Marketing experts and business consultants has been referred to the importance of gamification in different businesses for a long time. But what exactly does this mean? How does gamification affect the customer experience? Does it really increase sales rates, and help to forge a closer relationship with previously less loyal customers?

In this article we present the features of gamification, illustrate the operation of gamification introducing a few practical examples and answer the question as to whether the now so popular gamification is just a bubble or it has a real, tangible benefit to retail businesses.

What is gamification?

Gamification means applying the conceptual framework of playing a game to an environment, which due to its nature is not a game.

Loyalty system is such a solution. The more loyalty points a customer collects, the more attractive offers he/she can get.

E- learning systems also often use the tool of gamification to encourage learners to complete tasks. They usually give badges, visually depict where the student is in the school curriculum, distribute titles and rankings to the users after the completion of a task. With all this, they can achieve that the learner is motivated to reach the next level.

But let’s look at an ordinary example known to everyone. Our parents could have begged for long hours to put on our shoes, as a kid we didn’t consider this a very fun thing to do. But if we were told that it was a race, who would pull up the shoes first, who would be the angel at the table, who would manage to count the wooden cubes first, then we were already drawn into it.

Gamification thus builds on a natural human instinct with its internal and external motivational tools that make it attractive to all people to compete, or to strive for performance and wholeness. It can also help customers become “players”.

The four pillars of gamification

Gamification’s toolkit offers many options, but it has four basic tools that we can build on in most cases. These are the following:

1. Story: the essence of gamification. The story behind gamification provides a framework for everything, be it an epic big story (like saving the world) or something much more prosaic (like a quest for a free coffee). No matter how deep the story is, you need to get the participants in the game to see themselves as characters in the tale.

2. Challenge: Ideally, the focus of a story is always on some problem to be solved. This problem forces the protagonist to take part in some rehearsal or challenge, embark on an adventurous journey. So, the first thing to define is a challenge. Solving a problem can be separating the bad from the good, fighting with a dragon, or even getting a free coffee.

3. Control: Once we have the story and the problem, we need to give the player control to solve the puzzle. Control can be an influence over a character or a decision, but it can also be achieved by providing the tools needed to solve a task.

4. Reward: The object of the game is to achieve the reward, of which there are many types, progress between badges, trophies, points, levels. These are essential for the long-term involvement of the player. Of course, many people play because playing is good in itself, but others are quite frustrating if the result is not followed by a reward.

How to introduce gamification in retail?

Now that we have learned the principles of gamification, let’s see how it can be present in retail.

1. Reward Programs – Let’s say our goal is for our customers to walk around the entire store. In this case, we can hide a code at a point in the store that, if the customer finds it, he/she can get special discounts. We can also give extra products or useful gifts to our customers if they evaluate our service’s quality, sign up for our newsletter or join to our loyalty program. In the case of gamification, we put all of this into a well-thought-out story to make customers feel like they are meeting a challenge where achieving a goal is followed by a reward.

Example - In Starbucks’ reward system, a stamp is placed on the customer’s loyalty card for every drink purchased. If this card is full, the next drink is free. Today, this loyalty card is in an application, but the stamps were originally kept on a small piece of paper. Of course, the app also shows how far we are from our next free coffee.

Starbuck's mobile application
Starbuck's paper-based loyalty card

2. Virtual game - A much more tangible solution is when an actual game enters the sales area or when customers are addressed through a virtual game.

Example - In one of its promotions GameStop has teamed up with Warner, Interactive Entertainment and Google Maps to place a monster in the game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Those players who successfully beat the monster had the chance to win $50 on a GameStop gift card.

3. True in- store experience - For a true in-store experience, screens installed in the stores that help engage the customers with the help of real games tailored to the brand. Customers while having fun playing, learns about the brand’s history, values, or just about the latest promotions.

Example - - Stride Rite, this children's shoe store chain wanted to encourage children to try on shoes in the store, so a real game was installed in the shops: children had to mimic certain dance moves in the tried-on shoes. During the game, customers, of course, collected points that could also be shared on social media interfaces. The action proved successful. Children spent much longer time in the store with their parents and this was also reflected in the sales figures.

Another excellent example is Nike’s Nike Reactland game made for their shoe called React . During the game, the potential buyer tries on the shoes, in which he/she has to cover a short distance on a treadmill, while his/her digital character also follows his/her every move on the screen. During the game, the customer could virtually climb buildings and run through more and more exciting streets and squares. 48% of the players bought the tried-on shoes.

Nike Reactland game installed in a Nike store

The above described examples show well that there are many forms of gamification and it is an extremely popular tool in the hands of retail business owners to achieve customer engagement and motivation. At the same time, we can read much less about how gamification can be implemented to motivate employees, despite we already know that employee and customer experience go hand in hand.

When the aim of gamification is to motivate the employees

A motivated worker is a straight path to more satisfied customers. Achieving this is not so complicated, as all the tools and knowledge are already at our disposal: gamification can also be used to motivate employees. We can reward them for their time spent working for us, a task completed, or a positive customer review. We can also motivateour employees with sales competitions. Let’s try to embed these competitions in a story and always show how an employee performs compared to the others. Add various virtual or real trophies and medals during such games. Let’s place your employees in a level system, where level 1 is the newcomer who has just joined, and level 100 is for the veteran salesman. Determine what each level means and how to move up. Create team challenges so that the community experience of the game also further motivates employees to achieve better results.

All of this can be achieved with simple tools, but there are also software solutions we can use. Assister is a unique system for retail store networks that spices traditional POS and logistics systems with a complete motivation package, so it is possible to motivate employees by using gamification tools in all sales activities.

Summary

In our short article, we have presented some practical applications of gamification, emphasizing that gamification cannot be present only through AR / VR systems running on giant displays. Have a good story with mission, purpose, rewards! Study the models that are already working and develop your own! Motivate your customers but pay attention to your employees too! You can do all this with traditional tools (even using a simple paper card) or take advantage of the wide range of digital solutions (e.g. systems like Assister). What is certain is that a well-implemented gamification, as the examples show, has clear benefits.

We, at Assister are constantly working to help the day-to-day operation of retail networks in several ways. We offer modern software solutions from small businesses to the largest. Our software family offers easy-to-use POS system with receipt and invoice printing, discount and customer management, logistics support, and reporting solutions to meet retail industry's needs. In addition, we also offer motivational solutions such as quota and commission management, sales competitions, career system and knowledge testing quiz functions. All this adapted to the expectations of our time with user-friendly interfaces and mobile platforms.