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Play to win, play to sell

For a sector that is laser-focused on finding innovative ways to connect with customers both in-store and online, gamification is relatively rare in Australian retail. And yet, you don’t have to look too far to see “gamified” marketing and events – retailers in Asia frequently entice consumers with games and competitions in exchange for exclusive rewards.

For example, model car brand Tomica created a pop-up zone in the centre court of Olympian City shopping centre in Kowloon, Hong Kong, inviting children to compete in various challenges to win limited-edition prizes.

And South Korean cosmetics brand Innisfree gave members of its new loyalty program three free turns at a “claw crane” machine filled with product samples while it was refreshing its Li Xing Shopping Plaza store in China.

Gamified retail is undoubtedly in its infancy Down Under, but will it ever really take off here? Are Australian consumers prepared to interact with these kinds of experiences?

Testing the water

While most retailers tend to stick with tried-and-true marketing initiatives to drive customers in-store or online, some businesses have already been testing gamification for years.

McDonald’s has seen significant success with its yearly Monopoly promotion, where customers receive Monopoly-style stickers that reveal prizes, including free meals. Even Coles’ Little Shop campaign could be considered an example of gamification, with customers encouraged to purchase items at the supermarket in order to receive the plastic collectibles.

IBISWorld industry analyst Liam Harrison believes gamification has existed in Australia for years in the form of rewards programs and random prize draw promotions, but this has largely gone unnoticed. But that may be beginning to change.

Earlier this month, online marketplace Catch launched Catch Live, a live-streaming shopping event that combines shopping, entertainment and gamification through collaborations with some of Australia’s biggest brands, such as Nintendo, Lego, Dyson, Apple and Google. The program drew thousands of viewers and every deal sold out, according to Catch.

“Our aim was to come up with a concept that combined the amazing deals that we are renowned for with an interactive, exciting and new way to shop,” Catch chief marketing officer Ryan Gracie tells IRW.

According to Gracie, the team at Catch wanted to find a new way to surprise and delight customers and tap into the popularity of social-media-based live streams. The concept of getting customers to play along with a live-streamed, gamified piece of entertainment was a perfect fit.

“Catch Live is about engagement; it’s about interacting with our customers, attracting new customers and offering them 10 minutes
of light-hearted fun and an element of exclusivity in that they need to RSVP to take part and win the games to score a great offer or prize,” Gracie says.

“Essentially, we want to offer our customers something exciting. [We’re] aware that our audience enjoys those moments of surprise
and those incredible offers that are too good to pass up,” Gracie says.

Rewarding the customer

The difference between the way retail has been gamified across the Asia-Pacific region is partly due to gaming culture, IBISWorld’s
Harrison said.

“Asia has been more receptive to games over the past decade, which has allowed for the expansion of gamification. Australia has
less of a gaming culture than Asia right now, so gamification is more difficult to grow,” Harrison says.

In the past decade, however, Australia has seen a significant rise in the popularity of video games, with the Interactive Games and
Entertainment Association estimating 93 per cent of households currently contain at least one device capable of playing a video game.

“The rise of video game culture suggests that Australians are likely to be responsive to more obvious forms of gamification, and international research suggests that gamification can have significant positive effects on sales,” Harrison says.

However, Harrison also points out that there has been little research done on the effects of gamification in Australia, making it
difficult to gauge its domestic effectiveness.

“Gambling mechanics are popular in retail gamification as they allow for consumer interaction, however the mechanics also put the
odds in the retailer’s favour, minimising the possibility of losses as a result of the promotion.”

He believes it is crucial that businesses that choose to integrate gamification do so in a way that serves both themselves and
their customers.

“Gamification in Australia should be simple and used as a means to enhance or alter an experience, rather than replace it,”
Harrison says.

“The interactive element also needs to reward customers in some meaningful way; a game without sufficient reward can
cause consumers to feel cheated, and have the opposite of the intended effect.”

Know your demographics

The Australian retailers that have embraced gamification all have one thing in common: they have made the games optional for customers to participate in, rather than an obligatory hurdle to negotiate before they can buy their goods. Forcing gamified experiences on customers who just aren’t interested will only serve to frustrate them and risks driving them away.

As with any activation, retailers should take care to tailor their offering to the demographic they’re targeting. According to Harrison, younger audiences typically prefer to interact with gamification through a mobile app or a website, while older demographics are more responsive to games with physical elements.

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