Using gamification in interactive email

Interactivity is now the second biggest email design trend, and gamification is an effective way to achieve it. Profusion email developer Steve Hart guides you through the basics 

Gamification is a seriously useful tool. Planned carefully and used purposefully, it can radically improve the presentation and end-user experience of an email. Importantly, it can also evoke the behaviours or actions that you desire.

Elements of game design are widespread, in obvious and subtle ways, throughout society and systems. Collecting stamps for your next free coffee? Game mechanics such as goals, level progression and rewards are found in many a loyalty scheme. Eager for more ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ on your social media posts? These are equivalent to a points-based positive reinforcement mechanism, designed to encourage users to continue using and returning to the platform.

Implementing gamification

A game can take many forms. But typically it requires that:

  1. The user is able to participate in and influence the outcome
  2. There is an outcome. This might be expressed as points scoring and/or defined success/failure outcomes
  3. Participation requires skill, knowledge or chance and provides a challenge
  4. A reward is presented.

Whether or not gamification supports your defined campaign objectives will be determined in the planning and design stage.

In the context of campaign objectives, it helps to write a mission statement. Here it’s a good idea to describe, in detail, the purpose of the communication and the actions you want the recipient to take. This statement can then help form and dictate the motivators for these desired actions. In the design stage, you can determine whether gamification supports these motivators.

Using Profusion’s monthly digital newsletter as an example, a simple mission statement would be:

‘To inform the reader with a selection of the latest best practices in digital marketing, in an engaging and innovative way’.

With our July 2019 edition, we wanted to demonstrate some visual examples of gamification in action. We could have simply directed readers to our blog post about this topic. But instead, we took the opportunity to throw in a quiz, image puzzle and numbers game of our own. This way, readers got to play and experience for themselves what we were writing about, and we got to showcase our expertise at the same time.

While each game was visually distinct, they all presented the user with predefined options from which they chose one or a combination to progress.


We used the quiz to share the latest developments in email marketing, while directly involving the user as a participant.

The image puzzle and numbers game were included for variety, novelty and to demonstrate further creative ideas. In the quiz and round three of the numbers game, the user doesn’t have to answer correctly to move forward. Conversely, in the image puzzle and first two rounds of the numbers game they must eventually get it right to progress. Although this can be altered, we deliberately made the game mechanics different each time to demonstrate the variety that’s possible within HTML email.

We implemented user scoring to show users’ achievements throughout the games. When they’ve completed each one, we presented a hyperlink to this article so they could understand the theory behind the use of gamification.

You can try the whole experience for yourself here.

Gamification examples in email

Curious about how other email marketers have used gamification in HTML emails? Here are some examples. While each ‘game’ has a unique purpose, all actively engage the reader in some way using game design.

Broadcaster Channel 4 used an in-email quiz for its Valentine’s Day email to recommend its TV programmes:

US-based consultant TrendyMinds used a trial-and-error game in-email to unlock a hyperlink to its article on email accessibility:

Email testing solution provider Email on Acid demonstrated a word combination puzzle game in-email which, when solved, offers a reward example in-email.

Email developer, table tr td, showcased a take on the familiar Minesweeper game … because, well, it’s cool.

What are your thoughts? Have you spotted some nice examples of gamification in HTML email? Let us know in the comments.

Of course, games are not the only way to make HTML emails interactive. We’ve written about some other popular ones in our guides, so check those out too.

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Steve Hart

email developer, Profusion


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