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99 Ranch Market uncarts beacon-powered WeChat game for shoppers

Chinese-American supermarket chain 99 Ranch Market is leveraging a beacon-powered mobile game that shoppers may play via the WeChat messaging application for a chance to win in-store prizes, proving that grocery stores are an ideal location for wide-scale beacon deployments.

The supermarket chain is joining forces with beacon provider Sensoro to roll out the mobile game, which is the first digital marketing case made in conjunction with WeChat in North America. The strategy will likely work well in resonating positively with 99 Ranch Market’s customers, as WeChat maintains a massive fan base of Chinese users.

“By participating in the ‘shake’ game powered by Sensoro, customers could have the chance to get coupons from 99 Ranch Market which helps improve their shopping experience and is quite attractive to them,” said Jessie Li, public relations manager at Sensoro, Seattle. “So in this game, customers can get benefits, while the increasing number of customers is also good news for 99 Ranch Market.”

Different approach
The grocery chain and Sensoro are employing a different approach to leveraging beacon technology. While many supermarkets are tapping it to provide shoppers with in-store product maps and discount offers, the Chinese-American brand is taking its mobile strategy one step further by using gamification.

The WeChat App Shake Shake game launched on August 14 in 99 Ranch Market storefronts in Washington state. Shoppers have the ability to play the game through August 27 for a chance to receive digital coupons and complimentary gifts.

The companies selected WeChat as the communication channel of choice due to the plethora of Chinese consumers who use the app, which currently boasts 600 million users. The app’s “Shake” feature is considered a top marketing tool for beacon technology.

To play the game, shoppers must first download the WeChat app onto their smartphones and enable the Bluetooth function. Next, they should tap the “Discover” tab and press the “Shake” button until the word “Nearby” is displayed on the screen.

Consumers must then shake their device until the in-game audio ceases, and a small 99 Ranch Market link appears on the bottom half of the screen. Users may click the pop-up window that the supermarket sends to their phone to find out whether they have won a prize.

The likelihood of winning increases with the amount of times a shopper shakes his or her phone.

“As beacon-powered gamification is widely applied in China now and we get great feedbacks from all the cases (including 99 Ranch Market), we are confident that beacon-powered gamification in supermarkets will become a top mobile marketing strategy in the near future,” Ms. Li said.

Significant results
The game was able to reach 1,700 participants on the first day, proving that beacon-enabled mobile games have potency among supermarket shoppers. The campaign proves that 99 Ranch Market has a deep understanding of its customers’ mobile habits and usage, which is imperative when crafting an industry-first tactic.

When a user opens WeChat on his or her device, a proximity icon will appear on the screen if he or she is near a beacon. If the consumer shakes the phone, a mobile coupon will be delivered, which prevents notifications being sent directly to the shopper’s smartphone.

Consumers may use the feature in any location inside the store. The game also does not have a limitation for shaking frequency, meaning everyone has an infinite amount of chances to win a coupon.

Several other chains have cottoned on to the spreading adoption of beacon technology.

Regional grocer Niemann Foods’ County Market division has rolled out beacons to all of its 44 stores after initial tests proved positive, with a 15 to 20 percent engagement growth week-over-week and hundreds of new daily mobile application downloads (see story).

“Attracted by the poster that shows everyone may have a chance to get a $100 coupon if they try the game, customers are very curious in the beginning,” Ms. Li said. “Customers find it easily operable and are happy to have a try.

“When one customer got a coupon yesterday, he said it was funny and he would tell his friends to have a try.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York