Gamification Header Image

How gamification is taking over retail

As the world becomes increasingly cluttered with distractions, brands need to work harder than ever to engage consumers. And what’s more engaging than playing a game? 

Gamification can be subtle, like rewarding loyalty scheme members for collecting points, or it can be obvious, like creating a video game to unveil a new fashion collection. 

We take a look at the retail players gamifying customer experience and discuss whether the trend is here to stay, or just a bit of fun.


A fun spin on PR

Educating customers about products and services lends itself well to gamification: it’s well known that people learn better through active participation, rather than simply reading the facts. But what if you approached corporate issues with the same level of playfulness? In the words of Mary Poppins, ‘Snap! The job’s a game’.

This seems to have been the thinking behind Klarna’s ‘Mythbuster Challenge’. The interactive challenge invites customers to discover the truth behind criticisms of Klarna, the Swedish buy-now, pay-later company that has been accused of tempting young shoppers into debt.

While on paper it sounds like an aggressive approach to tackling bad press, in reality the interactive game is an enjoyable and even relaxing experience, thanks to artist Ignasi Monreal who collaborated with Klarna on the project. The animation creates the feeling of soaring through fluffy clouds in a candyfloss-pink sky, with a calming soundtrack of ambient music and birdsong.

The off-beat tone feels unique to Klarna, like the mix of mythical and contemporary aesthetics and the ‘oh yeah’ message when you complete a challenge.

While the game is interesting in itself, Klarna knows consumers will be asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ and as such participants can enter a draw to win prizes, like a stay at Claridge’s. So, does it work? After completing the game, we can still remember some of the ‘myths’ – ‘Klarna is just for fashionistas’, ‘Klarna is a tyrant targeting the youth’ and ‘Klarna sounds like a period product’. 

While this is the first example of a brand using gamification to address criticism, we have seen plenty of games designed to educate customers – particularly from fashion retailers.

Playing with fashion

This month, Gucci launched an interactive experience on Roblox, the gaming platform that allows users to create their own games and interact with each other.

Gucci Garden is a limited edition game, live from 17 – 31 May, created to celebrate the brand’s centenary. The premise is simple – players wander through different spaces as a blank mannequin, which collects and wears a new item in each area of the game; each area represents a Gucci collection or perfume.

Gucci Garden
Gucci Garden – Virtual Experience

At the end of the game, players can see their unique mannequin displayed alongside those of other players. Roblox is also selling Gucci in-game merch that users can buy with tokens to dress up their avatars. 

We could go on about brands venturing into gaming (in fact, we looked at this topic in May 2020), from Nike’s House of Innovation AR-heavy stores to Balenciaga’s dystopian video game, After Tomorrow. But gamification doesn’t always mean creating literal games…

Gucci Garden – Virtual Experience

Gamifying the way we buy

In Asia, the fastest growing shopping platforms use gamification to create a unique customer experience. 

Pinadoudou is the second most popular shopping platform in China behind Alibaba. It’s a bit like Groupon; only instead of deals being contingent on a large number of buyers, Pinadoudou users can ask friends or connect with strangers to secure a deal; they can even get a better deal, depending on how many people they get onboard.

Shoppee, one of South East Asia’s leading e-commerce platforms, also turns finding deals into a game. By playing in-app games, Shoppee customers collect coins that can be turned into discounts. 

It’s a new way of shopping that goes against everything we often say about retail. Instead of helping customers find exactly what they’re looking for, quickly, Pinadoudou and Shoppee show customers things they might want in a social media-style feed.

It’s interesting that Pinadoudou is more popular in rural areas, suggesting that while city life still drives urgency, other demographics are open to a more leisurely approach to shopping.

Should all brands get their game on?

It’s not just customers who are being enticed with gamification. PepsiCo recently gamified its recruitment process. Graduates who downloaded the ‘Dare to do More’ app had to scan the QR codes of PepsiCo products to learn about them and win points.

Gamification might not always be appropriate though. Amazon recently faced criticism for gamifying productivity in its warehouses, with one critic saying it was a “thinly veiled approach to adding even more granular monitoring of what employees are achieving and, more importantly, not achieving”.

So, are there any other downsides to gamification? Like all trends, there’s the risk of over saturation. There will surely come a point when consumers will tire of collecting points, answering questions or navigating bandwidth-heavy websites just to buy what they want.

But for now, gamification seems like the smart choice. It taps into our need for entertainment and distraction, and creates a unique shopping experience that is truly engaging. 

Gamification doesn’t have to be high-tech either. It can be as simple as a quiz to help customers find their perfect lipstick in store, or video game sound effects every time the customer adds to their online basket; anything that keeps shoppers engaged until they reach that checkout.

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