How gamification is supercharging Vietnam tech startups’ growth potential



Gamification has become a buzzword in recent years. Simply put, gamification uses game elements in a non-game context, offering a great way to retain customers.

It’s a growth strategy straight out of China, which has seen many major e-commerce companies, including Alipay, Alibaba’s Taobao and Pinduoduo, incorporate gamified elements into their apps to increase user engagement and draw in repeat customers.

Learning from the Chinese experience with gamification, many Vietnamese companies have started to leverage the strategy of incorporating gamification in business as a solution to target customers more engagingly and effectively.

Growing gamification adoption in Vietnam

The value of the gamification market worldwide has skyrocketed from US$4.91 billion in 2016 to US$11.94 billion in 2021, according to Statista.

In the Asia Pacific, the gamification market is projected to grow exponentially at a rate of 27 per cent. China and India will help drive the market by focusing more on using gamification to enhance user experience.

In Vietnam, MoMo is at the forefront of the trend toward gamification with offerings such as MoMo Academy, MoMo City, and the most recently launched MoMo Jump. It allows users to jump into gift boxes that appear on the road to collect coupons, promotions, and discounts to use various services available in MoMo e-wallet.

Vietnam-based one-hour delivery startup Loship is also upping its engagement tactics by launching two new gamified features called Daily check-in and Quest hunt.

BAce Capital suggested the strategy– their partners are directors at Ant Group. Drawing on their knowledge of Chinese trends, Loship incorporated mini-games into its app, just as China’s Pinduoduo added gaming to its e-commerce platform. 

It was not something done with a strong sales objective in mind, but rather an experience that would allow customers to enjoy. Users visit Pinduoduo without any specific intent, much like visiting a real-world shopping mall. Likewise, Loship users may pull up the app for gaming, not shopping, but wind up making purchases,” Loship CEO Trung Hoang Nguyen shared.

Another startup that has incorporated gamification into its platform is Fika, a dating and social networking platform focusing on female users in Asia. With gamification, Fika broke the mold of traditional dating apps.

Also read: How gamification is increasing productivity during COVID-19

Each day users will receive a series of mini-challenges such as “Match someone new today” or “Text 2 days in a row”, etc., and for each completion, users will receive a Fika Coin reward. These Fika coins are used to unlock many premium features in the Fika app, such as seeing who liked you, rewinds, unlimited likes, etc. 

Gamification done right is key

Gamification is supposed to be a product longevity booster, not a replacement for the app’s inherent utility. Gamification plays a pivotal role in improving the user experience, engagement, and appeal of the app.

Let’s walk through some of the benefits that gamification brings to the table:

User retention

Gamification is a retention machine when done well. All gamification types have the same standard hook, where you can log in daily, perform a specific action to get rewards. Psychologically, these rewards motivate users to keep going on with the game and achieve more rewards. T

The principle here is that high-frequency usage would cultivate a user habit, leading to user stickiness. This user stickiness is tied to purchasing products.

China’s Pinduoduo is a leader in using gamification to promote frequent usage and purchases on its platform. The average number of monthly users in Pinduoduo increased more than twofold from 195 million in 2018 to 487 million in 2020 thanks to this engagement strategy.

Vietnam-based Loship has also followed this strategy to develop its daily check-in challenges. Each time users check-in, they are granted a certain number of Lo-points, which can be redeemed for in-app vouchers and coupons.

“While each check-in doesn’t generate direct revenue for Loship, the product experience eventually ties back to commerce if/when users redeem their points. This theoretically should yield a higher customer lifetime value,” shared the Loship representative.

User acquisition

Games that require users to invite or introduce their friends are the perfect vehicle to acquire new users. 83 per cent of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products.

Vietnam’s MoMo uses the referral program to have existing users invite their friends to install the app in exchange for extra turns to play games and incentives of VND500.000 for each successful referral.

The highest amount receivers get their name displayed on the app’s leaderboard feature.

Referral mechanics was also the fuel that propelled Pinduoduo to spectacular growth at its inception. Once the user is hooked, they’ll happily acquire on behalf of the company.

As such, the company can reach out to more potential customers without any advertising dollars invested. 

Data collection

Gamification can help companies understand their customers on a deeper level. When playing games, users reveal their preferences regarding time, capacity, attitudes, and willingness to pay, allowing for more precise targeting.

This insight becomes the foundation of better customer experience and engagement, leading to loyalty and trust. Historical data can also be used to make better predictions and build more effective marketing campaigns. 

In the case of Fika, for instance, Fika encourages users to take on mini-challenges such as “Match someone new today” in exchange for Fika Coins.

The more users join the challenge, the more insights and customer data are revealed. Fika can build up robustly personalized constantly and matchmaking algorithms to find more meaningful connections for their users.

Gamification is not a trend. It’s a future

Gen Z makes up 1/7 of Vietnam’s 92 million population. Being in tune with this large and growing generation of consumers means mastering gamification – and applying this tactic to the business context.

With the impact of COVID-19 leading people to aggressively search for online entertainment, more and more applications coming to market, and the concept of gamification gaining more credibility, it is only a matter of time before gamification takes off in a nation that loves gaming like Vietnam.

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