The Gamification Of Retail: How Mobile Apps, Virtual Reality, And Augmented Reality Have Turned Shopping Into A Game

Contributed By Dayana Cadet, Hubba, Inc.

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mobile apps… If you’ve noticed an upswing in headlines highlighting these terms, you’re not alone. I’ve noticed it too, and all of these technological trends seem to be pointing towards one simple fact: for consumers, the act of shopping has become a game.

It’s no longer a consumer’s wish to sit at their desktop computer and click through endless pages of products – today’s omnichannel consumer wants more. They can slip into a pair of VR glasses and find themselves standing in the middle of their dream kitchen. They can head into a fitting room and interact with a ‘magic mirror’ that uses AR to show them the clothing in different lighting, all while keeping track of what they’ll take or toss. They can download their favorite retailer’s mobile app, and swipe right or left to compare prices, shop, and earn points (and perks!) with every dollar they spend. Somewhere down the line, the average consumer’s life became a real-life video game right under our noses.

Gaming The System

Make no mistake – the gamification of retail isn’t an entirely new concept. For many years, retailers have leveraged the average person’s competitive streak by offering games as a means to deliver exclusive deals and other incentives. Whether it’s a seasonal campaign or an ongoing loyalty program, it’s all about accessing the reward system of consumers’ brains – that is, using ‘game mechanics’ as a means of convincing people that the more they shop, the more they stand to gain. From handing out scratch cards that reveal a discount towards their next purchase, to offering the chance to win a gift card as a reward for participating in a sponsored game, companies have been pulling out all the stops to make shopping as fun and competitive as possible. According to Danny Maco, former general manager of University Games, even something as simple as adding a progression bar to your online or mobile checkout process gamifies a consumer’s shopping experience, as it is something commonly associated with achievement, or accessing “the next level”.

For consumers, gamification might just mean “fun,” but for brands and retailers, it means collecting crucial customer data, while increasing engagement and conversion rates. “Fundamentally, gamification is taking techniques and the psychology behind games, and using it to get more people to do more stuff more often, and for longer periods of time,” explains Steve Sims, VP of Solutions and Design and Founder of the Behavior Lab at Badgeville. “It can help your sales people be more productive, or it can boost engagement for your social channel or loyalty program.”

Endless Choices For The Consumer Means Endless Opportunities For The Brand

Lately, retailers have been taking the gamification concept up a notch, by using experiential methods to make shopping a truly immersive experience. For consumers, VR and AR technologies have upgraded retail from feeling like they’re playing games, to feeling like they’re living in a game – transporting shoppers into another world without ever having to leave the store. One such example is how home retailer IKEA famously launched an initiative that allowed consumers to experience their custom-built kitchens before purchase using VR headsets.

Although these are big changes and will drastically affect how humans work in retail, there’s no question that, as this becomes the norm, shoppers are becoming much more engaged and invested in these brands. After all, someone who has personalized and built their kitchen from the ground up using VR is much less likely to be struck by a sudden case of buyer’s remorse.

The gamification of retail allows endless choices and personalization while eliminating customer service pain points. Ultimately, endless choices for the consumer mean endless opportunities for the company. Brick and mortar will always come with physical limitations that technology simply doesn’t account for. A warm, friendly, and educated staff is a must but – although we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one (digital) basket – there is a strong case for the gamification of retail as the consumer’s choice for where the industry is headed.

Dayana Cadet’s love affair with writing spans all manner of content. As the Content Specialist at Hubba, Inc., connecting people to the things they love is where she thrives. Follow her at @D_isforDayana.

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