Simon J. Blanchard, Mike Palazzolo
Gamification (incorporating game design elements in non-game contexts) has gained significant attention in marketing. While previous research has primarily focused on short-term effects and customer acquisition, this study explores the discontinuation of gamification in financial services and how it affects previously incentivized behaviors. We leverage a dataset from a prominent Latin American bank that once introduced a reward module in its mobile app. The module incentivized behaviors through game elements such as prize wheels, raffles, and points. Unexpectedly, the reward module was temporarily stopped due to a government shutdown, providing a natural experiment to measure the causal relationship between the reward module's features and user behaviors. Using age-period-cohort models to identify the causal effect of the shutdown, we find that the reward module incentivized desired behaviors, but these behaviors declined after the discontinuation. Furthermore, different cohorts demonstrated the importance of maintenance for sustained effects, particularly in transactional activities (bill payments and loan repayments). We also find that both cash rewards and module engagement played distinct roles in influencing user behavior. Finally, we examine the impact of reward module outcomes on engagement, highlighting the effectiveness of different game-design elements. This study provides implications for the design and implementation of gamification strategies.