Close this search box.

GUEST COMMENT Using gamification to drive conversion in retail 

Image: Adobe Stock

Gamification can be used as a way to foster loyalty and provide a different element to their business. The coronavirus outbreak has seen people’s screen time dramatically increase, attracting interest in gamification to motivate people to engage by tapping into their competitive streak. Webloyalty’s recent Digital Choice: Applying Behavioural Economics to Online Conversion & Retention report however found that only 13% of the top 50 retailers use it as a tactic.

There is a common misunderstanding that gamification involves little more than sending people badges or notifications with positive messages and one too many emojis when they have completed certain tasks. It can be perceived as trivial but the behavioural economics and psychology behind how and why gamification works points to it being an incredibly useful tool for retailers – and based on our recent research as part of our Behavioural Economics in E-commerce report, an underutilised one. 

The definition of gamification is often debated, with some people insisting it can only work in a digital context, whilst others say it depends entirely upon design. A straightforward way of thinking about gamification is that it works when applying the principles of games or gaming to non-game concepts. There are some fantastic examples of this, seen across many different areas. We use game principles when we work out, using apps like Strava, or in our dating lives with swiping and ‘super-liking’ on Tinder, we even use game principles as part of the way we deal with our money, with automatic savings schemes on apps like Chip, Plum and Monzo. Despite these companies using similar gamification techniques, customers are drawn in by the ‘unique’ experience. 

Gamification looks to motivate people to engage by tapping into their competitive streak. The idea is to shift the consumer’s focus from how far they have had to come to get where they currently are, (ie you have spent enough money to earn you a certain number of points ) to how far they have to go before they reach the goal, (ie if you spend £50 more you will receive a reward). 

Online clothing giant Asos has used a points system as part of its loyalty scheme in the past, with customers being shown a running tally of the points they have collected by spending certain amounts, and being given money off vouchers once they’ve hit a certain spend. The tools of gamification speak to very natural human instincts, competition and curiosity, as well as triggering the reward and pleasure centre of the brain that is stimulated when human beings ‘win’. Everyone loves the feeling of winning because of the rush of dopamine that it triggers, which is one of the reasons gamification can be so successful in promoting loyalty and repeat custom. 

Following the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, people’s screen time has absolutely rocketed, no doubt bringing opportunities to capture people’s attention with gamification further to the fore. Recent reports show that web browsing is up 70% more than usual levels, and social media usage is up by over 60%. When you consider that normal recreational activities such as watching and playing sports, access to hobbies, shopping, eating out and seeing family and friends are off limits, it is not surprising that consumers looking to cure the boredom of lockdown are hungry for engaging content, and perhaps the aforementioned rush of dopamine. 

Gamification could provide an opportunity for brands to foster loyalty by providing something extra during these tricky times. An example of this is fashion brand Missguided, who through their app have been offering workout videos that can be completed at home. Alongside this they have also added a ‘Swipe to Hype’ feature which enables users to ‘swipe’ through products as though they are using a dating app. This gamification of how people browse makes the shopping experience all the more engaging for Missguided’s customers. Despite this, our recent report looking at behavioural economics in ecommerce amongst the top 50 retailers in the UK found that gamification is the most underutilised behavioural economics tactic that retailers have at their disposal, with only 13% of those top 50 businesses using it as a tool. This is a missed opportunity. Gamification can set retailers apart from their competition, as game theory suggests, the actions of one company can influence the actions of another, as all retailers are looking for new ways to draw customers in, especially in the current environment. Creating the draw of competition, alongside the buzz of a ‘win’ is a sure-fire way to help promote a loyal customer base that are keen to keep coming back and ‘reach the next level’.  

Ben Stirling is managing director of Webloyalty  

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on