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Virgin extends gamified app across all brands, signaling new loyalty model

Virgin is introducing its first loyalty application for all of its British subsidiaries, including Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Media, featuring a heavy gamification component and suggesting that more brands may begin to leverage all-in-one rewards programs on mobile.

The Virgin Red loyalty app extends across the company’s large portfolio and enables customers to collect rewards points – which can be used for exclusive offers and competitions – by taking quizzes and playing games. The app launch kicks off with the V Marks the Spot contest, which asks users to unearth one million digital and physical gold coins hidden around Britain for a chance to visit company founder Sir Richard Branson’s private island estate and partake in a real-life scavenger hunt.

“The concept of the Virgin Red treasure hunt brilliantly marries the physical, digital and mobile worlds and is a creative way to connect [the company] with its audience, potentially attracting and rewarding new, loyal customers that have a high lifetime value,” said Jon Burg, head of product marketing at AppsFlyer. “The success of this app as a loyalty platform starts with its short-term ability to build hype and brand equity.

“If Virgin can sustain this same spirit of creative thinking and gamification, and marry it to a well-crafted, cross-property loyalty app that ties nicely into sales and loyalty conversion, it could have a potential winner on its hands,” he said.

“And by constantly measuring the results of the campaign, the level of user engagement and impact on business, Virgin will find the best way to maximize the return on its investment in the gamification strategy – for Virgin Red and in future campaigns.”

Bringing branded spirit to mobile
The Virgin Red app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, employs gamification to engage customers of all 24 of the company’s British businesses.

Virgin originally sought to roll out multiple loyalty destinations for its suite of brands, but opted for a one-stop shop after realizing it could leverage the platform to introduce consumers to its other subsidiaries.

The company also wanted to inject some of its bold personality into the app, particularly when it came to the gamification aspect. Users can accumulate points by interacting with the app more frequently through a variety of content and quizzes.

Virgin Red is kicking off summer excitement through its V Marks the Spot promotion, which encompasses 17 Virgin brands. Consumers should be on the lookout for physical and digital coins, featuring Sir Branson’s face, hidden in places across Britain, as well as on Web sites.

Each coin displays a code that can be entered into the Virgin Red app to bestow users with additional loyalty points. These points can then be used to open treasure vaults containing various offers and prize draws.

The grand prize will give nine winners and their plus-ones the chance to visit Sir Branson’s Necker Island this August, with the intent of joining the company founder on a scavenger hunt for a treasure chest housing other Virgin-branded prizes.

While most of the coins will be found on digital platforms – such as Virgin Media, Tevo and email – others will be located in stores, trains and phone boxes, reminding consumers that they will be rewarded for “living a life more Virgin.”

The V Marks the Spot contest will also cross-promote the company’s businesses through offers such as a 20 percent-off discount for Virgin train rides and buy-one-get-one-free promotions with brand partners such as Café Nero.

Virgin collaborated with DMI International to build the loyalty app.

Gambling on gamification
Virgin’s decision to merge the app’s gamification elements with real-life situations highlights a new opportunity for brands seeking to revamp their current rewards platforms. Instead of relying solely on mobile components and sweepstakes, marketers can integrate in-store signage alongside various landmarks into their loyalty-based games.

Virgin is also leveraging a smart strategy by continuously raising the prize-giving stakes. Individuals who download the Virgin Red app will have a plethora of chances to hunt for the coins and win discounts, but will also have the opportunity to win a trip to the exclusive Necker Island, a place generally not open to the public.

However, mobile gamification must be undertaken with the utmost caution to ensure that the customer experience remains seamless and engaging.

“When executed correctly, those that do gamification best use UI and UX elements popular in the gaming space to create sticky, engaging experiences that keep app users coming back for more,” Mr. Burg said. “In the context of a loyalty app, gamification holds incredible promise, and when deployed expertly and with a deft touch, gamification elements can make the entire experience more rewarding and engaging.

“But for many brands, gamification alone cannot improve the stickiness or engagement if a loyalty program or loyalty app is poorly conceived or designed,” he said. “Gamifying an app is sometimes a misunderstood and misapplied customer experience strategy, and when gamification elements are thrown in as an afterthought, the resulting experience may fall flat.

“It’s also imperative that marketers constantly measure the effectiveness of their app gamification strategies and campaigns so they know what’s working, and what isn’t.”