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How Gamification is Reshaping Loyalty Programmes in the Middle East

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Mehrnoush Shafiei Bio

Gamification is set to significantly influence loyalty programmes in the Middle East, primarily due to the evolving demographics and spending habits of Generation Z (Gen Z), who favour experiences over material possessions. Virtual gaming plays a substantial role in consumer experiences, with over 25% of Middle Eastern respondents in Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey 2023 participating in them, making the region the global leader in online gaming engagement. This preference is driving a shift towards loyalty programmes that integrate gaming aspects, such as point scoring and challenges. In addition, innovative examples of gamified loyalty programmes are increasingly incorporating a lifestyle component, creating a deeper emotional connection with the brand.

Gamification is driven by Gen Z

In a rapidly evolving consumer landscape, the Middle East is witnessing a surge in interest towards immersive experiences and gamified rewards, where traditional loyalty programmes are enhanced with interactive, game-like elements such as point scoring and challenges. This trend is primarily driven by the region's large and growing Gen Z population. This growing importance of Gen Z is particularly prominent in the Middle East and Africa, which, in 2022, had the highest percentage of Gen Z consumers globally at 28%, followed by Latin America at 24%.

Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2009, represents a large population segment that has not reached peak earning potential yet. However, the combined buying power of these consumers is significant and is expected to rapidly increase as they enter and advance in their careers.

Gen Z’s spending habits are markedly different from previous generations. They prioritise experiences over possessions, which reflects in their higher expenditure in areas such as digital entertainment, travel, and leisure activities.Importance of Spending Money on Experiences

This shift towards experiential preferences is not limited to Gen Z or the Middle East. Globally, consumers are demonstrating an appetite for interactive and enjoyable experiences, both in real life and on social media platforms.

56% of respondents agree that is important to spend money on experiences rather than on things

Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey 2023

The power of gamification is building an emotional connection

The effectiveness of gamification is its ability to create an emotional connection with consumers. By incorporating gaming principles such as points, leader boards, and special challenges, loyalty programmes can transition from being mere transactional to more emotional engagements. When it comes to experiences, online video games play a larger role than most people think.

Over 25% of respondents in the Middle East said that they take part in online video games. This rate positions the region as the global leader in online gaming engagement.

Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey 2023

Online video gamingSaudi Arabia and the UAE drive gamified loyalty in region

The gaming industry in the Middle East, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, is on the brink of substantial growth, driven by supportive government policies and the region's high disposable incomes

Source: Euromonitor International

Saudi Arabia, under its National Gaming and Esports Strategy, aims to develop 30 games and create 40,000 jobs by 2030, highlighting its commitment to gaming. Similarly, the Dubai Programme for Gaming 2033 intends to make Dubai a top 10 global gaming city and generate over 30,000 jobs in this sector. The fact that the Middle East and Africa region is set to record the highest forecast and real growth in consumer expenditure by 2024 is another positive sign for this trend.Forecast Total and Real Growth in Consumer Expenditure by Region 2024

Going beyond transactional rewards with the help of lifestyle loyalty programmes

The challenge for companies in the Middle East is transitioning from transactional to emotional loyalty. To overcome this, they should design programmes that resonate with consumers’ lifestyles. For example, based in the United Arab Emirates, the Emirates NBD fitness app rewards users for maintaining their health. Customers can open savings accounts and synchronise them with their fitness trackers. If the member achieves their daily goal, they earn rewards such as a 2% interest rate. Another example is Al-Futtaim’s Blue Rewards programme which has recently updated its loyalty scheme to include a lifestyle component, rewarding members with points for their participation in the government-sponsored Dubai 30x30 fitness challenge.

To be effective, companies require a deep understanding of who their customers are and their interests beyond just specific offerings. Additionally, leveraging popular existing campaigns, as demonstrated by Blue Rewards, can direct some of the existing buzz and public interest towards its loyalty programme.

For businesses in the Middle East looking to capitalise on these trends, the path is clear: innovate loyalty programmes with gamification strategies that resonate with local consumer lifestyles. By doing so, brands not only build emotional loyalty but also gain invaluable first-party data. In the game of market dominance, the first to master gamified loyalty programmes, wins.

Download our new reports, State of Play of Customer Loyalty, and Next-Generation Customer Loyalty for in-depth trend descriptions, case studies and strategic recommendations.

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