Why should grocery retailers consider using gamification?

A recent survey confirmed that 41% of consumers like to win prizes and that 32% like to receive surprises from a brand (HelloWorld 2019 Loyalty Barometer Report). Therefore, using gamification as a technique to connect with shoppers should be a logical choice. To fully understand why it can be such an effective tool, it is worth considering the wider context of some of the challenges that grocery retailers face in today’s challenging market.

Increasing choice…

When it comes to grocery shopping, shoppers have more choice than ever before. With online retailers, discounters and convenience stores continuing to expand at pace, supermarkets and hypermarkets are seeing their market shares erode. Technology means that many shoppers turn to online reviews and communities for advice rather than direct to retailers or brands. Services such as Amazon Prime make almost unlimited choice, speedy delivery and the lowest prices a more than reasonable expectation. In such a market, traditional retailers have a tough time competing.

Although ‘the big weekly shop’ still dominates grocery retailing, it is increasingly shifting out of supermarkets and into discounters or online. This big trip is also being supplemented by smaller top-up trips and trips for food-on-the-go. Impromptu shopping in convenience stores is on the up, especially in cities.


…has created shopper apathy

This plethora of choice and the lack of an emotional connection between retailer and shopper has created a degree of indifference among shoppers: their choice of retailer is largely driven by inertia or habit – they shop at their closest store or the one with which the are most familiar. Indeed, a worrying number of shoppers wouldn’t really care if their regular store closed – they would simply switch their spend to an alternative without a second thought.

Shoppers are smart

Shoppers manage to exist in a complicated, often stressful, environment juggling the many facets of daily life. They are smart adults who often see through shallow offers and poor attempts to personalise the discounts that retailers offer them. They are suspicious that the retailers get more benefit out of accessing their shopping data than they themselves may receive in return. They don’t need to be talked down to or generalised in terms of out of date perceptions of needs or wants based on gender, age group or social background.


Technology isn’t always helpful

Technology opens up the opportunity to personalise communications or promotions but, in reality, that personalisation is often poorly applied and misses the mark. Retailers often send too many marketing emails that flood inboxes and risk being immediately deleted without a glance. Shoppers typically do not want to use multiple retailer Apps and retaining users once an App has been downloaded can be a challenge. Shoppers want fast download times and immediate answers to their questions and if digital media isn’t smooth, fast and intuitive, they will quickly disengage or jump ship to another brand.


Where is the reward?

Drowning in choice and marketing messages, shoppers are disloyal like never before.  Loyalty schemes that once rewarded you for your loyalty seem to offer less and less back. Billions of Euros’ worth of loyalty points sit unclaimed as they don’t seem to have quite the currency they might have once had. Shoppers are cautious of sharing their shopping and personal data if the rewards they get in return are not relevant and appealing enough.


As Bryan Roberts, Insights Director at TCC Global, notes: “The word ‘loyalty’ in retail is often synonymous with the distribution of millions of small plastic rectangles to a retailer’s shopper base. Loyalty cards can absolutely still be an effective way of creating a thread of loyalty between retailer and shopper, but it seems increasingly clear that they are losing a degree of efficacy in this regard.”

Service with a smile

Shoppers want the lowest price but still value good service. This poses a challenge for traditional retailers who have lower margins than ever and who need to keep their operating costs to a minimum. Poor product knowledge or a lack of emphasis on customer service do little to keep the fickle shopper loyal. Chatbots try and bridge the gap in e-commerce but these can clumsy and impersonal if not implemented well.


Gamification as a weapon

Gamification takes elements of gaming and emotional and psychological triggers as a way of building a connection with shoppers. Gamification can provide a hit of fun and a warmer connection with a retailer’s brand. Offering shoppers a no-strings-attached interaction where they can get instantly rewarded, is a way of breaking down barriers and opening up a dialogue, a tentative first date you might say.


Gamification counters apathy

If shoppers enjoy their gamification experience, many will come back for more. By making shopper rewards the first priority, it opens up the chance for a more meaningful relationship between the retailer and shopper. Shoppers can be encouraged to interact with a retailer’s many touchpoints, from social media to e-commerce sites to stores themselves. Given the right motivation, shoppers may choose willingly to share their preferences and shopping habits. Deals and promotions are more readily viewed by an opted-in, warmed up audience.


In a fast-changing and fickle retail landscape, shoppers who connect with a retailer via multiple channels are proven to be more loyal and to spend more. Gamification is therefore much more than a marketing gimmick. It is a way of cutting through shopper apathy and forging vital human connections with retailers and their brands.