Grow Financial Experiments with Gamification to Draw Consumers into Branches

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Grow Financial is trying a novel approach to lure passersby into its branches: an interactive video wall that plays a game with people outside, in which they can win cash.

The credit union's new location in Tampa features a virtual money machine that people use to "grab" cash, using gesture recognition technology. The credit union is using a mix of gaming and augmented reality, two new concepts to financial services that don't have a substantial track record yet have generated a lot of buzz as a way to make the financial experience more fun, and thus resonate with new and existing consumers.

Banks and other industries are starting to warm to the idea of using game elements as part of marketing, sales, education and training, a process that's called gamification. Games are popular, and there's evidence that gaming increase user retention and engagement.

At the same time, augmented reality is also catching on with early movers with as PNC, who see it as a way to make mobile searches for branches or ATMs more visual while positioning the institution as tech-savvy.

"We feel that utilizing this type of the newest technology will help to capture the attention of new generations, especially since we are in the midst of a digital revolution," says Adrienne Drew, a marketing specialist for the $1.8-billion asset Tampa-based credit union.

The screens were built by Inwindow Outdoor, a New York-based outdoor digital tech firm, and reside outside the branch. The screens incorporate gesture recognition technology, technology that tracks and recognizes body motions, which are replicated on a virtual mirror. As people walk by the interactive windows at the branch, the screens virtually push floating bills around, as if they were pushed by a breeze caused by the passing pedestrian. The users can select the start button, choose a virtual game, and play for prizes that include $25 toward a checking account, $100 toward an auto loan, or $300 toward a new home loan.

Upon the selection, the virtual money machine activates around the user's digital reflection, and during a 30-second countdown, the user waves his arms around and "grabs" and collects as many bills as he can. At the end of the game, users enter their email addresses and receive customized vouchers, a photo of themselves playing the game, and instructions outlined in the email to claim their prize at one of the credit union's 19 branches. At a recent demonstration, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckham and others raised about $3,000 for charity by playing the game.

While it sounds like something from an arcade, the credit union believes the game can not only attract attention, but also provide an additional channel to sign up new members and track the success of the credit union's marketing. "The money machine is engaging for our users, but it also allows us to determine a definable ROI [return on investment] because we can track how many players utilize their offer, or voucher," Drew says.

The credit union also recently launched new apps for iPad, iPhone and Android, and is also active on Facebook and Twitter. Drew is hopeful the virtual games will provide a venue in which these channels can interact with each other.

"The great thing about the virtual money machine is since the users do receive an email with their photo and voucher, we hope they will take that opportunity to upload their picture to their own social media sites and share though social media channels, as well as spread this opportunity via work of mouth," Drew says.

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