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InsideFMM | August 3, 2015

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Social Gaming and The Future of Retail

Female Video Games - Social GamersSocial games have begun to influence consumer behavior and purchases. According to Saatchi & Saatchi, 66% of tablet owners play social games daily, and 46% of tablet gamers are women. In fact, the largest group of social gamers are women between the ages of 35 and 44, the second largest is 18 to 34. The third largest group is males.

Current economic conditions have driven brands and retailers to create a negative feedback loop with customers in terms of how we get them to open their wallets. Most consumers now only shop on the premise of discounts and deals. Why do you think flash sales site now dominate the market?

Gamification offers them a chance to change this and start to build consumer-purchasing habits that aren’t built upon continual discounts or free stuff.

A brief history of gaming and retail

In 2008, DKNY was one of the first retailers to experiment with social games with their foothold in Stardoll. In 2010, PopSugar created a grown-up version of Stardoll and named their release Retail Therapy.

The online game made a strong debut, featuring popular brands such as Banana Republic, Barneys New York, Diane von Furstenberg, Gap, Juicy Couture, Topshop and Tory Burch. Retail Therapy’s release showed that social games aren’t just for tweens and teens anymore.

Now, three years later, games continue to grow up. Brands and retailers alike have begun to experiment with different forms of online games, incorporating different principles of gamification into their promotions.

Here are seven examples of how companies are successfully leveraging game mechanics in consumer marketing.

Nike’s ‘Winter’s Angry’ Perseverance Campaign

Ending 2011 with a bang, Nike launched an interactive campaign to promote its winter wear. The interactive site has players assist the athlete in “beating the cold” through a series of actions that players can win prizes for completing. The games features world champion wideout Greg Jennings, U.S. women’s soccer player Alex Morgan and Olympic gold medalist sprinter Allyson Felix. The highest scores achieved between December 9th and 15th were eligible to win a trip for two to meet a world-class Nike athlete.

Norma Kamali’s 3D Movie

Earlier this year, fashion designer turned futurist Norma Kamali launched Norma Kamali 3D, a site that featured her first 3D movie and e-commerce shopping experience. What you may have not noticed was that there was actually a game within the movie. Viewers had to find six objects within the experience. I could only find four when I watched with my naked eye, so I”m guessing the other two must be on white and viewable only with the 3D glasses.

The first week of the site’s launch, over 20,000 fans requested a free pair of custom 3D viewing glasses in Kamali’s signature cat-eye shape through her Facebook page. “I am hoping that people see 3D not just as a source of entertainment, but as a shopping utility,” Kamali told FMM in an interview earlier this year. “In the future, we will be able to view, shop and play with fashion in 3D.”

ALDO’s Instagram Mood boards

For the launch of its fragrances collection, ALDO worked with Dynamo and ALLDAYEVERYDAY to create a Facebook game allowed customers to discover the color they were by choosing a series of Instagram photos that, once selected, were compiled into a mood board that they could post to their Facebook timeline. What makes this such a truly amazing campaign is that no retailer or brand has yet combined Instagram and Facebook in this manner.

In an interview, marketing director, Vyara Ndejuru, shared that the brand wanted to create a “visual experience for their customers” that would entice them to visit the new A is for ALDO microsite. “ALDO customers are accustomed to immersive experiences; Instagram and Flickr are huge drivers for them. By using Instagram in this manner, were able to curate a pool of images that were in line with our brand and relevant to our customer.”

When asked how the company selected the Instagram images they used, Ndejuru shared that through Instagram’s open API, they were able to select images based on keywords that were matched each fragrance and pull them into the game as long as they gave credit to the person who’d created the photo. In order to launch this campaign and build awareness amongst their fans and customers, ALDO promoted it on the homepage of its website with calls to action built into the microsite once the customers clicked. They then followed up with emails to their customer base in French and English along with Facebook promotion.

Bonobos’ E-Commerce Campaigns

This year, the online closet solution for men incorporated gamification into three of their social media campaigns. In their Easter Egg, NotCot collaboration and twitter #secretcode campaign, the retailer hid models dressed in their signature pants around and NotCouture. Site visitors had to search the site to find and click them. The first 50 people to find the pants everyday received a $25 Bonobos credit plus free shipping both ways. As a bonus, their social audiences were told to “keep an eye out for the special little guy in paisley pants who would give you a little something extra.” Those who found him received a special code that gave $100 off their purchase.

What makes unique is the way that they’re applying social engagement and gamification to engage a male customer base. “There is a new breed of male shopper online,” says David Fudge, head of social media for “While they may want to look great, they don’t necessarily want to talk about fashion. They want to know how it’s going to look in real life. Can they wear it to a tailgate party? We say ‘yes’…and also provide tips for having a great time at tailgate party.” Fudge says that when it comes to marketing to male consumers through games, marketers must “speak to their customers and audience like their one of your personal Facebook friends.”

Richard Mumby, vice president of marketing, added: “The key to making gaming work within our e-commerce experience is focusing on making it social, not making it commercial in terms of focusing solely focusing on sales. Your fans and follows are looking to interact with you, not to passively take in your content. Provide engaging posts and tweets that solicit a response. Allowing them to take action and become involved in something is the key to a very loyal and evangelical customer base.”


Gilt Group Noir Social Rewards

In his book, Gamification By Design, author Gabe Zichermann references Gilt Groupe, describing how the high-end flashGilt Noir VIP Customer Program sale retailer awards its top consumers with exclusive access to the site. Gilt launched Gilt Noir, a loyalty program for the top 1% of its online shoppers. The members received a scented candle and a member’s card as well as the ability to shop fifteen minutes before any sale happens. The total retail value of the physical gift is less than 30 dollars. Instead of offering discounts, they offered access, and in retail, we know that access and exclusivity go a long way with our consumers. Once they get it, they want to maintain it.

BlueFly and Badgeville

Earlier this year, BlueFly partnered with Badgeville to enhance Bluefly customers’ online shopping experience and encourage customer interactions via badges and leaderboards. Bluefly shoppers were rewarded with actions that took place on the site such as watching videos, creating wish lists, writing reviews and reading blog posts. As players earned higher badges, they received rewards such as early access to products and special deals and discounts.

Valentino’s 3D Museum

This month, luxury fashion house Valentino launched a virtual 3D museum. The virtual museum came as a downloadable desktop application for Macs and PCs. Viewers navigated through various galleries, clicking on over 300 virtual dresses and pulling up original sketches, advertising campaigns, 5,000 archival images and nearly 95 fashion show videos. In some cases, dresses could be rotated in 3D.

The virtual museum had more than 10,000 downloads in its first day of being live. While the digital event lacked a fluid experience for viewers, it did accomplish the Valentino’s goal of continuing his legacy. “I see it as part of my legacy…I am happy that thousands of students, young designers and fashion people will be able to see and study my work in every aspect of it, and in a manner easy and accessible for the younger generations. But it is also important to remember things of the past, to review the fashion that has shaped our lives. I would call it ‘Future Memory.’”

Best Buy & CityVille

Zynga says more than 230 million active users plays its games. Web Media Brands Inc.’s App Data service says more than 71 million Facebook users play CityVille. This year, Best Buy is the first virtual branded retail store in CityVille. In the CityVille game, players build houses and roads to create a city, seeking to collect points they can use to unlock new game features. Players can place other businesses in their games, but they have generic names, like bakery or toy store. The more prosperous the city is, the more points the player earns. Players who specifically add a “Best Buy” to their virtual world have signified that they specifically want the brand to be present in their life.

HSN Arcade

Similar to BlueFly’s goals, online and television retailer HSN launched the HSN Arcade to get customers to spend more time on When it launched, the HSN Arcade featured 25 videogames that consumers could play for free while they watched a live stream on HSN’s television channel. The games enabled consumers to post their score to their Facebook streams as well. HSN’s integration of shopping, social networking and gaming are largely driven by the retailer’s focus on engaging female consumers online according to Internet Retailer.

Starbucks’ Angry Birds Retail Partnership

Starbucks is a great example of a retailer looking to digital to enhance their customers’ in-store experiences. From Foursquare mayor perks to its partnership with iTunes, the coffee giant is once again ramping up its in-store digital offerings. Most recently, they’ve started to offer free apps, book excerpts and maybe even TV shows and mobile games. Techflash also reports that looking to make use of its WiFi network and customers’ increasing use of digital devices. But can you imagine if your local Starbucks become the premiere place to challenge your friends to a game of Angry Birds?

Angry Birds’ game creator Rovio Entertainment is said to be working on alliances with Starbucks Corp. and other retailers to reach new customers and sell a wider range of products. “Rovio is expanding into new areas as the market for mobile and social-networking games intensifies,” Wibe Wagemans, a senior vice president at the Espoo said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Rovio, which offers merchandise on its website, already sells 1 million stuffed animals a month. Using geolocation as a bridge between online and offline experiences, Wagemans feels that partnerships such as these will be extremely beneficial to retailers, “It’s tying in the real world with the virtual world. Retailers get new customers who’ve not been to their stores yet, and repeat customers.” While this may not be the best laid alliance in progress, it’s definitely worth watching.

Making a case for gamification and retail

“The desire to be connected is what drives a player’s, in this case shopper’s, location-based journey,” says Gabe Zichermann, author of Gamification By Design. As technologically savvy, social consumers, we solicit fashion advice via mobile apps like Pose and Fashism, we post images of things we want to buy to our Facebook page and let friends say yeah or nay. So when it comes to shopping, the next logical step is to add some competitive fun to it.

Basil Farano, the creator of Stylmee, the first 3D fashion app for iPad that recently launched in iTunes believes that retailers must try to make the experience as “real” as possible for players and include real, branded products as part of the game experience. “In Stylmee, the gaming experience is built around challenging our member’s knowledge and taste in fashion as they try to build a fashion boutique and empire,” Farano says. “We use the same problems that real boutique owners would face to challenge our member’s ‘fashion-ability.’ It is a very realistic experience, which is what we believe the social gaming community is hungry for.”

When brands and retailers reward players based on their success of the their actions with a game, “retailers can increase their perceived value to the player, aka shopper, through rewards that don’t tarnish their brand image” adds Farano.

By 2014, a recent Gartner report says that gamified services for consumer goods, marketing and retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon. It seems that social gaming, like social media, will become a critical success factor in nurturing customer relationships through play. What do you think?

Photos: Gilt Noir Loyalty Program, Bonobos/NotCot Campaign courtesy of


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