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How You Can Use Gamification to Make Your Holiday Emails Stand Out

If you are reading this post, you are probably a more or less advanced email marketer. You are keeping up with the times, you check the actual trends,...

If you are reading this post, you are probably a more or less advanced email marketer. You are keeping up with the times, you check the actual trends, that’s why you have found the current article. Sounds pretty logical.

So we guess you are already more or less familiar with gamification. At least, you have heard about this technique. While there are many interactive ways to engage your subscribers during the holiday season, gamification is one of the top trends in the world of holiday email marketing this year.

Let’s refresh some essential things about gamification prior to proceeding with tips and recommendations on holiday email gamification.


Gamification in a nutshell

Basically, the very term speaks clearly for itself. Gamification is an implementation of game elements in non-game spheres of real and virtual existence. In our case, incorporating various interactive blocks with gaming interactive content in commercial newsletters.

holiday email gamification

An interesting fact: Gamification is the case where we can say “everything new is well-forgotten old”. Years ago, Nintendo implemented something like proto gamification in their eCommerce campaigns. 

Why gamification? First of all, gamification has a definitely positive impact on your level of engagement. We all know that games are not just for kids. Millions of all ages old people are gamers today, That’s why attractive, well-arranged games are always performing to engage clients.

Gamification also allows us to interact with our clients better, to know more about people we are working with, …and even to grow brand virality. When content is catchy and relevant, with some special feature – emails are often shared by recipients. “Hey, dude, look at this company – this mini-puzzle in their email is really amusing!”, people write when forwarding outstanding emails to friends. This is when clients are acting as volunteer agents of your brand, by the way. And it means we succeeded in forming clients’ loyalty. Win!

According to studies and A/B testing data provided by Promodo, gamification is able to boost ROI by up to 300%.

Sounds intriguing. On the other hand, we should be aware of some essential things to win at gamification in emails. So, let’s explore them:.

Apply gamification wisely

Gamification is building the reputation and unique voice of your brand. These mini-games say that your company is not utterly serious and dull, you appreciate fun and entertainment, and you are in trend. Naturally, it means that arranging and implementation depend on your unique style…

Still, the common rule: don’t use gamification too often! Firstly, it may become boring. Secondly, overusing entertainment features may cause the opposite effect. Don’t be obtrusive and too clownish.

gamification template

There should be real reasons to start the gamified campaign. For example, annual date of the company. Read the article on how the well-known HTML template editor Stripo team arranged the quiz series to test the practical implementation of AMP-based gaming blocks and to explore the potential of this advanced gamification technique. 

Another good reason to try gamification is the holiday time – Christmas and New Year, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, etc. They all are about sales, promo campaigns, discounts… Let’s start with the key rule about holiday email gamification:

Pre-holidays and holidays are not the same

Keep in mind that sending gamified newsletters during the holidays or even days before is no good idea. Especially when it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is time for multitude of sales, not games.

The only solution that fits the time is roulette. These games don’t require time, they are completed literally in seconds and bring results immediately. Longer games and complex challenges are rather inappropriate in these cases.

Pizza Hut template

Or another kind of quick game just like the Cyber Monday Pacman game below.

30% off gamification template

That’s why it’s much better to craft and send games prior to holiday itself. And of course, we need to have a clear map of the campaign and to imagine our goals in the form of a clear masterplan.

Draw the gamification strategy

An email campaign of any type shouldn’t be spontaneous and uncertain. Prior to crafting and sending, we have to ask ourselves some questions. Then, give answers and form the clear strategy with goals and solutions included.

scratch off template
  • One single email, or maybe email series? In many cases, series are required. For instance, when you have a quiz challenge with multiple steps.
  • If you decide to arrange a series, what number of messages will it consist of?
  • What rewards to give? Gifts, discounts, or maybe users will collect bonus points?
  • How to praise the participants?
  • What will those who use email services that still don’t support the interactive technique you applied see?

Always duplicate advanced elements with web-safe alternatives

Or give fallback, in other terms. You need it if you embed the real interactive blocks based on AMP technology. For example, AMP forms. This brand new innovation is still in progress of technical implementation. So not every email service or software is already AMP-friendly.

discount template

Typical fallback solutions are:

  • Link to the web version of a newsletter. If something fails to render, recipients have an alternate way to open your message.
  • Use GIFs and other imagery to reflect the spirit of the actual challenge and motivate users to visit your site where the challenge is available too.

Do you have a strategy? Well, set the goals for players too.

Regarding motivation. In any case, don’t confuse people with your interaction surprise. Recipients should not think why they are participating in this at all.

Everything must be clear and intriguing. People should know what they are playing for. Announce rewards and other profits for participating in your game.

spin it, win it template

Always tell your subscribers how to achieve the goal. In other words, provide them with an intuitive user-friendly manual on what to do.

Holiday season template

If the game is to be played in a specific time, let participants know how much time is left. Just add the timer that activates when the user starts playing.

Another alert: don’t create the geek-level games! Make emails for usual people, not scientists. Avoid too complex challenges.

Measurable results

The next essential rule of gamification is related to motivation. Yes, it motivates when you see your results, progress, achievements, etc. That’s why all that must be obviously measurable. Always comment on the achievements immediately.

email acid template

If you arrange a quiz series, share the correct answers in the next email  in the series. This simple trick will make participants wait impatiently for the next email from you. “To be continued…” – These simple words really set the intrigue and anticipation.

Technical solutions

We will show some solutions to the technical implementation of the actual practice below. The weird fact we noticed is: no matter how many options are offered by email crafting tools today, many email marketers and business owners are afraid to deal with gamification. It seems they still consider it as something too complex. In fact, not too hopeless 🙂 Well, we really need experienced programmers to write the code of mini-games like Pacman. But with new-fashioned AMP forms, we are able to create games like the aforementioned quiz series from Stripo. Check out this campaign they started before the Winter Holidays.

This kind of embedded game requires an AMP-bind component for tapping the respective elements in the email body, and AMP form to submit answers right in the email. Quite simple yet attractive, right?

Yes, everyone needs to pass the whitelisting procedure to have permission to send anything with AMP HTML code. Not too scary but…

Well, it is for those who are afraid of AMP. Another solution is using CSS elements to make a choice in emails. For example, Valentine cards.

soccer game template

Or to play a soccer game like this. Soccer is a cult for many, right…

rollover effect template

A tip: if you are afraid of CSS too, the alternate idea is choosing the rollover effect. It works well on most desktop platforms. Just shred the image into the required number of pieces. Then, upload each part as a separate pic. Next, use the rollover effect on each of them.

Nevertheless, be brave. Try CSS tricks like in this famous newsletter from Litmus. Using CSS styles, they announced the support for email testing in dark mode.

This Christmas sample is based on CSS and checkbox. Stylish and interactive. You need to click to get something pleasant… Even if it’s just a congratulation card.

css and checkbox christmas template

Another rollover-based sample:

rollover-based sample

And this Christmas newsletter below. As you can see, rollover is a great solution that requires minimum skills and time. Hide gifts, hints, congratulations, wishes, etc. by using this effect. So use this trick whenever you consider it reasonable. 

Christmas newsletter

But if you dare to cope with AMP, let’s end up today with this sample. A puzzle to win free tickets, as we can see. In this email, designers used photos with landscapes of three cities. You can use any pics you want- products, photos of your team, office, etc.

landscapes of three cities

How to do this?

  • Cut photos into parts.
  • Add the required number of AMP-powered carousel blocks.
  • Upload parts in a random order to the rows.
  • Users will slide the parts to compose the photo of the puzzle.
  • Disable the preview mode for used carousel elements.
  • Add the fallback option — just create three banners in a row and include this structure in the HTML mode only.

Done! People like to play with puzzles for the prize or just for lulz 🙂

Final words

A proven fact: gamification in email marketing actually boosts CTR as well as CTOR. And the boost is significant enough, so you should not skip this opportunity to stand out and overcome competitors. It’s not as complicated a challenge as it seems; give gamification a try!

Just don’t choose this practice too often. However, everything depends on certain businesses. So the answer to frequency is totally up to you.

gamification use

Again, set clear missions and goals. Both for yourself and your audience. Otherwise, subscribers will not play the games you offer.

And remember that more and more email clients have now released the AMP interactivity features. It means that we have more opportunities to engage clients and prospects.

Let your games be catchy!

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Ivan is a CMO at, Drag-n-Drop, and HTML email template builder which helps create professional and responsive email templates fast without any HTML skills. The mission of his product is to "Make every email beautiful and anticipated". Reading is Ivan’s passion. He’s read tons of informative books and articles on marketing, analytics, etc.

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