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Customer Loyalty: The Elf on the B2B Shelf

Season’s greetings! It’s that time of year again when all our familiar friends-from-the-attic take over our living spaces, offices, shops and restaurants once again, and turn everything from ‘mundane’ to ‘magical’.

And, between the holly and the ivy and the baubles and the Slade, you may just peep that friendly and cheeky (that’s putting it mildly) little elf, perched oh-so neatly on your shelf. Provided you put him there. You did put him there, right? Because we didn’t.

Tradition is everything at Christmastime. From kids who remember one or two Christmases past to wizened old adults who remember more than they care to count, there’s something about returning to familiar favourites – replaying old routines, and turning regular life-as-we-know-it into a game that people love.

But, wait a minute. What does this have to do with the B2B space? At Incentivesmart, we’ve been having a few festive frivolities of our own – and we discovered something pretty interesting if you’re after B2B loyalty.

Elves, shelves, and the gamification of loyalty

Bear with us; it really does make sense…. just read on.

This festive season, we have been running a digital Find the Elf competition to drive registrations, participation and general engagement with some of our loyalty programmes – something fun, engaging and original to support ensure the customer experience is engaging during what is, inarguably, the most competitive (or, worse still, slow) time of year for practically any business, depending on industry.

What started off as a cute idea actually got us thinking. Elf on the Shelf has such a special meaning for so many people around the world. While it only started to take over our advent traditions in 2005 – pretty recent compared to something like the Christmas tree, which dates back to the 16th century – it’s gained a massive amount of sentimental value in that time. A game that weaves itself into the build-up to Christmas – one that gets everyone involved and thinking about it. It’s very powerful, and great inspiration for businesses.

Elf sat on table

So, where does gamification come into it?

At its core, Elf on the Shelf is an incentive – and it really works. And it doesn’t just work because kids want to wake up to a full stocking on the 25th, but because it gives structure – one with clearly define parameters, and a simple but fun idea behind it.

It also turns good behaviour into a compelling game, which is an incredibly powerful tool. Playing games gives us regular doses of those feel-good chemicals, like dopamine. They give us a sense of achievement – a reason to stay engaged, and the motivation we need to do get jobs done. We’ve heard about gamification in the workplace, in the realm of education – even the gamification of exercise. Think about the landslide success of Pokémon Go, which uses augmented reality to get people on their feet, exploring their local area, looking for collectible creatures.

Playing games is a great way to motivate certain behaviours and habits – whether you’re trying to get people on their feet, or off Santa’s Naughty List.

Now, we haven’t lost our heads completely - we know that your ultimate goal isn’t to get your customers making their beds in the morning or to actually play hide and seek – but, even still, we are aware your programmes purpose is to drive certain behaviours and in return reward those who actively participate. You want them to consistently choose you over competitors and, to feel positive about that choice. It’s not a trick or a manipulation tactic – it’s simply creating a simple structure that offers a clear benefit to customers, and to you.

You don’t have to offer your customers the next Angry Birds, or, tougher still, find a new place to hide that little elf 365 days of the year. What you do need to do is capture their imagination, make the rules of the game clear, and give them a compelling reason to keep working toward those milestones – gathering those points and spending them to get that regular boost of dopamine; in turn building those rewarding relationships with you and your brand.

Do games change behaviours?

So powerful is the allure of games, it can be used to change behaviour. Gamification is a way of making your marketing content more fun for the consumer. And, in a world that’s fast becoming over populated with digital advertising, it’s a great mechanism for businesses to attract and maintain attention.


As the creator, it is your responsibility to ensure the metrics in the gamification platform directly relate to the desired business outcome.  The gamification solution must be designed using the best combination of gamification techniques for your business and goal.


We've compared the number of daily logins on our platform in the week before and week during the promotion. We saw an average increase in unique logins of 379%, demonstrating that when you create something fun and engaging, it does deliver results.


Find the Elf promotion results


Nowadays computer games are just as popular as old-fashioned board games. Research suggest that every child under the age of 15 has played a game on a digital device at least once in the last six months. Even in the age group up to 50 years old, we can expect at least half the population has played a game on a digital device within a six-month period.

Our 'Find the Elf ' promo was deployed across a number of our customer loyalty programmes and the participation results were really interesting to read, helping us manage any misassumptions for future gamification ideas:

Find the Elf promotion results 2

Since the general population is now familiar with digital game playing, it makes complete sense for gamification to be uses in the B2B space to engage with target audiences.

The best examples of gamification all have one thing in common: every interaction is ultimately human. You’re selling to humans, which means you’re building loyalty with humans, too. This means that many of the things that prove catchy, memorable, motivating or interesting in the B2C space will also get you results in the b2b space. This is why B2B loyalty marketing is so essential for retention – because the same basic rules will always be true.

And of course with any electronic transactions the analytics will offer insights to understand behaviours which will aid strategic development of programme management.

Something as powerful as gamification deserves to be explored in the parallel world of B2B, and our recent dealings with that dastardly little elf on the shelf is a perfect example of increasing reach, engagement and participation.

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