How Duane Reade, Whole Foods And Nike Tap Into Gamification


Following is Part 2 of the Retail TouchPoints series focused on Retail Wins In Gamification. This article will spotlight forward-thinking retailers that leverage game mechanics and strategies to enhance employee and consumer engagement. Part 3 of the feature will publish in the April 9 newsletter. Click here to view Part 1. 

Progressive retailers are investigating how gamification can play a role in their employee training processes and customer engagement strategies across channels. Among them, Duane Reade, Whole Foods, Nike and Sneakpeeq are tapping into different gamification strategies to boost loyalty, efficiency and the bottom line.

Duane Reade Builds Brand Awareness With Ingress

Duane Reade recently integrated with mobile application Ingress, which was developed by NianticLabs@Google. Ingress itself is a unique example of gamification in the realm of retail business. The app offers a storyline involving two factions, The Enlightened and Resistance, which are battling each other to control a recently discovered resource called Exotic Matter. Players choose a faction to join and compete against one another in teams to “control” territory.


In order to play Ingress, users must collect virtual resources at real-world brick-and-mortar locations. Duane Reade has placed Ingress logos in 250 stores, indicating to users that the area is available for play. Since the partnership, Duane Reade has seen a sharp increase in web presence. Players are collaborating with one another on social networks to solve puzzles from the hidden clues they discover in marked Ingress locations. As of March 2013, Duane Reade has been mentioned and/or shared more than 1,500 times.

“Customer engagement strategy via location-based gaming has elevated to new levels, and Duane Reade understands that,” said Calvin Peters, Public Relations and Online Manager at Duane Reade, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Strategically engaging gamification experiences, that utilize location-based gaming platforms, are becoming increasingly relevant as mobile concentration within the retail space continues to expand. It is important for us to be where our consumers are, including the virtual world.”

Whole Foods Market And ePrize Campaign Makes Healthy Living Fun

Whole Foods Market has taken a different approach to gamified mechanics to engage consumers. Rather than using gamification as the focus of a marketing campaign, the grocery retailer taps game mechanics to support and supplement the social media and mobile portions of a particular campaign.

In a recent game-infused promotion, Whole Foods partnered with ePrize to launch a Facebook-focused campaign, called “Give Your Friends The Bird,” in which consumers can enter to win $250 gift cards. Consumers were required to “like” the Whole Foods Facebook page in order to participate. By answering a series of quiz questions, players were able to opt into the contest up to 10 times per day.

More recently, Whole Foods rolled out the “14-Day Blast Off” campaign, which challenged consumers with a set of missions that focus on making healthy life choices such as getting daily exercise. Throughout the course of 14 days, badges were released as participants completed one mission of healthy living per day. The missions were designed to ease the players into healthy living with slow gains. For example, the program began by encouraging players to eat one more serving of vegetables a day, followed by adding fruit to the diet, then cooking with less oil, and so forth.

“The people going to Whole Foods and looking for organic food are there because they are looking for more ways to be healthy and live a healthy lifestyle,” said Sara Kowal, VP of Innovation at ePrize. “Instead of just putting information out there in an article or blog, the campaign allows you to create those missions and really make it more fun and engaging.”

Nike Engages Consumers With Nike+ Fuel Band

Nike currently is driving user performance with a program called Nike+, available via the Nike+ Fuel Band. The Nike+ Fuel Band is a digital wristband that monitors movement and activity through the NikeFuel application and uploads all information to an online database. The application also allows users to set goals, track progress and connect with other users through leaderboards and social media. It is touted as a competitive game that offers intrinsic rewards.

“Nike has designed Nike+ around making their players successful at achieving their goals,” explained Brian Burke, Research VP at Gartner. “Nike+ is not trying to sell you a pair of running shoes. That’s the incidental effect. The goal here is to make people successful at achieving their goals. To encourage them, motivate them to achieve their goal. When you do that, you build brand loyalty.”

sneakpeeq Sees Success With Gamification Model

In the past, the sneakpeeq e-Commerce site had trouble competing against the rising popularity of daily deal sites and was quickly becoming irrelevant to its casual customers, according to Neil Gandhi, Senior Software Engineer for the company. Recently however, sneakpeeq has reported tremendous growth since integrating game mechanics and methodologies into its business model, provided by Badgeville.

There are three primary actions available to users on sneakpeeq:

  • Share: Share a product on Facebook or Twitter;
  • Peeq: Check a product’s full retail price and special discount price; and
  • Love: Display and showcase favorite products on user profiles.

Since incorporating gamification into the e-Commerce shopping experience, sneakpeeq has seen a 70% month-over-month lift of “peeqs;” a 935% boost in loves; and a 590% increase in shares. “We’ve seen a 3000% lift in buy-clicks, which has translated into an 18% month over month growth rate,” Gandhi reported. “Gamification has played a huge role in this.”

sneakpeeq applies the usual mechanics, such as points, badges and leaderboards, but the eTailer also incorporates mystery and chance into the brand experience. There are surprise badges randomly scattered throughout the site, encouraging users to bounce from page to page and research new items. There also are products such as “Mystery Boxes,” which contain products of varying values.

“People come to sneakpeeq to discover cool new products and designers that they’ve never seen before,” Gandhi said. “We realized a couple of things: First, that a huge element of gaming is discovery. We also saw that, as with gaming, people shop for entertainment. Since we also were looking for a way to make the site more engaging, gamification naturally played into our site.”

Using Gamification To Increase Employee Engagement

Many retailers are recognizing gamification as a key way to drive recurring purchases and boost consumer loyalty. However, gamification also can be a valuable in helping retailers train staff. Because competent employees are the backbone of any successful company, some analysts suggest that retailers focus first on gamifying their workplaces before attempting a gamification initiative for consumers.

“The store managers and the people on the floor are the ones interacting with customers,” Kowal said. “You have to make sure there’s some educational material out there for the people in the front lines.”

Successful gamification strategies can help organizations educate employees, track sales progress and allow employees to have a more enjoyable work experience. Deloitte, for example, has been acknowledged for the Deloitte Leadership Academy, a digital executive training program that services workers from more than 150 companies worldwide. Deloitte also has gamified internal services within the company to better address employee concerns and performance.

“In a large community such as Deloitte, it is difficult to recognize people who want to do more,” said Aaron Patton, a manager with Deloitte Strategy & Operations Practice. “Using gamification, we can track our people, see what requisite training they’ve taken and how they’re performing. Document creation, proposals and community engagement through leaderboards have been immensely helpful.”

Part 3 of the Retail Wins In Gamification feature will appear in the April 9 newsletter.

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