Gamification rewards program is a buzz. But is it right for your apparel retail store?
My research says yes! But before we get to the findings of the research, let's understand what gamification is and how Nike is leveraging it in its business model.
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According to the Oxford Dictionary, gamification refers to the use of elements of game-playing in another activity. Consequently, in fashion retail, gamification would mean adding game mechanics in shopping.
As a fashion retailer, I'm sure you have a customer loyalty program in place to build your fort of a loyal base of customers. And a gamification rewards program or a gamified loyalty program is nothing but an extended version of a rewards/loyalty program—with a sprinkle of some gaming element.
Take Nike for example. The company revolutionized traditional product trials with gamification. At the launch of Nike React running shoes, Nike allowed its customers to test the shoe's new sole cushioning technology in a virtual environment called Reactland.
This immersive experience was installed in stores all around China. So, shoppers who were interested in buying the React shoes could try them on and experience their durability by virtually climbing buildings and running through streets.
Here's a detailed account of how Nike went about the Reactland gamification.
Shoppers would run on a treadmill and become the heroes of a game. Their avatars which they control would be running through a fantastical land. The attributes of the shoe (such as bouncy, soft, and light) would be represented throughout the run.
Taking the engagement a notch higher, these players were given a hand controller to jump where required even as they were running on the treadmill. The goal of every player was to go as far as possible in the game. The higher their level, the higher up were they in the leader board.
When they finished the game, players got a customized 10-second video of themselves running through Reactland to share with family and friends across social media.
While in this way, Nike nurtured customer engagement during the shopping journey, their bottom-line was also impacted positively. Of those who played the game, 48% bought the shoes.
Here are the two important takeaways for you from Nike's example:
- Not everyone who plays your game will purchase. But the experience surely will help you build an emotional connection. So, the next time the player thinks of purchasing, you would be the first choice.
- If it is possible, don't let those who play go home empty-handed. Give them an incentive—even if it is something as simple as a short video that they could share with their circle.
- Your incentive need not be expensive always. Shout out recognition and give away something that makes players remember your brand over time.
While there are many brands leveraging loyalty program gamification or some form of gamification experiences, I'm sure you are wondering if it is right for you.
And the only way to know is to ask your customers.
Yet, to give you some insights at this moment, I'm presenting a mini-survey that I ran with 87 participants. And the surprising result is that 75.9% of respondents prefer gamification while shopping for apparel.
The age groups of the respondents are as follows:
- 90.8% Millennials
- 8.1% Gen Xers
- 1.1% Baby Boomers
The majority of those surveyed are from India (86%). The remaining 14% of the respondents are spread across Armenia, Bulgaria, Germany, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.
Since the data is minimal for other countries, the inference of this study can only readily benefit apparel retailers in India.
Those who expressed interest in gamification were taken to the second phase of the survey to understand the types of rewards and gamification experiences they might like. The 24.1% of those who didn't like gamification strategies in their customer experience were let off.
On that note, let's see the trends among the 75.9% of the customer base.
1. Discounts are the most preferred type of rewards
We asked respondents to choose all forms of rewards that they preferred from the following:
- Free merchandise
- Free shipping
- Donation in the name of the shopper to the shopper's preferred cause or an NGO
In terms of cumulative preference, discount is the winner with 81.8%. It is followed by free merchandise at 47%, free shipping at 37.9%, and Good Samaritan activities at 25.8%.
While getting something for free is totally exciting, shoppers seem to hold two times the preference for discounts on their purchases. And as you could infer, a donation to an NGO is seen as the least attractive incentive. This tells us that a marketing strategy such as TOMS' One for One model might not be suitable for all businesses.
2. Scavenger hunt brings excitement to brick-and-mortar apparel shopping
I wanted to analyze people's sentiment and personal traits to suggest the forms of gamification elements that would best suit apparel retailers. Not one gamification strategy would satisfy all, but there had to be something that satisfied most of the loyal base, right?
And as you know, some shoppers might be shy, some outgoing, some relishing the spotlight, and some just enjoying the shopping experience. Accordingly, I laid forth the following three options and asked the respondents to choose all that they liked.
- Scavenger hunt (you get x% off when you buy the branded apparel set as the treasure)
- Fashion parade (try any clothing and do a catwalk. The best performer gets social media mentions and also gets x$ as an incentive to spend on the next purchase)
- Fashionista (first x customers to purchase a new arrival get x% off on their purchase)
Analyzing the responses I got, most shoppers just want an enriched shopping experience. And that's why 63.6% of responses have put scavenger hunt on top. 40.9% of responses show shoppers' interest in getting a discount for buying a new arrival.
It seems like not many of the shoppers like to bask in the spotlight—that has pushed Fashion Parades to be the least favorite of the competitive element with only 18.2% of responses endorsing it.
3. Quizzes pose a gamified and competitive streak in online apparel shopping
We definitely can't have the same gamification elements in-store and in the eCommerce shop. To understand what people prefer as an online game, I asked them to choose all that interests them from the following:
- Fashion video game (accrue points and unlock rewards on your shopping for leveling up in the video game)
- The designer (design stylish apparel, get featured on the brand’s social media page, and the top performer gets free merchandise on his/her birthday)
- Quiz (winner gets a gift card worth x$)
65.2% of the responses want apparel businesses to hold quizzes. Fashion online game is the next preferred choice with 54.5% of responses. And the second option isn't much attractive—as it calls for a creative bone and much effort to earn a prize that only 24.2% of responses are interested in such experiential rewards.
So, even as you plan an online game, keep it simple but competitive enough.
4. Gamified reward program can increase footfalls and eCommerce traffic
With customer loyalty program gamification, your business goal can sometimes be different from a customer's action. But if your goal is to improve footfall in retail, gamification is your best bet. This is so true considering the pandemic situation.
When I asked customers how they'd associate themselves with brands that fostered gamification in their digital loyalty program, 66.7% of the responses assured that they'd visit the store more often.
We could attribute this action to the fact that customers want better shopping experiences. And if only your brand or retail outlet can render that, it clearly explains why they'd visit you more.
Alternatively, 50% of other responses that I got, affirmed that they would buy more from those brands that had gamified rewards programs. This data is quite in synchronization with Nike's gamification where 48% purchased the React shoes after playing.
Even if all people don't buy from you after a gamification experience, still a tangible base of customers would do. And if people are more inclined to visit your shop more, it is all dependent on the quality of products and the customer service that would directly be proportional to converting a footfall into a sale. That's something you want to keep in your mind.
Finally, 34.8% of responses expressed their interest in referral marketing. That is a small segment but almost 20 to 50% of purchasing decisions depend on referrals.
5. People prefer shopping in-stores to online shopping
In 2020, during the pandemic, fashion online shopping was at its peak in all eCommerce transactions, in India. But during the same tenure, the brick-and-mortar stores experienced a terrific slump—84% year-on-year dip in sales in the month of May 2020.
So, during the pandemic, as per the records, people preferred online shopping to brick-and-mortar shopping. But the tables are turned this time of the year—July 2021. 60.9% of shoppers prefer shopping in-stores while 39.1% have opted for online shopping.
While one might argue that the volume of respondents is quite low, I think it still gives apparel brands in India a valuable insight.
The majority of the people want apparel retailers to bring in a gamification element to their shopping experience. If brands would be responsive, they are sure to drive footfalls to their brick-and-mortar retail stores and increase traffic to their online stores.
It is time to revise customer experience in apparel shopping. The brand that aces gamification in loyalty programs is all set to increase traffic, drive sales, grow its loyal customers and loyalty memberships.