You’ve carefully curated your product offerings, you’ve built your brand, and now you’re working to grow your business. If you’re looking to increase your sales, build your brand awareness, and increase your customer loyalty, then consider introducing some gamification into your retail business strategy.
So, what is retail gamification exactly? RetailDive defines the practice as combining “elements of play and common game mechanics such as points, badges, and other incentives in nontraditional contexts in order to affect behavior. Done right, gamification is a subtle but fun way to get people engaged.”
Retailers can reward participation in these “games” with discounts, promotions, free, merchandise, or other prizes. Although it takes some time and effort to set up and execute a game, the benefits can certainly outweigh the cost.
And more retailers are paying close attention to this marketing tactic. According to one survey from Boston Retail Partners, almost nine out of 10 retailers (87%) will use gamification methods in the next five years. And nearly half of those (46%) pointed out that a loyalty program incorporating these elements is one of their top priorities.
Retail gamification can be used both online and at brick-and-mortar locations to drive customer engagement. Now, let’s take a look at some brands that have used retail gamification successfully to drive traffic, bolster engagement, and increase sales.
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eBay’s Bidding System
When eBay crashed onto the ecommerce market, they brought with it one of the most iconic versions of retail gamification. It’s hard to imagine a world without eBay, but we can’t forget that they were pioneers in the retail game. According to an article from Yu-Kai Chou, a renowned gamification and behavioral design expert: “If you were to just think of creating an ecommerce store, it’s not necessarily intuitive to have a competitive bidding system, real-time feedback, and stars for leveling up that eBay introduced.”
The thrill of placing a bid to “win” a product instead of just purchasing it has created an entire culture of outbidding other customers, snatching obscure items, and trying to find elusive, rare items for a steal.
eBay’s bidding system is an example of retail gamification that increases time spent on site, allows you to collect user information through account signups, and delivers an exciting interaction to your customers. The competitive nature of users bidding against one another drives more transactions and gives auction winners a serious high that keeps them coming back for more.
Consider integrating a bidding system into your ecommerce platform if you sell unique handmade items, rare collector’s pieces, vintage items, or anything that has limited stock.
Victoria’s Secret PINK Nation App
Photo Credit: Victoria’s Secret PINK
Lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret has a separate brand geared for their younger audience called PINK. Perfect for the millennial crowd, their PINK Nation app merges the classic ecommerce experience with fun games and contests.
Users of the app get an initial offer just for downloading the app, then they can quick play games where they find items for a chance to win prizes (including trips), download stickers to use in other mobile applications, and create unique looks with the merchandise and then vote on the best ones. Plus they can make purchases anytime, anywhere.
What can your retail business learn from the PINK Nation app? If a major percentage of your target demographic are young, tech-savvy customers, then consider developing a custom app with games, prizes, rewards, and special promotions to get them more engaged with the brand and to drive more sales.
Bonobos’ Scavenger Hunt
Photo Credit: Ya-Kai Chou
In 2011, the men’s apparel ecommerce site Bonobos launched a digital scavenger hunt on the NotCot and NotCouture sites. Ya-Kai Chou reports that “Visitors could search the site to locate and click on the images. The first 50 people that found the images each day would receive a $25 Bonobos credit plus free shipping. As an added bonus, visitors that were able to find a guy in paisley pants received a special code for $100 off their purchase.”
By reaching NotCot customers that may not know about the brand, Bonobos increased their brand recognition with their target demographic and was able to softly approach male customers that may not be comfortable with more direct marketing tactics.
Consider partnering with another marketplace or brand that you share an audient with for this kind of initiative if you’re looking to increase the reach of your brand and drive sales through special promotions.
Gilt Loyalty Program
Luxury, members-only ecommerce brand Gilt provides customers with a high-end, VIP shopping experience. The exclusive deals offered on the site encourage quick sales and decisiveness in their members. Gilt sales are time sensitive and use flash sales to move merchandise quickly. According to the Gilt site: “All sales take place only on www.gilt.com and our full collection of merchandise is always available at the start of the sale, so be sure to log on early.”
And the brand identity is all about offering a VIP experience, “Become a member and find something new every day for women, men, kids and home as well as exclusive local services and experiences and luxury travel.”
The flash sale site offers a tiered loyalty program based on points. And Gilt members accrue points via interacting with the site, referring friends, making purchases, and connecting with Gilt’s Facebook Timeline (the brand found shoppers made more purchases when connected this way).
Within this gamified luxury system, Gilt offers their Gilt Noir loyalty program – the top-tier elite of the VIP membership. According to Ya-Kai Chou, this status is offered to the top 1% of shoppers and gives them early access to these already-exclusive sales: “Though they cannot purchase items sooner that other Gilt members, their early access privilege allows them to survey the sale products 15 minutes ahead of time. This enables them to be aware of the more desirable products and strategize to beat the “competition” to the marquee items.”
This strategic advantage costs the retailer nothing, but rewards their most loyal members with an insider’s pass – that actually encourages even more sales. In order for your retail business to utilize this kind of gamification, you need to be offering customers a VIP experience with luxury offerings that your members are clamoring to get ahold of.
Photo Credit: Nike
Capitalizing on their target audience’s competitive nature, the NikeFuel program brings together runners, trainers, and athletes alike – over 18 million of them in fact. The idea behind the digital program is allowing users to post their best times, tracking their progress, and challenge friends and family to increase fitness and meet goals. And the rewards that Nike offers? How about early access to products and events, free shipping, customized workouts, and more.
A place for their enthusiastic community to come together and interact with the brand, the NikeFuel program also drives sales and engagement for the fitness brand. Plus members signup and provide the company with invaluable customer information, including which activities they use their products with – the best kind of information for further developing the app and the product line.
Is there an activity or passion that your target audience shares? Does this require the use of your retail product? If so, consider building a community around that with the help of an app, website, or in-person event.
Microsoft’s Mall Displays
Image Source: Capture Life Through the Lens
If you’ve walked through a mall or retail space recently with a Microsoft location, you’ve surely noticed the large crowd of enthusiastic customers around the store. The tech giant introduced large, interactive displays to most of their retail stores a few years back – complete with associates decked out in the iconic lime green color to answer questions for customers and get people excited about the product offerings.
By placing these displays in the mall itself, passersby are drawn into the excitement of the fun crowd competing in Microsoft’s newest games on their most signature consoles. Getting people to test the games and compete on the leaderboards is the first step to get them into the stores, asking about the products, and making a purchase. In the very least, they’ve increased their brand awareness to anyone intrigued by the fun, lively displays.
Moving Forward With Gamification
Hopefully these examples of retail gamification have got you thinking about how your business can benefit from the introduction of some fun and games.
About the Author
Lauren Ufford is a writer and editor with expertise in retail, ecommerce, and tech. Originally from the West Coast, Lauren spends her free time exploring Toronto with her two comically large dogs.
Have you used gamification to drive customer engagement? If so, tell us about it in the comments.
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