harness the power of user-generated content for marketing and sales. Ruthie is a coffee snob and cinema aficionado.