Retail gamification: how to engage customers and boost loyalty
written by Giles Corbett
Blog7th October 2019
When activities or processes are infused with game-like features, we are more likely to complete them – and more likely to enjoy the experience.
Gamification turns everyday activities into adventures. Mundane tasks become quests to complete a sequence.
Elements of gamification appear in everything from discount codes and loyalty programs to weight-loss apps and social networks.
Even LinkedIn, the stuffiest of the social networks, encourages you to embellish your profile with a ‘map’ of your progress, as well as suggestions for tasks that would help you ‘complete’ your profile. Inverted commas there because LinkedIn’s idea of complete is quite different to mine.
Clearly, gamification is a useful way to get people engaged, in a way that they enjoy.
But what does gamification have to do with your stores?
How can retail gamification give people new reasons to enter your stores, and help you build stronger relationships with your customers?
In this article we’re going to look at the benefits of gamification, how it works in practice, and how you can leverage the power of retail gamification to enhance your stores.
First, let’s quickly cover the benefits.
The benefits of gamification are widely known and understood. But applying these principles to retail environments slightly less well known.
Advantages of using gamification to engage shoppers:
Could gamification turn a humdrum task into a pleasurable process? With gamification, customers know they will be rewarded for playing, which instantly incentivises them to take part.
Games are fun. They create positive feelings and a sense that your brand cares enough to go beyond the basics. The game itself can also connect to your brand values, and tell a story that’s meaningful for your brand. Your brand becomes more distinctive and memorable, rather than just another company in a crowded field.
Games create emotional moments. They encourage people to adopt a persona and play a part in a grand scheme – and your brand is the games master. By offering surprises, delights, rewards and satisfaction, your brand can foster stronger connections with your customers.
With so many loyalty schemes and points cards available, shoppers often need encouragement to start a new program, and to interact with those they’ve already joined. Gamification can encourage customers to re-engage with your scheme, and also nudge people to make better use of the program.
Games give you opportunities to create shareable experiences. Your most loyal fans, in particular, may share their progress, rewards or content on social media. How can you get people talking? And sharing?
Give customers a game to play and they’ll spend more time in your stores. As well as giving that customer more time to consider a purchase, their presence also provides social proof that your stores are vibrant and popular.
Trying to get more customers to complete a process? Gamification can help by making the experience enjoyable and the goal desirable.
Understanding the component of gamification can help you consider how and where this approach might find a home in your retail operations. While gamification has hundreds of elements (often overlapping) there are a few core components that we’ll touch on briefly here.
The four pillars of retail gamification:
What’s the point? Ultimately that’s the question you need to answer. The story behind your game might be something epic, like a quest to save the world, or something more prosaic, like a mission to get a free coffee.
Whether it’s a big story or a little idea, your gamified experience should invite customers to position themselves as characters in your story. You build the world, devise the plot and define the rules. The customer is invited to insert themselves into the world of your story.
At their heart, most stories are built around a problem. This is sometimes called an ‘inciting incident’ that starts the hero on a quest. It’s an invitation to adventure, and the first thing you have to provide is a challenge. Customers need a problem to solve, a wrong to right, a dragon to slay – or a free coffee to secure.
Providing challenges gives your customers something to overcome, and a reason to play.
Having provided a challenge, you must give customers a way to take control and engineer a solution. This might mean taking control of a character, making decisions, or being given the tools to complete a task.
Without user control, you don’t have a game.
Rewards, badges, trophies and levelling-up are all good markers of progress. These are essential for rewarding customer’s engagement, and making the game feel worthwhile. While some customers will play a game for the sake of playing a game, many more will feel frustrated if your game does not provide a sense of achievement.
Now that we’ve explored what gamification is, the benefits it offers, and the elements of a successful gamified experience, we need to think about making this a reality in your store.
Here are four examples of how you could add a gamified experience to your bricks-and-mortar store.
Offer rewards for desired behaviours. Want customer to explore your entire store? Offer special offers or exclusives for finding a code hidden in a less-popular corner of your stores. Or you could give rewards for providing feedback, signing up for emails or registering for a loyalty club.
Instead of simply creating these programmes in the usual way, incorporate the language of games so that customers feel a desire to complete the task and achieve the goal. This might be through the design of the related collateral (emails, flyers, posters etc), or through the copy (storytelling, an invitation to adventure).
Use digital experiences to connect offline to online. Customers are increasingly blind to the border between offline and online retail. What they expect is a joined-up experience, with seamless links between digital and in-store interactions, whether through purchases, returns, browsing or bargain hunting.
You might use gamification to encourage customers to use a code printed on their receipt to access online offers – or vice versa. Online shoppers could be encouraged to return items to stores with the offer of a free gift in-store.
How can you make these experiences feel more like games? The key is to understand the elements of gamification so you can recognise when to include them, and how to design processes around them. This might mean using a points-based system to reward customers who take part, or by positioning the task as a quest that is exclusive to them.
Provide in-store gamified experiences. While many gamified experiences aren’t overtly games – and customers may not realise they are playing – you can also engage customers with more direct game experiences. Using in-store screens is an effective way to catch attention and encourage customers to pause and play. The games themselves can be customised to your brand, so they play, design and rewards all help to reinforce your brand value and messaging. This can be done subtly so that customers focus on playing the game and earning the rewards, all while absorbing discreet messages about your products.
How do you engage shoppers, gather data and build a stronger retail environment? Our playSpot interactive screens provide an arresting in-store addition. Once loaded with your custom branded game, you can give shoppers additional rewards when they visit, such as discount codes, exclusive offers and additional content (such as style guides, recipes, articles or information). This is easy to achieve with QR codes or on-screen content that can be simply snapped with the customer’s camera.
Want to know more about using gamification to enhance your stores?