Crowdtwist raises $6M to take gamified loyalty big time

Crowdtwist, a New York startup I wrote about earlier this year, has been on a roll after being one of the stand-outs in the recent TechStars New York class. The start-up — which provides a gamified social loyalty program that allows companies to track and activate their loyalty engagement across social, mobile and online platforms — has been lining up customers like JCPenney (s jcp), Live Nation (s lyv) and Sony Music (s sne), whose Kelly Clarkson is the first artist to use Crowdtwist.

Now the company is announcing it has raised $6 million in Series A funding from SoftBank Capital, Fairhaven Capital, kbs+p Ventures, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments and several individual investors. The money will go toward building up the sales team and evolving Crowdtwist’s platform to meet a sharp rise in demand from customers, CEO and co-founder Irving Fain told me.

He said the appeal of Crowdtwist is that it provides an engagement tool that reaches consumers across a number of platforms, from a brand’s website, offline stores and email to Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter. Companies are able to track and reward their fans and consumers for all manner of activities, whether it’s tweeting out or emailing a message, making a purchase, visiting a brand site or engaging the brand in activities. Competitors provide plug-in gamification tools for websites to promote engagement, but they don’t do as good a job following all the activities of users on other platforms.

“It’s very hard for any brand to say who their supporters are and value those consumers when they’re spread across a broad ecosystem,” Fain said. “We’re tying that whole ecosystem into a single loyalty reward program that not only incentivizes behavior but also rewards that behavior.”

Crowdtwist said it has increased average time-on-site for its customers by 250 percent and average page views per visit by 450 percent. The company has also been able increase average purchase size by more than 30 percent.

One of the things I like is that Crowdtwist offers real-world rewards in its system, so users can work toward a tangible pay-off, not just badges or status. Crowdtwist’s new funding is another sign of the momentum in gamification. BigDoor, which raised $5 million last year, just bought OneTrueFan, while Bunchball raised $6.5 million in June. Badgeville, which has raised $15 million to date, just unveiled an ambitious plan to bring social networking and engagement tools to any website.

For brands, loyalty is the name of the game, and while brands have known that for a long time, as social and mobile usage expands they can track their success much more accurately. Loyalty is moving from rewarding purchases to recognizing all the different ways a consumer interacts with a brand. Crowdtwist has a good bead on this, trying to help companies see loyalty in a much broader way. And Crowdtwist’s progress is another sign that gamification has legs, and may do much more than just survive.