Why Gamification is Important for Ecommerce: The Future of Retail

ECommerce and Gamification  

Online shopping is boring. And it has been for some time. The result often leads to a short duration time per user roughly equating to a two-minute session. In that time, it is incredibly difficult to capture, engage and convert a potential customer’s intent. The lack of retention continues to rise across the retail industry and the response is to now look toward advanced retail technology. In this article we are going to discuss the relationships between gamification with virtual shopping, focusing on what issues it addresses and how we can look at China’s approach to gamification to glam up our somewhat bland experiences. 

What to expect: 

  • What is gamification? 
  • Why is gamification in eCommerce important? 
  • What does gamification in China look like? 
  • How China’s approach to gamification achieves key business goals 
  • How can gamification be used to heighten virtual shopping experiences? 

What is gamification? 

Gamification is the use of game mechanics in non-game concepts. It takes the theory to engage and motivate users by introducing gaming mechanics to align with the learner’s goal. This can include the following: 

  • Progress bars – advance to the goal 
  • leaderboards – rank progress 
  • badges – show off accomplishments 
  • Avatars – personify the experience 

In an eCommerce setting, it is a method to increase user engagement and improve user experience on a website. By aligning the user’s goal with the businesses’ goal, it can create an entirely new experience that is both fun and valuable. For example, many retailers have already incorporated loyalty programmes that are accompanied by a points-based system to unlock discounts and bonus membership rewards. 

Why is gamification in eCommerce important? 

According to Boston Retail Partners, nine out of ten retailers are looking to apply gamification to engage with their customers. And what this means is as a retailer, if you are not applying gamification or innovative new ways to engage with customers you will run the risk of losing business altogether. In our previous article, redefining the customer experience with live video shopping, we discussed how customer experience has become pivotal for success in retailing. To enhance sales, brand awareness and customer loyalty, eCommerce retailers must take a broad overview of the user experience and place the customer at the heart of what they do.  

Gamification in eCommerce is incredibly important for utilising and stretching the user duration time to maximum effect. For example, in an average two-minute session it is very unlikely that the user will engage with any events on the page, such as signing up for a newsletter. However, if you incorporate gaming mechanics, the user can actively engage with the website to acquire a discount and subsequently use it at the checkout. 

What does gamification in China look like? 

China’s largest online shopping platform, Taobao are pioneers in gamification within eCommerce. And when compared to their Western counterparts, it is highly more immersive, exciting and fun. Demographically speaking, the gamification attracts audiences of all sizes but in particular, it is focused on Gen Z and younger millennials.  

In 2020, Taobao walked away from competitive gaming tactics and instead focused on a more wholesome, cooperative game called “pet cat raising”.  To summarise, every customer starts with their pet cat and is tasked to raise it. Customers can feed their pet cat with “meow coins” which are acquired by interacting with the Taobao platform. For example, customers complete tasks by viewing store pages, searching for specific products and inviting their friends. This accumulates a wealth of meow coins, conversions, engagement and more importantly, a happy cat. 

China certainty makes our way of shopping look mundane but at the same time addresses so many key pain points which typical Western eCommerce stores struggle with. Let’s check a few of them out. 

How China’s approach to gamification achieves key business goals 

  1. It increases revenue  

Using the meow coins as an example, it harnesses key functions of what makes the ultimate customer experience that businesses strive for. By encouraging users to make specific purchases, search products and engage with the platform it in turn drives more sales. 

  1. Broadens reach  

The sharing function to acquire meow coins essentially allows users to invite people, which for both parties involved is a win-win. Traditionally, if business wants to expand their customer base, mailing list or subscriptions they would offer the ‘invite a friend’ incentive, resulting in £5 discount.  Whilst there are some gaming mechanics involved by encouraging users to complete a task, it falls short. Meanwhile, gamification in China presents a far more immersive experience. But bear in mind, no one likes to be bombarded with invite requests. The word Farmville brings terror to historic Facebook users. 

  1. It improves user duration 

As we have already mentioned, user duration on eCommerce sites poses a big problem for retailers. By applying gamification metrics, it helps extend the duration and overall interaction on a page. In Taobao’s case, the task completing function allows businesses to encourage a more ‘controlled’ flow of how they want a customer to experience the platform. For example, by instructing them to go onto a specific product page.  

How can gamification be used to heighten virtual shopping experiences? 

Whilst there is a lot of excitement surrounding virtual shopping experiences with a focus on live video shopping. However, we must also enter the mind frame of how can businesses continue to innovate the practice, to ensure customer retainment doesn’t fall short and new customers can be easily acquired.  

Gaming mechanics inside virtual shopping experiences can enable shoppers to explore and interact with a brand like never before. If a similar approach was adopted in virtual shopping experiences retailers can ignite CRM with loyalty-based programmes. What makes it different is the continuation of task-based goals to fulfil the user’s goal and align with the overall business objective too. 

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