By Marko Luhtala
We all know how important the customer experience is. It’s what drives loyalty and sales, and ultimately gives businesses a way to avoid a race to the bottom on price.
In the retail environment, the customer experience is typically all about providing responsive service from staff, fast access to product information, and compelling offers, whether that’s on the web or in-store. However, it’s bricks-and-mortar stores that have typically led the way when it comes to engaging customers in a different way.
This in-store customer engagement isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s been around almost as long as shops have been selling. Anyone over the age of 30 will probably remember the magical scene in the film Big, which featured an in-store interactive floor piano that made sounds when Tom Hanks walked over the keys.
Bricks-and-mortar stores create these kind of interactive displays to enhance the customer experience. They are designed to bring the brand to life for the customer, and ensure they come back.
Take Harrods and its interactive windows for example. Tissot, the Swiss watchmaker, provides a
window that enables customers to ‘virtually’ try on watches. Customers simply put on a wristband and hold their hand up to the window to see what a selection of watches would look like on their wrist.
Ralph Lauren’s window at Harrods pushes exclusive content to nearby customers’ phones. Once they’re drawn in, customers can also tap their phone on mobile touch points to access more information.
So why isn’t this kind of interaction being applied to the online world?
The opportunity for gamification in the online retail experience
The answer is that if you search hard enough, examples like these can be found online. But in an age when internet shopping dominates, the online customer experience has moved away from magic and towards a focus on the fundamentals: a responsive website, compelling offers, good customer service, and fast and easy access to information.
Today, the savvy retailers are those bringing some of the magic back to the online experience by introducing gamification into their promotional strategies. By gamification, I don’t mean extravagant and complicated World-of-Warcraft-style games that take hours to play. I mean simple and quick promotions that immediately appeal and attract consumers and offer instant rewards, such as a discount code, a prize or special deal. Think of them more as “smart promotions”. For example, a scratch card on a product page offering a buy one get one free deal, or a ‘wheel of fortune’ at the checkout that gives a 10% if you spend more than £40.
And gamification works. Interaction rates for rich banner adverts are typically about 1.5%. However, we’ve seen that smart promotions can deliver an interaction rate 10 times this figure, with 30–50% of site visitors interacting with a smart promotion, resulting in 10¬–15% more sales. A recent RapidCampaign report, entitled Brands We Love Versus Brands We Buy, found that 50% of consumers will only make a purchase online when an offer or promotion is involved. Combine gamification with promotions and it’s a win-win situation.
Smart online promotions level the playing field
You might have noticed a common theme with the offline interactive retail experiences I highlighted earlier. Harrods, Tissot, Ralph Lauren; these are luxury brands, with cash to spend and to whom customer experience is especially important.
To create something like an augmented reality window display, you obviously need a significant budget. But with smart promotions, any retailer of any size, can add a bit of interactive magic to their site without busting their budget. Gamification of the online retailer experience has opened up the door for any retailer to build their brand, increase loyalty and avoid competing so heavily on price.