Why Retailers Should Consider Gamification to Boost Engagement

Gamification for retail | Shopify Retail blog

Humans are naturally competitive. We’re hard-wired to want to win, and we’re motivated by reward, whether it’s monetary, physical, or simply bragging rights.

Gamification, which is the process of turning something into a game in order to motivate and encourage people, has been used for years in many different concepts. Here, we’ll look at gamification as it relates to retail, and why business owners — whether you run a brick-and-mortar or online store — should consider gamification to help boost sales and engagement.

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What Is Gamification?

Gamification is the application of typical game elements, such as points, rules, and competition, in non-game contexts. Often, gamification draws on our natural desires for socializing, learning, competition, mastery, achievement, status, and self-expression. Rewards can include points, badges, discounts, promotions, or the advancement of levels, as well as progress bars and earning a virtual currency.

Gamification can also include making certain tasks feel like games in order to motivate people. For example, if a mother simply asked her kids to clean up their toys, they might not be inclined to do so. However, if that mother turned the task into a game, such as seeing who could pick up the most toys the quickest, that becomes a game. The end result is the same, but completing the task becomes a lot more enjoyable.

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Gamification In Retail

Gamification might seem like something that would appeal more to kids and teens, but ask any adult who has downloaded Candy Crush on their phones, and they’ll likely tell you it’s addictive and fun. Gamification works in retail because it helps brands engage with their customers. Game mechanics also make shoppers believe that the more they shop, the more they stand to gain.

Gamification in retail, however, isn’t a new concept. Sure, nowadays, those games might involve smartphones, virtual reality, or augmented reality, but retailers have been playing into customers’ competitive streak for years. Loyalty programs and flash sales are examples of gamification, as are scratch cards, which creates a lottery-like feel by requiring customers to scratch a coupon to reveal their prize.

“Gamification is all around us,” Danny Maco, former general manager of University Games, told MobileCast Media. “Loyalty programs are a great example, which you can see everywhere, whether it’s at Safeway or flying on an airline; they all have game mechanics [such as] the progression bar — a mechanic associated with achievement.”

Gamification has the ability to drive new and returning customers to your store, while offering insights into how shoppers engage with your brand. In the next few sections, we’ll look at different examples of gamification in retail and why they work.

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Building A Rewards Program

People love being rewarded, whether it’s in points, discounts, or physical swag. Rewards are naturally part of retail because completing a purchase can already feel like a shopper is walking away with a prize. Build on customer engagement and brand loyalty by developing a tiered rewards program, where shoppers can perform certain actions to inch their way to a specific milestone.

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The simplest example is a stamp card, which is popular at coffee houses and other types of retail stores. A stamp card enables customers to receive a stamp with the purchase of a specific item during a store visit, and once the stamp card is full, receive their reward. These types of rewards can range from a free beverage to a percentage discount on their next purchase, and easily encourage customers to return frequently.

Retailers can create a branded version and print them out. Or, for the more digitally inclined, retailers can opt for a virtual stamp card like LoopyLoyalty or Stamp Me that allows customers to keep their card right on their smartphone.

Another style of a rewards program is by gaining loyalty points. Major retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Nordstroms, and Walmart all have loyalty programs that encourage shoppers to make purchases in order to earn points. Once a certain number of points have been earned, they can often be redeemed for discounts or virtual cash to spend at the store.

A reward might also come in the form of VIP status. For example, Gilt Groupe, an exclusive members-based online shopping site for clothing and accessories, launched Gilt Noir in 2009. Exclusive membership was only available to its most loyal customers based on past purchases, and those members were sent a member’s card and scented candle. With VIP status, they were also able to preview sales ahead of regular members. Even though they weren’t able to make purchases ahead of regular members, they get a sneak peek so they know what hot merchandise they might want from upcoming sales.. This VIP status felt exclusive and encouraged loyal shoppers to maintain their status.

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Building A Mobile Game

Pink-O, gamification for retail | Shopify Retail blogOwners of brick-and-more stores often feel like they can’t compete with ecommerce when it comes to attracting young, tech-savvy shoppers. According to KPMG, 87% of Millennials use more than two tech devices a day, which is why many retailers have started to use mobile gamification to engage with these customers.

In 2015, Texas-based gaming retailer GameStop created a promotional game called Monster Hunt, which was based on the video game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. They partnered with Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment and Google Maps to ask players to find monsters featured in the game for a chance to win one of 100 $50 GameStop gift cards. The game not only helped promote the release of The Witcher 3, but also leveraged Google’s Street View and GameStop’s social media channels, which offered clues.

Another example of mobile gamification comes from men’s apparel company Bonobos, which created an Easter egg-based game in relation to its social media campaigns. Shoppers were encouraged to visit Bonobo’s website daily and had to search the site to locate and click on specified images. The first 50 people who found images each day would receive a $50 gift card and free shipping.

If your company already has a mobile app, much like L Brands’ Pink Nation, you may want to consider offering in-app games. Pink Nation, which is a subsidiary of Victoria’s Secret, hosts Pink-O on its app. The game delivers exclusives, prizes, and other incentives to app users. Additionally, in 2014, Pink-O added an in-app scavenger hunt during spring break to target its mostly college-aged shoppers.

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Bringing Gamification In Store

Whether you own a brick-and-mortar shop or a primarily ecommerce business, you can create games to engage with customers as part of your store experience.

When it comes to online stores, placing a progression bar somewhere on your website so customers can see how close they are to completing their order or receiving their reward, is a type of gamification.

“By putting a progression bar there, people are able to get that feedback of — hey I just accomplished something and I can see real stimulus coming back to me that it’s being accomplished. There’s a certain sense of reward to see that you’re progressing,” said former University Games general manager Danny Maco during his interview with MobileCast Media.

To help drive online sales and convert existing in-store shoppers into online ones, Toys ‘R’ Us created an in-store game for parents and children where they scanned a QR code at various shopping levels. Once they collected enough QR codes, they could redeem them for an online voucher.

Shoe retailer Stride Aid also created an in-store game to encourage kids to try on shoes. Shoppers would select a shoe in the store, try them on, and mimic dance moves on screen as accurately as possible. At the end of each game, the child would receive a score, which they could share online. Not only did it increase the amount of time children and their parents spent in store, it also drove the sales conversion rate because shoppers would feel positively about the shoes they had tried on.

Advancements in tech have also created new gamification opportunities for retails. Augmented reality can heighten the changing room experience at clothing stores, enabling shoppers to see an outfit from different angles and in different lighting so they’re more confident in their purchase.

Virtual reality also provides experiential insights. In 2016, Ikea famously launched their virtual reality kitchen experience so that shoppers could experience all their finishings on custom kitchens before making the purchase. Augmented and virtual reality are most commonly associated with the video gaming world, but its integration into retail enables shoppers to gain new and unique in-store experiences like never before.

Creating a Gamified Retail Experience

When it comes to actually implementing games into your retail strategy, the prospect might feel a little daunting. But in addition to the methods we’ve mentioned above, there are a bevy of tools you can use to bring a little extra fun to the shopping experience.

Consider some of these ideas to get you started:

  • Exit intent games on your ecommerce site: Consider apps like Wheelio to boost engagement on your site. This exit intent solution creates an interactive pop up that generates leads for brands.
  • Add interactivity to email marketing: You’ve got a subscriber list — so use it! You can use a tool like GAMIFY to send digital scratch-off cards with promo codes for customers to increase clickthroughs and conversions.
  • Quizzes: No, you won’t find out what Disney princess you are, but your customers might love relevant quizzes on your ecommerce site. Fyrebox is an app that creates custom quizzes that could reward prospective customers, generate leads, or offer tailored product recommendations after answering a few questions.
  • Contest and giveaways: A good old-fashioned giveaway could be the ticket to help you get started with gamification. Whether you choose to run a contest through your social media channels or an in-store scavenger hunt, you have dozens of contest options to get your customers engaged.

Moving Forward With Retail Gamification

Gamification can deliver rewards for retailers, whether it’s increasing loyalty, engaging new customers, creating a fun shopping environment, or driving sales. Gamified shopping experiences can also allow retailers to track and gain insights into their customers, test new products and promotions, and keep overall customer experience high.