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It is "Game On" for the Gamification of Retail. Gamification is a way to influence customers' behavior to motivate them to purchase from you. Perhaps the most obvious example of getting involved with gamification is loyalty programs. Valentino on the high end via their 3D Virtual Museum to Nike, Bonabos and Norma Kamali, and others, are changing the way in how we communicate and approach our clients. Danny Schaffer is a loyalty marketing specialist who wrote "Retail Gamification 101 - What You Need To Know" on behalf of The Loyalty Box.  Shaffer writes, "As humans, we're all hard-wired to love winning. We want to achieve more than the next guy and be the best at whatever it is we're doing. Applying this psychology in the retail world can be beneficial. Gamification has become an increasingly popular marketing tactic in the retail industry to help drive engagement and action among shoppers. "Gamification is about integrating game mechanics into your customer experience" Read more >>. John Fell, of eMarketing Logic , discusses the philosophy behind the retailers he works with day to day. John says, "Offering customers an interactive contest such as a Super Bowl or March Madness pool brands the store's value proposition beyond the products and services it provides. The culture becomes a clubby type of atmosphere for their customers, reinforces the store's fun personality and reminds customers why they shop there.  As product is everywhere, this gives your store a way to maintain your connection with a relational customer as opposed to finding a way to connect to a valued customer. Also, sharing your contest on blogging and social media promotes your store's personality virally through your brand advocates."

According to Dan Jablons, Management One™ affiliate and partner at Retail Smart Guys, the danger of gamification is "it is critical to assess and understand your needs. In other words, does your business need a loyalty program to drive traffic in the door?

First, if you are looking at loyalty programs, you will take a hit on your margin, and secondly, you cannot exit from it without upsetting your customer base." He says the game has "to include the retailer and the customer being on the same side." Instead of, what can the customer get from you change it to what can we achieve by working together. "Examples would be a retailer wanted to get to 2,000 followers on Instagram and had a gift with purchase if you participated. Another is a joint cause marketing effort where the retailer and the client both win. The expectation is not a discount or the adversarial proposition that I buy this, and then you give me something."  As John Fell mentioned earlier, you are building a bond based on a relationship and not on price.

Dan highly endorses gamification on the employee side to influence behavior and motivate staff. It can create a fun work environment and sets direction. It can enhance staff engagement and distract staff from the non-productive conversation.

"Gamification does not have to be technology driven" adds Dan. There were games long before Candy Crush. For example, ask your vendor what they can do to get from being number three in my store to number two. They start thinking differently because they want to win that game. You can motivate by challenging the status quo. Another thought is to have a vendor sponsor a game, such as a sales contest.

There are dangers in technology. We mentioned the contest to get Instagram followers, and that is great as long as you have a message to share. That message has to be compelling and has to consistently reflect your strategy. Are you all about price or are you all about building bonds with your customers?

Technology can also lead to distractions. Ask yourself what are we trying to accomplish? Start with solving the problem or identifying the opportunity. Wanting to increase traffic is a good problem to solve. The first step is to measure your traffic, so you know how many customers are coming into the store every hour of every day. You cannot solve the problem until you measure it; otherwise it is guess work. One of my favorite stories is a client goes to one of her stores in the mall and asks the store manager why sales are down for the month. The manager replies (and I am not joking), "the security guard tells me the traffic in the mall is down."

Knowledge gives you the ability to make decisions and better manage your business. Keeping track of traffic allows you to gauge the success of your windows and lease line presentation. It also allows tracking the success of your staff conversions, and to see trends from day to day, week to week and month over month to enable better scheduling. It will also measure the success or failure from your social media and other marketing efforts. A traffic counter could change your business. That is not complicated technology.

This article started with gamification because I wanted to discuss the ongoing wave of technology being served up to retailers almost in a non-stop fashion and I ended with identifying one problem and a solution. It is easy to get caught in the latest hype. Our attention must be to remain focused on the information we need to have to make decisions. We should be making decisions on data based on facts and not circumstantial evidence or guesswork.

Consider what is fundamental and important to the growth of your business in the face of innovative technology. Games have their place, and we discussed some of those, but they are nothing more than a tactic that must be a part of the overall vision and strategy for your business. Know who you are and what you want your audience to see.

Onwards and upwards, Marc