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Game on! Level up your customer experience

Kate Bolland, our RetailX marketing executive, has been with our business for a little over a year after graduating from Otago University and has been delving into the megatrends influencing retail and customer experience. In the article she explores the megatrend, gamification, who is using this to and how they are enhancing the relationship with their customers.


Gamification is the application of game features, predominantly with video game elements in a non-game setting. Who hasn’t brought an extra McFlurry at McDonald’s during their Monopoly campaign?

Over the past 50 years, technology, specifically video game technology has grown exponentially. From early beginnings with the classic, but rudimentary Space Invaders to the current highly sophisticated gaming platforms, widely accessible with life-like graphics.

Gaming and playing videos games can have an impact on the human brain and behaviour, including the release of dopamine, as well as impacting motivations, which can be extremely powerful. Video games are capable of disrupting and changing fundamental attitudes and beliefs, leading to significant long-term change (Bogost, 2007).

Gaming is a megatrend with an increasing market worth estimated at 176 billion US in revenue (newzoo, 2021). Gaming's exponential growth is built on the strong psychological impact on its participants. Gaming enables people to move against the logic of routine and enables play in adults.

Recognising the strength and impact of gaming many sectors have jumped on-board this bandwagon in hopes of increasing brand loyalty, reaching younger target groups, incentivising sales teams, attracting new customers… the list goes on.

The retail sector has so far not exploited the full potential of gamification – especially not in New Zealand. Overseas however, retailers have begun experimenting with integrating gamification into their marketing strategy. Here are some of the best examples of gamification used successfully by retailers.

Nike Reactland

Nike released a new React shoe alongside a real-time video game where users could test the shoe as a digital avatar – because to truly test a shoe you need to try it on right?

Reactland was installed in stores around China. Players would put on the React shoes, create their avatar then run on the treadmill through a fantasy land that represented attributes of the React shoe. Once completed as far as they could, Reactland players received a clip of themselves in the experiment which could be shared on social media.

This interactive experience resulted in 48% of players buying the shoes and transformed the traditionally boring product trial experience into something fun and engaging.

Kenzo League of Shopping

Photo credit: Merci-Michel

French retailer Kenzo employed a gamified e-shopping experience to promote the release of 100 exclusive pairs of limited-edition sneakers.

A limited number of players were invited to fight for their favourite pair of shoes in a real-time multiplayer system. Players were able to steal shoes from other’s carts before being able to purchase them.

This gamified e-shopping experience greatly increased the pool size of customers that could participate in the launch of the limited-edition sneakers – a great way to increase excitement and highlight the exclusivity.

Coco Game Center

Coco Chanel used elements of gamification in their innovative beauty pop-up arcade which has travelled through Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Named the Coco Game Center, this interactive pop-up created a unique customer experience by combining arcade games alongside Chanel’s beauty and cosmetic range.

There were a variety of games from racing to crane games and games of chance. Visitors could play these games and win exclusive Chanel gifts as well as explore the cosmetic range.

Coco Game Center was very Instagrammable, which made it super successful in growing brand engagement. Coco Game Center ultimately made a large range of potential buyers comfortable to touch and feel Chanel’s cosmetic and beauty products which is key in cosmetics. Adding an element of play and familiarity with these old school arcade games is a great way to make this luxury brand appear more approachable.

Starbuck’s Rewards

Photo credit: The Verge

Starbucks loyalty programme – ‘Starbucks Rewards’ is one of the most successful loyalty programmes with it accounting for just below 50% of revenue.

Starbucks Rewards has a personalised app that uses gamification techniques to increase customers engagement and retention.

Rewards members have the ability to earn points or stars when making a purchase, and can then redeem these points for prizes. When members have more stars, they move to a higher status and unlock exclusive rewards

The app personalises promotions to each customer, and sets challenges for users per week e.g, providing a free drink to customers who purchase a certain number of drinks.

This clever use of gamification incentivises brand engagement, gives customers a sense of achievement and positively reinforces customers to further engage and buy more coffees.

Burberry’s Animal Kingdom

Photo credit: Burberry

Another great example of an in-store gamification experience was Burberry’s partnership with Snapchat in the launch of a series of worldwide pop-ups to celebrate their signature bags and accessories.

Snapchat users were able to scan snapcodes embedded in the pop-ups and were transported to Burberry’s Animal Kingdom. Users could explore, see different animals and could tap on the toucans to unlock offers and rewards. In addition, users were able to create their own content which could then be shared on social media.

This reinforced Burberry’s innovative brand image and allows customers to have a positive seamless experience in both the online and offline world.


Across these in-store and online creative examples, there is one clear takeaway. Gamification can be extremely successful when there is a clear strategy and goal behind the implementation.

Nike created a fun and exciting experience for their customers to trial their new shoe which will result in greater brand preference. Kenzo grew their pool of customers that could participate in the launch increasing excitement and highlighting exclusivity. Chanel increased their potential buyers by appearing more approachable as well as increasing number of customers touching and feeling their product range. Starbucks positively reinforces customers purchasing behaviour and increases brand loyalty. Finally, Burberry reinforced their innovate brand image and provided a seamless experience between the online and offline worlds.

It is vital that brands are executing these initiatives with a long-term strategy, rather than wanting to jump on the bandwagon and achieve a short-term increase of foot traffic into a store.

Gaming can be a powerful aid, forging an emotional connection and developing brand loyalty. From integrating gamification in-store, to online on apps and the metaverse this is a great way improve the customer experience.

In the current climate with brick and mortar stores up against online retailers as well as the current pandemic, retailers must make use of this potential opportunity and create immersive environments beyond the physical limits of a store. I am looking forward to seeing what retailers globally, and in New Zealand do with this opportunity.


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