Most marketers have customer engagement listed as one of their top priorities, but despite this general consensus, very few brands are actually rewarding customers that are actively engaged.

A case for rewarding engagement

Loyalty programs tend to reward solely purchase behaviour, the more you spend the bigger the reward, whatever that may be. It focuses mainly in the very last stage of the consumer decision journey, the purchase, but leaves out everything that happens before. 

A user that is actively engaged with your brand, either by liking your posts in social media, sharing your content with his friends or regularly opening your emails, is definitely more likely to convert than one that is signalling no interest at all. So why not reward this behaviour? 

Gamification goes beyond rewarding solely on purchase behaviour, though it mainly produces 'forced engagement' where a user is rewarded for performing a specific action: fill in your telephone number in order to get points, like this post in order to participate in a draw, etc.

Gamification is effective at inducing users to make specific actions; but here the user knows beforehand there will be a reward for his actions. It clearly leaves out those users that without any incentive are already naturally interacting with your brand. 

Building a business case to justify rewarding engagement is obviously not as straightforward as one for rewarding actual purchases and while it definitely doesn’t provide all the certainties to justify an investment similar to a loyalty program, it doesn’t mean we cannot come up with creative ways to reward natural engagement.

Specially email engagement that has a proven track record of generating the best ROI among other marketing channels.

Our approach

FC Barcelona’s widely popular fans database is mainly used as a means to have a direct communication channel with our fans from across the world, helping them stay informed with the latest developments in the Barça Universe.

Besides directly monetising through tickets and merchandise email campaigns, our fan database is a sponsorship asset that our sponsors can target, making it extremely important for our emails to be regularly opened and clicked. 

For this we rely mainly on a content marketing approach, providing our fans with exclusive content, such as interview with the players, behind the scene photos, top five exclusive videos, all of which are not available anywhere else.  

Despite being very successful with a very engaged subscriber database, we wanted to go an extra step and proactively reward those fans that are regularly engaged with our email communications.

And what better way to reward fans that are already consuming our content with even more content, with the slight difference that this content was specifically prepared for them and no one else will have access to it. 

We commissioned a series of premium videos to be delivered every month only to our most engaged fans. Aligned with this idea of exclusivity, the videos play with the concept of revealing information related with the club that has been kept secret and only a few know about, a sort of Barça X-Files if you like.

As opposed to most campaigns that pursue to go viral, these videos cannot be shared in order to preserve the exclusivity factor. 

Engagement Rewards

Results

The results so far have been unbelievable, 70% of subscribers that open the email each month click and watch the videos.

On average 91% of these subscribers remain engaged the following month vs. a 73% of the control group. Additionally, there are a higher proportion of subscribers that have gone and made a purchase vs. subscribers in the control group. 

Right now we are segmenting these engaged subscribers mainly on open and click related metrics, but in the future we are looking into incorporating other variables like page views, time on site, video views to further refine our concept of engaged subscribers. 

 

Adrián Müller

Published 7 April, 2015 by Adrián Müller

Adrián Müller is Global CRM Manager at FC Barcelona and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn

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Alex Kupriienko

Alex Kupriienko, PR strategist at Portmone.com

So, if I understood correctly, your approach in emailing engaged subscribers is in the specific personalisation? What else, besides Open Rate, you've been measured?

over 3 years ago

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Peter Cunningham, Product & Marketing at Buyapowa

Maybe the reward for continual engagement could be a reduction in later purchase price. For FC Barcelona it could be the more you open emails and click, share etc you earn credits towards a later purchase of merchandise and maybe even tickets (in future maybe live screenings)

over 3 years ago

Adrián Müller

Adrián Müller, Global CRM Manager at FC Barcelona

Hello Alex,

The equation we use is quite simple, is a weighted score that takes into account

the total opens by user in a month / total emails the user was sent in a month ratio

and

the total clicks by user in a month / total unique opens by user in a month ratio

Based on this score, we segment between highly engaged, engaged and unengaged subscribers. The highly engaged are those rewarded every month with exclusive content.

Cheers

over 3 years ago

Adrián Müller

Adrián Müller, Global CRM Manager at FC Barcelona

Hello Peter,

You are absolutely right, we will indeed test giving an economic benefit, but not to all our highly engaged subscribers as we have a very big database. Lets say for example we have 5 million highly engaged subscribers and we give a 1€ discount, for that you already need a 5 million euro budget and that is only for a 1€ discount. It is hard to justify such an investment solely taking into account a fan's engagement, we would need to take into account purchase behaviour and then we are more in the domain of a Loyalty Program.

In short, we will test an economic benefit but we will be creating a new segment "the extra highly engaged" :) We wanted to be able to reward all our fans that are on a regular basis engaging with our emails, regardless if they are customers or not and that is why we went for the exclusive content approach.

Cheers

over 3 years ago

Roman Rackwitz

Roman Rackwitz, CEO at Engaginglab & RACKSOCIAL

Hi Adrian, indeed it is already a great advance for a Gamification-approach that you are not focusing anymore just on rewarding purchases. So, you are far ahead of most of the other companies thinking about Gamification. Congrats. I have written an open letter to Marketing that focuses especially on this issue: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140923202753-57620628-gamification-let-s-talk-marketing?trk=mp-reader-card

But: At the same time you are missing the full potential (or as to say the other 90% of its potential) by reducing Gamification to be a simple reward program. What I mean by that?

Gamification means to reverse-engineer what makes games effective and to be honest, no one plays a game just because you get rewards by playing it, right?
Our human psychological predisposition to engage in gaming relies on the fact that we are challenged by the game within a meaningful context. By taking into account our actual skills and the challenge we are facing, a game provides us with the most effective environment to learn, to become better and finally to master the challenge. And than we are facing the next challenge that is build upon our new gained skills. This is why we feel to be engaged, fulfilled and satisfied within a game-like-environment.
So, Gamification is rather a methodology to enhance 'self-motivated practice of skills' in a non-game context, than a rewarding model. Rewards a great (and as you already know the type of rewards is important) but without the implementation of what is the core of Gamification you'll end up with a reward system. I explained the longterm problem with simple reward programs in my open letter to Marketing. ;-)

But having said this, I'm really glad that you are already going a step further than most others! Cheers, Roman

over 3 years ago

Roman Rackwitz

Roman Rackwitz, CEO at Engaginglab & RACKSOCIAL

Hello Adrian,
first of all, it is great that you guys started a gamification approach and looked beyond simply rewarding a user's purchase behaviour. To be honest, these loyalty programs that are rewardign purchase behaviour are out there already for decades right? So, great job.

But, I also want to say that I believe that you are missing the full potential of Gamification if you are using it as a reward program at all. If we look at game-like behaviour from a behaviour psychology and neuroscience point of view we know that we don't play games because we get points/rewards/and so on.

We play games /and we are engaged in game-like environments like hobbies and sports) because we got challenged and we want to overcome these challenges. In this case we even don't care about rewards. Overcoming the obstacles and the journey to become better and smarter by learning, is what really engages us and what keeps us coming back.

So, as soon as you are starting to reward people and to design a system that relies on rewarding, you are starting a race against the bottom. Why? Because people always want to have more. So, if the game is about being rewarded (and this is how you are using Gamification) people start to try to succeed within this game by getting more for less. It just makes sense. But don't blame the gamer, blame the game! What a reward program can do for motivation in the short term, Gamification can do for engagement in the longterm. But you have to design for it.
I hope that this makes sense to you and it helps you to create a real gamification approach that s focused on the long run and avoids this extrinsic rewarding issue. Cheers, Roman

over 3 years ago

Adrián Müller

Adrián Müller, Global CRM Manager at FC Barcelona

Thank you Roman. Very interesting your comments, I really enjoyed the open letter.

over 3 years ago

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Peter Cunningham, Product & Marketing at Buyapowa

@Roman - some good points. I agree that no-one plays a game just to get rewards. The game has to have value for the player. The gamification just serves to make you try harder, keep at it longer etc.

Here is what we wrote in a recent IDG article:

"By gamification we mean incorporating ‘game elements’ such as badges, leader boards and prizes into non-game environments to get people to:

- Do something (get a qualification)
- Stop doing something (quit smoking)
- Keep doing something (keep exercising)
- Buy something (new and repeat customers)

As long as the gamification remains a secondary element to something seen as intrinsically beneficial, such as learning a new programming language, then it can really power success. But if the ‘game’ becomes too important compared to the underlying value of the desired behaviour then this can be counterproductive."

http://www.idgconnect.com/blog-abstract/9696/gamification-changing-businesses-future

over 3 years ago

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