How Retailers Are Successfully Using Game Mechanics

If you read this blog regularly you know we’re not about the expired marketing conventions of yesteryear. We believe in fresh tactics that break barriers and give you a jump on the competition.  That’s why we got Lior Levin to write the following post about how brands use gamification to get their customers addicted.  Lior Levin is a marketing consultant for a neon sign store that provides various custom neon signs, and for a Master Security Studies program at the Tel Aviv University. 

Advertisers have known for some time that effectively integrating game mechanics into a marketing campaign can be extremely effective. Perhaps the best known game-based marketing campaign in the United States is McDonald’s Monopoly game, but with the expansion of mobile technology and online social gaming, the possibilities for brands to access customers through games are expanding rapidly.

JetBlue collects check in data and retail and restaurant reviews through the GateGuru app, awarding points to the person with the most check-ins and reviews. FourSquare tracks check-ins from a variety of locations, offering titles to those with the most check-ins for a particular place. Brands such as Nike and H&M have linked their retail operations with virtual games.

As Tim Chang, principal at Norwest Venture Partners recently told Advertising Age, “Basically game mechanics are a way to get consumers addicted to things. They keep people engaged to keep doing things, as opposed to what goes viral quick: You click, you watch and then never see it again.”

This integration of online games into marketing, or the gamification of marketing, is rapidly changing how brands reach customers—especially for the game-friendly female demographics of 18-34 and 35-44 year-olds. Here are some key emerging trends amongst the brands that use gamification to market their businesses and get consumers addicted:

Keep Gamification Marketing Social

According to a Saatchi & Saatchi study, “Respondents were most interested in multiplayer gaming and trivia challenges.” This means that the brand itself may not be powerful enough to attract and hold the attention of customers. The game itself has to provide challenges that lead to a real sense of accomplishment, or at least integrate a social aspect into the game. While there is nothing all that challenging about Facebook’s Farmville, the social aspect of the game has contributed to its popularity among users.

Focus on the Game Itself for Gamification Marketing

Clothing retailer Bonobos employed an ideal use of gamification in a campaign where models wearing Bonobos pants were hidden throughout a series of websites. Customers had to search through the pictures and the first 50 people to report on the images each day earned a $25 credit for Bonobos along with free shipping. Though the rewards were great, the game itself was appealing and immersive for those interested in the Bonobos brand.

In a Mashable article, Richard Mumby, vice president of marketing for Bonobos, added:

“The key to making gaming work within our ecommerce experience is focusing on making it social, not making it commercial (in terms of focusing solely focusing on sales). Your fans and follows are looking to interact with you, not to passively take in your content.”

Advertisers Fit Into the User Experience

Advertising through gamification does not mean slapping banners throughout games. Rather, the brand engagement needs to link up with the user experience in a natural way—exposing customers to a brand in the midst of the game rather than interrupting the game to advertise.

For example, Advertising Age mentions Zynga, the company behind Farmville, has partnered with Green Giant Frozen Vegetables. Even better yet, Zynga has also expanded the Farmville experience through campaigns at 7Eleven that link the Farmville brand to products at a store without necessarily adding anything to the game experience itself. Users of the game still have the game online without too many extra ads and experience an extension of the game at a local convenience store.

Translate Points and Badges Into Tangible Benefits

While points and titles provide one kind of incentive for gamification marketing, there are many brands using those status markets as ways to convey benefits to customers as real discounts and promotions. This provides a double incentive for customers.

Online clothing company BlueFly partnered with Badgeville to effectively use games on its website to keep customers more engaged. BlueFly rewards customers for “watching videos, reading blog posts, writing reviews or creating wishlists… The more badges earned, and the higher quality, the better chance the Bluefly shopper will have at unlocking tangible rewards in the form of early access to products, badge-holder specials and discounts.”

As customers tire of the same old ads and marketing moves to online mediums providing greater control and tracking mechanisms, social gamification and other online gaming campaigns will prove valuable for brands willing to explore fresh, fun ways to keep their customers engaged with their products.

About the author: Entrepreneur with ten years of experience running a digital marketing agency out of New York City. I work with startups and brands such as Virgin Airlines, L2 Inc (Gartner), American Express, Fabletics, LOFT, and more. When I’m not helping companies increase their audience and revenues, I love to travel, sail, and read. I also moonlight as a bartender at a classic cocktail bar.

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