Gamification and Ecommerce


Whether you’re into video games or not, you cannot ignore the behemoth known as the video games industry. In last year alone, the gaming industry saw over $63 billion dollars in revenue, and trends suggest that there is nowhere to go but up for the future. Many non-gaming companies have already noticed the power of gaming and are using gaming experiences to build their brands. Hence, the term gamification was born. You don’t have to be a true video gamer to participate in gamification. There’s a good chance that you have played in a game constructed by one of the many brands you interact with.

To step back a bit, let’s define gamification. Gamification takes typical video game mechanics and applies them to user engagement. Theoretically, this strategy works because it plays towards human beings’ competitive drives and desire for rewards. Do you check in to restaurants and buildings on Foursquare to receive badges you can display across your social media channels? Do you rack up points at the local coffee shop in order to get a free latte? Do you submit posts to online forums for badges that come with hitting certain posting milestones? If you said yes to any of these things, gamification has touched your life. In a recent Gartner study, the firm projects that 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification some way in their business operations by 2015. Gamification is here to stay, and here are some approaches to using gamification for your ecommerce store.

Reward Your Customers for Using Your Services

One of the major traps of gamification is underestimating your audience. Just because you send a shiny, special thank you note to the customer for purchasing a certain number of items does not mean you will receive a net positive for your brand or customer interactions. Instead, you need to offer something tangible to your customers to get them to bite.

What you need to do is give out some sort of prize to inspire your customers. There are a number of different ways you can approach this. For instance, you can give your customers points whenever they complete a purchase on your site. Similar to how most role playing games work in the gaming industry, these points can be used to level up a customer’s account, with optional cosmetic milestones (i.e. titles, UI changes) along the way. After a customer hits a certain level, you can send out a prize. This prize doesn’t have to be something physical from your store; it can be something smaller, such as a coupon or small gift card code for a coffee shop or restaurant. You don’t want to overcomplicate your supply chain. Additionally, you can use graphs and images to display progress through a level. This is more of a psychological thing. As a person inches closer and closer to the next level, he or she will be compelled to purchase more goods from your store just to climb over the hump.

Social Media and Gamification

Social media channels are an excellent way to capitalize on the gamification trends seen across ecommerce. In fact, you can develop social media games to improve customer interactions. Depending on how much time and money you’re willing to put into games, these games can range from fully designed online experiences to simple image puzzles. For the former, the goal is to try to get people to share their high scores to their friends and followers. After all, people are naturally competitive and want to show how well they have done something. You’ve probably seen this already in the form of Candy Crush numbers and other social gaming scores on your feed. One example of an ecommerce site that ties branding and gaming together is the Home Shopping Network, which has a full suite of arcade games on its website, along with leaderboards and prizes that go to players. By allowing players to share their scores to their social media connections through branded, template messages, HSN’s name and site are exposed to these people. Ideally, some of these people will be intrigued by the games and enter HSN’s site to have their own brand engagement experiences.

If you don’t quite have the budget and manpower to develop a quality game, you can still use your creativity to draft something a lot simpler. For instance, M&M’s launched an eye-spy game for their social media followers in which players had to find a pretzel. There was no coding, game theory, or complexity involved in the making of this game—just some graphic design skill married with a game typically enjoyed by children. With over 25,000 likes, 6,000 shares, and 10,000 comments, this game was a success based on just how many people it reached.

Lastly, you can implement a points and prize system for people who curate your brand content across social media. The plan is simple. Every time someone retweets, submits a review, or shares a post of yours, you give that person a certain number of points. Later on, these points can be redeemed for a small prize such as a coupon or gift card. This can be a key social media buzz generator if you’re looking to launch a campaign or new product.

As people continue to submit and curate content, you can further engage them through an accomplishments system. A number of gaming services, such as Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, employ this because people like to be completionists. One example for an ecommerce accomplishment would be to submit 50 product reviews. If you do that, you earn the title of “Product Expert,” which you can wear around the your site’s forum. Additionally, if you purchase a certain number of goods from, say, a selection of candy products on your ecommerce site, you earn the badge of “Sweet Tooth.” These little things let people stand out and differentiate themselves during community or forum interactions.

Get People to Explore Your Site

One other way you can use gamification is to get people to explore your site content. In 2011, clothing company Bonobos held a scavenger hunt that encouraged people to scour the website to find a man wearing the store’s signature pants. The first 50 people who found the model were rewarded with a gift card that could be applied to a minimum $50 purchase. Having something like this makes people excited to view your site content. They will be on the prowl to win a nice prize and, as a result, be exposed to a wide range of your products. You can have the target appear at a set location or, if you have the coding skills, appear in a random area after a user has gone through a certain number of pages.


All in all, gamification is an effective tool to improve your brand and quality of customer interactions. Just keep in mind that you should offer a reward people can use or a symbol that allows them to stand out. Additionally, try to be objective-oriented, in that each move the customer makes builds upon previous ones, ultimately leading to a goal. Lastly, try to have fun playing and making your games. If you’re not enjoying a game on your site, chances are that the consumer isn’t going to either.

Published by

Joseph Yi

Since he was a freshman in college, Joseph has worked in several internet startup companies and has developed campaigns and digital strategies for Fortune 500 companies and brands including the Los Angeles Lakers, Manchester City FC, the Oakland Raiders, Sephora, and Whole Foods.

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