Children of today know it quite well, what gift would make their birthday a hit, and it isn’t a toy or a doll like earlier. These days toys have been replaced by a tablet – not a sleek new iPad or a hand-me-down Samsung, but one specifically designed and marketed for little ones. It should even come with a colorful and attractive protective casing loaded with kids’ applications and games. That’s exactly what these app and tab makers and companies that create children’s entertainment hope for.

These children are a growing group of consumers for whom traditional children’s toys and games are not enough. In the United States, the percentage of kids ages 8 and under using mobile devices has almost doubled in the past two years, according to a report by San Francisco nonprofit Common Sense Media.

Children are also spending more time on these devices – 15 minutes a day on an average last year, up from five minutes in 2011. Meanwhile, kids’ use of traditional screen-based entertainment, as in televisions, video games and computers, has declined, the group said. That’s the reason Jim Mitchell started Fuhu Inc., an El Segundo, Calif., company that makes tablets for consumers ages 3 to 14.

With a rise in the style of playing online and social gaming, it is becoming a new customer engagement tool for businesses looking to set apart their products and services, in order to enhance their customer’s know-how. A growing segment of businesses are introducing arcade-style games for mobile devices to better engage customers and educate them about their products and services.

“Gamification in retail is turning typical retail customer behavior, purchasing, visiting a web site or store, or signing up for a newsletter, into elements of a game where customers receive tangible or symbolic rewards for their participation in this game,” said Scott Silverman, Co-Founder and VP of Marketing for Ifeelgoods, a virtual goods solution provider. “I would expect that at least half of all national retailers will consciously employ gamification strategies in the next two to three years”, writes

Here are three tips on how to utilize social gaming in a business’ marketing efforts:

Connect with these spenders – By targeting digital games to online communities who show interest for similar products.

Make them play games- Tie discounts to actual game play. Gamers will play digital games just for the fun of it. They will also play a game when there is an economic incentive tied to it.

Create brand ambassadors-Online gamers will view an endorsement of your game by a blogging gamer with much more weight than your direct marketing.

The benefit of this customer engagement trend is that businesses can achieve performance expectations and outcomes by incorporating social gaming practices into some business channels. The end outcome of applying social gaming technologies should be visual benchmarks of accomplishment of business goals. Businesses that incorporate capable user experience blueprint, psychology, public dynamics, and enterprise architecture will capture the largest premiums with customer loyalty.