How Gamification Can Change the Retail Game This Festive Season

Updated on 30 September 2019

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How Gamification can change the retail game this festive season

Christmas 2018 was not festive for South African retail. What was supposed to be one of the most significant spending months, disappointed with a 1.4% fall in sales volume year-on-year. With experts hinting that we are on our way to a technical recession, retailers are already putting measures in place to recapture and lock in spend in a tough economic environment.

Experiential marketing and activations using Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Gamification have been around for years and have seen fantastic results abroad. With the reduced cost of hard and software and an increase in tech skillsets, South Africa is no less capable of introducing these types of experiences successfully.

In 2016, Pokémon GO showed once and for all what virality in gamification could look like. According to the company it had reached 800 million downloads by May 2018. Retailers joined in, paying to have Poke Stops or “lures” on-site to attract foot traffic.

Was the hype short-lived? Maybe. But what matters is that the company tapped into a part of the customers’ psyche that drove them to act and exhibit a pre-set desired behaviour i.e. influencing their purchasing decision in return for a reward. It also succeeded in appealing to its users’ sense of competition, fun and need for an escape from reality to the extent that it still has 60 million active players to date.

With Christmas around the corner, you could consider the ways you can up the experience for your prospective and existing customers

Why gamification?

It’s the use of certain elements prevalent in games, for example, stories, badges, quests and rewards, in applications that are not games. It can be used in experiential marketing campaigns to influence buying decisions and increase consumer engagement with a brand. The good news is that it can be used in almost any sector by itself or in conjunction with VR, AR and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Games unify people through the interaction of five important elements which can be used in gamification:
1. Competition
2. Collaboration
3. Community
4. Collecting

Gamification involves customers in a brand’s journey through play and gets them to act the way you want them to. It’s a long-term game though and it takes strategy and planning for gamification to become a project that integrates into the overall marketing strategy, instead of a standalone gimmick.

Some great examples:


When Nike released the ‘React’ shoe in 2018, it created a virtual environment called Reactland in Shanghai. Users could test the shoes’ sole cushioning technology on a “course” made up of treadmills, virtual buildings and simulated streets for running. Through the range of activities, they were able to test the durability of the shoes in a near-real environment.

The game hit the mark for consumer confidence in the product, leading to 48% of the players purchasing it.


The Magnum Pleasure Hunt sent customers on a treasure hunt across the internet, resulting in 7 000 000 players and an average of 5 minutes of engagement per user.


Lancôme and Alibaba teamed up to create an AR reality game app, along with a pop-up store, to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Through a scavenger hunt, consumers could scan the beauty product, Genifiques, match up three images and then have the opportunity of winning a product of their choice. The game successfully drove brand awareness through consumer-generated content and brought excitement during an important time of year in the region.

With Christmas around the corner, you could consider the ways you can up the experience for your prospective and existing customers, even in small ways.

Agencies need to bring new creative, immersive, unique and disruptive ideas to the table. Gamification is one of them. We can’t do the same thing and expect a different result this year.

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