As any adult who has downloaded Candy Crush or Angry Birds can attest, gaming isn’t just for kids anymore. And as any retailer can tell you, gamification strategies are a great way to get people to engage with your brand more holistically.
Online plays deliver rewards
If you're not familiar with the term, gamification uses 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.
“Gamification is all around us,” Danny Maco, former general manager of University Games, told MobileCast Media. “Loyalty programs are a great example; they all have game mechanics [such as] the progression bar—a mechanic associated with achievement.”
Many retailers are using the technique to drive engagement with their brands.
Gaming retailer GameStop—a natural for gamification if there ever was one—recently introduced an innovative desktop “Monster Hunt” promotion in partnership with Google Maps and Warner Brothers Interactive. The promo invited players to register at GameStop.com to hunt monsters on city streets around the world to win one of 100 $50 gift cards.
Bonobos gamified its social media campaigns as early as 2011, hiding models dressed in its khakis on partner sites and awarding the first 50 people to find the images each day with a $25 credit and free shipping.
Mastering mobile engagement
Gamification is proving particularly effective among mobile apps, where competition for share-of-screen is intense. Apps using game strategies that look like puzzles, slot machines, contests or scavenger hunts often prove irresistible to players.
L Brands’ Pink Nation, a subsidiary of Victoria’s Secret, offers in-app games such as Pink-O to deliver exclusives, prizes and other incentives. Last year during spring break season, Pink added an in-app scavenger hunt to target its college-aged core customers.
The Home Shopping Network (HSN)—a believer in gamification since its HSN Arcade helped the company register more than 700,000 shoppers—added an in-app slot-machine game, Spin to Win, in 2013 to target young, affluent shoppers with discounts and prizes.
“A lot of focus in our company is on the mobile experience—giving the customer a reason to check in with us in the morning, just like she would check the weather,” HSN CEO Mindy Grossman, told attendees of IRCE that year. “Everyone should be thinking about gamification.”
Sticking with customers
Gamification helps make apps “sticky,” getting users to spend longer periods of time with an app and encouraging them to return again and again. Some reward points for shoppers to collect (and often use them as an in-app currency).
And much like a classic video game, gamified apps employ goals, levels, achievements and leaderboards to appeal to people’s innate lust for competition. Making achievements visible on social media also helps bring out the competitive spirit in like-minded shoppers.
Not only can gamification drive one-time and repeat actions, it can also offer insights into customer preferences that can help retail marketers target customers better via mobile and other channels.
The Pink Nation app features another game that asks shoppers to choose whether they “want” or “need” items included in the day’s showcase products, asking users to make a Tinder-style swipe left or right to register interest. The result? Better curated content.
The apps and sites that distract best will rely on gamification more and more. “As design practices improve and organizations focus on defining clear business objectives, gamification will become an important means for organizations to engage audiences at a deeper level," Gartner says.