The State of Gamification in Retail: How Brands Can Take Advantage

When creating an advertisement or a campaign, there is a clear number-one priority a brand needs to focus on: not just getting a consumer’s attention, but holding it. That can be difficult when the average consumer is bombarded with ads, but that is why brands are turning to interactivity to stand out amongst the clutter.

In fact, 88% of marketers say interactive content helps brands differentiate themselves, while interactive content generates 52.6% more involvement than static content. Consumers do not simply want to view ads, as traditional static shopping experiences are no longer the most captivating way to advertise to someone; rather, they want to engage with ads and develop a relationship with brands as they discover and purchase new products. That is where gamification comes in.

Gamification refers to the incorporation of game design elements and principles in non-gaming environments. It allows brands to create a game-like experience in a real-life setting, enhancing customer engagement and the overall shopping experience. For example, a grocery store may hand customers “scratch and save” cards at checkout, capturing customers’ attention through the thrill of winning free or discounted items that will guarantee their return to that store. Alternatively, it can be a built-in incentive to purchase through rewards programs that offer free products after purchasing a certain amount.

From punch cards at yogurt shops to Starbucks Rewards on their app, brands through the years have shown the effectiveness of gamification, and its applications are only evolving.


Using Technology to Enhance Gamified Experiences

As technology evolves, brands have the opportunity to truly take advantage of gamification, creating immersive and interactive experiences that significantly surpass those of the past. Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) have entered the mainstream, creating an opportunity for a stronger brand-customer relationship that fuels ongoing loyalty and engagement.

Fashion brand ASOS’ “virtual runway” is a prime example of this — allowing shoppers to see the clothes they wish to purchase modeled on the catwalk. Other clothing brands also are tapping into this technology, creating AR experiences where consumers can “try on” outfits, while retailers such as Amazon and IKEA have built-in AR features that show what a piece of furniture would look like in a customer’s home.

There is no more effective way for brands to create and maintain a relationship with a consumer than with technology that gets them invested in a brand and gamifies the purchasing experience for them. And as younger consumers’ buying power increases alongside demand for more engaging experiences, there has never been a better time for retailers to truly invest in gamified experiences that speak to today’s consumers.

Take Roblox for example, a popular video game with a player base that’s 75% under the age of 18. It is an ideal platform to test out brand activations, and several brands recently have. When players enter a virtual world created by a brand, they are actively engaging with them in their preferred arena. Such an experience is likely to resonate with them when they log off, and therefore they will purchase a product from that brand.

Combined gamification and technology allows for active consumption and interaction with brands, rather than passive. As more retailers and brands gamify the shopping journey, establishing a solid strategy will be crucial to seamlessly capture customers’ attention. Here are the top things that need to be considered:

Invest in the technical infrastructure.
Above all else, retailers must have a solid tech foundation in order to enable a gamified customer experience. Site crashes, lagging and glitching chip away at the online experience and disrupt what could have been a successful initiative. The proper infrastructure is key to ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Be authentic.
One of the risks of gamification is that a brand might go over the top and create something that, while engaging, is not true to the brand’s identity. Retailers should be sure that they are creating experiences that resonate with their target audience and are authentic to their persona.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Because today’s consumer skews younger, they are more likely to forgive and forget if a brand misses the mark as they create and test new gamified experiences. Even if a brand’s attempts to connect with these shoppers are seen as inauthentic or perhaps laughable, it can still create a memorable experience that gets users talking and keeps them coming back.

Focus on customer retention.
Some retailers may view gamification initiatives as a one-off, but it is important to fully integrate it into one’s brand strategy and constantly update and create new opportunities that keep customers engaged, giving them a reason to return.

Make it fun.
As gamification in retail continues to evolve, the experiences that will win customers’ attention are those that are engaging, memorable and fun. The more consumers enjoy an experience, the more likely they are to transition that enjoyment into purchase and subsequent engagement.

Retail represents the ultimate arena for gamification to engage customers in new and lucrative ways, driving higher customer acquisition and retention rates and brand exposure, if implemented correctly. By laying the technical and strategic foundation to create experiences that are compelling and authentic, retailers and brands can capitalize on this potential to dramatically elevate the customer experience.

Vanessa Mullin is a seasoned leader in the gaming, metaverse and social industry, with over nine years of experience in sales and business development. She is currently the Director of Games, Metaverse and Social at Agora, a platform that enables real-time engagement for any application or device. At Agora, Mullin connects great technology with great people, helping to bring their ideas to life. She leverages her skills in MEDDIC sales methodology, new business development, and communication to drive growth and innovation for Agora and its partners. She also co-chairs the VRARA’s Metaverse Committee and is a Women in Games Ambassador. Mullin was nominated as one of the Top 100 Women of the Future 2022 and is motivated by creating impactful and immersive experiences for users.

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