Gamification – Taking a Rewards Program to the Next Level

Reward programs offer a perfect platform for further engagement through gamification. Gamification incorporates elements like scoring points (earning cash), instant gratification (positive reinforcement), engagement levels to strive for, achievement updates, tips for earning more rewards, and much more. All of which will give Unitus more opportunity to engage with our members. 

Gamification is also an important element to Unitus Member Rewards for a number of other specific reasons: 

  1. Debunking the credit union technology deficiency myth.

  2. Catering to the millennials’ desire for positive reinforcement. 

  3. Providing additional opportunities to engage members in addition to traditional marketing activities. 


As I mentioned in a prior blog post, one of the key findings from CUNA’s “Open Your Eyes” research was that credit unions are perceived as being insufficient from a technology perspective. In Portland, OR, one of the more technology forward cities in the nation, this is a major challenge for Unitus. Gamification gives us a way to mimic digital experiences that consumers are familiar within other industries. This is an opportunity to help debunk the lackluster technology myth. For example, the use of push notifications will allow us to create reinforcement experiences like you see from Lyft in the screenshot to the right. This is an experience we can replicate within our reward program and do so within our unique ownership context. 

Instant gratification and positive reinforcement is also something many millennials desire. It is the premise for the Facebook or Instagram “like”, and it can work phenomenally well with this important demographic. Earlier this year, Unitus held three days of focus groups with Portland millennials. One of the key takeaways from this effort was that millennials want to know when they are doing a good job. They desire positive reinforcement. Gamification in the rewards context gives us a great opportunity to fulfill this. 


Push notifications also offer a chance to pull members further into the program. As you see from Starbucks “B-I-N-G-O” offer, in the screenshot above, there is an opportunity to use push notifications to communicate additional benefits to members…to further engage them. This is a great way to add to traditional internal marketing efforts. 

Another great place for us to start with gamification is engagement status. Providing transparency, an easy way to stay in tune with accomplishments and opportunities, and a regular reminder of the program is key. Starbucks does a great job of this with their rewards program, as you see to the left. Starbucks makes it simple to see how many stars are needed for the next free cup of coffee, what bonus opportunities are available, and the balance in the rewards account. These are all elements we intend to duplicate within the digital experience of our rewards program. 

The elements I have covered thus far are logical starting points, but the sky is the limit in terms of how far we can gamify rewards for our members. I see this as a great opportunity for us, because powerful rewards and a gamified experience are less about technology resources and more about creativity. I have confidence that we can create unique experiences within an ownership context for our members. 

I look forward to sharing a few gamification mock-ups to illustrate what these experiences can look like for our members. Please tune in online to view my final presentation on November 6th to see further details. Thank you for your support!

Blaine Bartholomew