Got Game? Retailers Play It Big with Gamification

Retail gamification

In the never-ending race for consumer attention, retail brands are adding games to their marketing strategies.

On a cloudy Tuesday in March, half a dozen passersby gathered at the windows of Ted Baker’s flagship clothing store in London’s Mayfair neighborhood.

“Hello, Nosey Neighbor!” a sign in the window reads, while a family of mannequins model the store’s spring 2017 campaign, “Keeping Up with the Bakers.” The Bakers are an archetypal suburban family who star in their own TedPix, which illustrates the drama that unfolds in their fictional lives.

Anyone walking past the storefront can find themselves captured by the display — quite literally. When someone presses a hand onto a hotspot on the window, a camera clicks, showing the shopper’s reflection with green beams zapping out of their eyes.

Selfies abound.

Marketers are turning to gaming to get consumers to pay attention when they aren’t in store, according to Rachel Mushahwar, general manager of Intel’s Industry Sales Group in the Americas.

“In all industries, we’re seeing brands using gameplay as a way to increase consumer brand involvement, interaction, intimacy and influence, which results in increased revenue,” she said.

In It to Win It

According to Retail Touchpoints, gamification in business is defined as using elements of game playing to drive consumer engagement and interaction with products.

Gamification can turn consumers into brand enthusiasts that will not only advertise for free — but also be loyal consumers, said Claudia Schindela, global head of gaming at Spreadshirt, an e-commerce platform focused on gaming merchandise.

“A well done, creative and easy-to-use gamification mechanic will attract press and influencers who will share it with their fanbases,” she said.

Joe Carella, assistant dean for executive education at the University of Arizona, also recognizes that gaming not only captivates loyal customers — it captures a coveted audience for many retailers: millennials.

“Millennials increasingly socialize and learn through games,” said Carella, who conducts university research on business leaders and disruptive strategies.

Woman with coffee.
Retailers like Starbucks use rewards to drive brand loyalty.

“Gamification adds an element of amusement, pleasure and accomplishment to what would otherwise be perceived as a chore,” said Carella.

In general, said Joe Jensen, worldwide vice president and general manager for Intel’s Retail Solutions Division, millennials want to influence what they buy and they expect highly personalized service and products.

Jensen also believes gaming can help reignite the spark with weary consumers.

Playing for Loyalty

Gamification has helped brands in many industries re-imagine the consumer experience, according to Intel’s Mushahwar, but the fun and games are nothing new.

Starbucks uses gamification every day,” she pointed out. Card users earn stars and rewards with every cup of coffee they buy. “Gamification drives loyalty. If you have the Starbucks app, you are playing.”

Nike also uses gamification by encouraging users to track their running distance, speed and time, and compare key metrics with those of their peers.

The NFL is partnering with Cirque du Soleil this fall for a live NFL experience in Times Square, complete with augmented reality game play.

Volkswagen gamified car buying with its racing car app. Image courtesy of VW.

Volkswagen’s Sports Car Challenge 2 app, which allows players to test drive the sports car of choice under the VW umbrella, prompted 25,000 dealership inquiries in the first 10 weeks, delivering 1 million free downloads.

“If you do great things around the brand, the halo effect is that you sell more stuff,” said Craig Smith, Ted Baker’s brand communications director.

As more consumer journeys get more game-like, consumers may be left wondering how to differentiate the retail experience from its mechanics.

For brands, the big question is: When do we let the games begin?

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