“Gamification is ultimately not about buzzwords and mechanics, but better and more meaningful experiences.”

– Esteban Contreras Social Media Manager at Samsung USA

Games and gamification… For many it can sound a little bit childish, but major enterprises do love gamification as much as users love games.

With the retention and engagement crises rise, the retail industry is looking for a remedy. Customer experience has become an important factor for success in the retailing. Gamification appears to be a go-to tactic to enhance sales, brand awareness, and customer loyalty.

According to Mordor Intelligence, the global gamification market was valued at $5.5 billion in 2018, and it is estimated to witness a CAGR of 30.31% over the 2019-2024, while the retail segment holds the largest share in the market.

As the gamification concept emerged, various major companies started to implement gamification techniques into their businesses. Among them are Adobe, NBC, eBay, Walgreens Oracle, Cisco, etc. Gamification has become a key element in the consumerization strategies of these companies.

Why Gamification?

Gamification, which envisages the process of incorporating gaming mechanics into non-gaming contexts in order to affect customer behavior, has been here for many years,  just to mention -loyalty programs, flash sales, or progression bars.

Danny Maco about gamification
Danny Maco, former general manager of University Games, said to MobileCast Media

But why it is so powerful? People are naturally competitive, we can be easily motivated by different rewards, whether they are physical or monetary, or bragging rights. Therefore gamification, playing on humans’ competitive streaks, is able to empower businesses to motivate both customers and employees. Regarding customers, gamification-powered technologies can form a smiling community, which will bolster engagement and communication, thereby providing retailers with insights about customer sentiment and perspectives. Contributing to cooperation between staff members, gamification can also enhance overall productivity, and hence improve in-strore experience.

According to a survey of Boston Retail Partners, 87% of retailers will implement gamification methods in the next five years. Approximately half of retail companies regard incorporating loyalty programs into their practice as one of their top priorities.

Examples of Successful Retail Gamification


NBCUniversal, a USA mass media conglomerate, applied gamification techniques in its Psych Vision mobile app, which allows users access behind-the-scenes videos, play a trivia-like games, as well as communicate with other fans per chat, while watching a show. With gamification-driven technologies implemented, NBC experienced a 30% grow in site traffic, a 40% increase in viewership as well as a 47% growth online merchandise sales.

Victoria’s Secret

The PINK Nation app by Victoria’s Secret, an American manufacturer of women’s lingerie, is a great example of using gamification in the e-commerce. By using Victoria’s Secret app, users are engaged in playing different games and unlocking badges by browsing brand catalogues. Users are offered an opportunity to win different prizes, such as tickets to a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, create fashion looks and vote for the best ones. This gamification solution enhanced the frequency of web site visits built a deeper customer engagement, while gaining insights into customer data.

The PINK Nation app by Victoria's Secret
The PINK Nation app by Victoria’s Secret


A global commerce company eBay is one of the earliest companies that applied gamification techniques in its core business. To make selling and buying experience more entertaining, eBay implements in its website a competitive bidding system, buyer-seller feedback, and a  rating approach. The competitive rush is the key factor in the eBay’s marketing strategy. With its effective bidding system, the eBay’s users are challenged to achieve a «level up», outbidding their opponents. Additionally, a colored star rating system, based on positive feedback, motivates users to further participation and engagement with eBay’s products.


Nike China, in cooperation with Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai, introduced a three-minute game, based on virtual reality (VR) technologies, giving that gives Nike customers an opportunity to test Nike’s Epic React shoes on running track in stores. In a virtual world, called Reactland, users, when trying on the shoes, can jump on clouds and come across frogs and pandas. Furthermore, Nike also allows users to share their game experience on social media platforms. Implementing gamification and VR solutions, Nike has significantly boosted consumer engagement with its brand.


The Home Shopping Network, HSN, a TV shopping channel, also has been taking advantage of gamification since 2011. HSN Arcade, an e-commerce channel that applies gamification by connecting a variety of products with different games, in July 2017 attracted 700,000 shoppers by implementing gamification. HSN added to its mobile app a slot-machine game, Spin to Win, attracting users and having them to spend more time within the brand’s environment.

Gamification Techniques

The desire for competition, status, and achievement are the main drivers in gamification. Relying on them, gamification actively uses various stimuli, including the following:

1.    Rewards

One of the efficient techniques solutions in retail gamification programs is rewards. With prizes provided for accomplished tasks, customers get a dopamine hit when receiving a reward. Such rewards can include badges, points, levels, special discounts, account credits, free gifts or free shipping.

2.    Progress Bars

Introducing a progress bar into a business gives another opportunity to generate customers’ engagement, and as a result gain their loyalty to the brand. As human’s brain can not outstand incomplete things, especially that dangling in front of A a progress bar serving as progress indicator,which stimulates people to keep working toward completing tasks.

3.    Challenges

Challenges are also an important tool in gamified applications. Being a powerful motive, it allows retailers to encourage their customers to take the expected action. The challenge setup is usually tailored-made and directs the customers depending on the context, which helps you to define where you want your customer to go and how you want them to get there.

4.    In-game Currency

The desire of material benefits is a major factor, influencing our behavior. In-game or virtual currency added to gamification applications can shape users behavior as well as increase their retention and engagement. In addition, a virtual world, where in-game currency has a significant role, encourages its users to cash out in the real one.

5.    Virtual Environment

Creating a virtual environment or adding virtual elements to a gamified application can highly benefit retailers in capitalizing on users’ engagement. Applying virtual environment, retailers can drive purchase, providing an online experience online that customers will return to time after time.

Developing a gamified Mobile Apps

The concept of gamification has proved to be extremely effective in mobile apps context. Gamification enables a mobile app to be «sticky», for users, encouraging users to spend more time with a gamified app thus generating returns. Such applications also offer retailers valuable data about customers preferences and behavior in real time, helping therefore retail companies to better target the needed audience.

Gamification in-store


Today, the tech industry advances at a rapid pace, revolutionizing many industries. Virtual and augmented realities are now one of the most promising in the of the retail segments with such giants such as IKEA and Lowe’s starting to play in this field.

Virtual reality (VR) is artificially created environment that is designed to simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual environment. Alternatively, While augmented reality (AR) with its use of visual elements, sounds or other sensory stimuli represents and enhances version of the real world.

AR and VR-powered technologies can enhance retail shopping by making customer experience more engaging and customized. For instance, in shopping surrounding AR can improve the changing room experience, offering customers an opportunity to view an outfit from different angles.

IKEA has already released a trial application that shows owners how the room will look when buying a piece of furniture from the IKEA catalogue.

AR-powered application by IKEA
AR-powered application by IKEA

In-store Games

Another powerful application of gamification is the introduction of games at shopping venues. Implementation of in-store games can increase the time spent in a store, generate more new and returning customers, promote brand awareness, as well as accelerate customer acquisition. As an example Toys «R» Us has developed a game for its stores, where shoppers, especially children, have to scan a QR code at different shopping levels. As they collect enough QR codes, they are able to redeem them for an online voucher.


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