Earlier this year, we discussed the opportunity for banks to make personal finance fun by injecting gaming dynamics into their products and services. We suggested that a bank can set up a system that provides incentives to reward saving behavior. The program should be created by a game designer and produce an ecosystem where the objective of the game is to save as much money as possible in an account serviced by the bank.
Players earn points with each dollar saved, achieve milestones, and, can publicize their achievements on social media sites and possibly compete with their friends. We continue to believe that by helping customers improve their financial health through game mechanics, banks can increase deposits, cross-sell additional services and increase stickiness among their newly, financially savvy customer base. In our research, we’ve also seen several successful instances of gamification in unexpected settings and have identified a few success factors.
The Game Must Be Simple and Engaging
The subject of personal finance is one which causes much anxiety and stress. Curiously, money management is generally not formally taught in school and therefore most people, if not fortunate enough to have these skills passed onto them by their parents, are left to figure out this important life skill by themselves. Banks must offer something that is intuitive, simple, and engaging so that the stress of this subject matter and the default human inertia of “doing nothing” is quickly overcome.
The Game Must Convince Customers That They Are in Control
Customers who’ve had to learn money management themselves, may unfortunately have picked up their skills through a series of bad financial experiences. Additionally, all customers generally struggle in varying degrees to balance between spending and saving. The game must convince customers that they can manage their personal balance sheet and cash flow wisely. It should bestow a level of comfort and protection so that one’s confidence in this skill is being built up while they play this game. Ultimately, customers should feel that they are in control and learning new skills.
Progress Towards Goals
Saving money and taking control of one’s debt is not an overnight process. However, seeing the results of one’s discipline and efforts is the best positive reinforcement in sustaining the will power necessary to be more financially savvy. Similar to any weight loss goals, the incremental improvement while working towards the end goal is a powerful motivator.
Finally, to know how one is doing vis-a-vis one’s peer group either publicly or privately is another strong motivator. New parents compare their babies’ height and weight percentiles. Students compare test scores. Professional performance reviews and merit increases are indexed against that of the group/team/organization. We are surrounded by normative comparisons and working towards fiscal responsibility is no different. A mechanism in the game which provides this feedback is crucial.
PNC’s Virtual Wallet (http://www.pncvirtualwallet.com/) and Mint (http://www.mint.com/) are both great examples of gamification in financial services. Both focus on getting consumers organized about their finances, which in most cases, is the primary source of anxiety. Most claim they don’t have the time. Consumers are also intimidated by the perceived complexity of taking on this task.
Both services use a series of status bars, alerts, and graphical visualizations of one’s accounts to successfully overtake the stress and inherent “laziness” that comes with this initial step towards fiscal responsibility. This dashboard presentation of one’s personal financial scorecard, mimics mechanics very similar to any avatar’s “life-bar” in any MMORPG. There’s nothing like seeing one’s own net worth beautifully presented on one screen. This achievement is the important first step towards removing the anxiety around personal financial planning as customers are now able to quickly see those levers that are instrumental to their financial goals.
As a final note, the four success factors identified above loosely mirror one of the happiness models that Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com describes in “Delivering Happiness.” In the book, he shares that researchers studying the science of happiness identified four elements which contribute to one’s happiness:
- Perceived Control
- Perceived Progress
- Being Part of Something Bigger Than Oneself
Interestingly, in addition to managing financial risk by building up a more fiscally responsible customer base, it appears that the gamification of financial services can also have the ancillary effect of delighting customers and therefore, fortifying customer satisfaction scores.
– Kevin Hung, Director of Services