The power of eCommerce Gamification
Shopping has evolved so much from traditional market exchanges. It completely transformed from acquiring of needed goods into a rich experience that integrates deeply into every single culture of civilizations that can afford to power such an activity. People shop for fun, and for many (ahem, me not included), shopping could still be an epic win after spending 3 hours in a mall without buying a single item. (In the rulebook for my game, if I am shopping for over an hour and I bought nothing, I felt that I have failed. No Win-State for me…)
As shopping went online, a lot of the fun, interactive, and social experiences of shopping disappeared. However, it opened up a whole new world of other fun and exciting activities that could make shopping even more addicting than ever – except this time within the comforts of my home, and I can achieve my win-states much more often.
There is where eCommerce Gamification comes in place. Awesomely, many eCommerce gamification examples out there have actively improved sales and conversions by double or even triple digits towards the right direction, and some helped eCommerce sites become $Billion businesses!
Below I present to you 10 stellar eCommerce Gamification examples that will revolutionize shopping.
1. eBay’s Competitive Bidding and Feedback System
When it comes to early good gamification, few can match eBay’s ability to bring out our Core Drives.
If you were to just think of creating an ecommerce store, it’s not necessarily intuitive to have a competitive bidding system, real-time feedback, and stars for leveling up that eBay introduced.
The power of eBay is that buying items on eBay isn’t just a “purchase” like most ecommerce sites (Core Drive: Ownership & Possession in Octalysis), but when you buy something on eBay, you felt that you WON! Even though you might have paid 10% more compared to what you initially wanted to pay, you felt that you beat the other bastards who were bidding against you, sealing your victory. This is enormously a good example of Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment.
Add that to trying to improve your seller’s %, getting more stars, improving feedback scores, and constantly checking back to see if you have gotten new bids or competition (Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience as well as Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity), finally leading to NOT wanting to lose the deal (Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance), no wonder everyone keeps saying, “eBay is so addicting!”
2. Woot.com Daily Deal System
The online retailer, Woot offers only one initial product per day in
limited quantities at a special sale price. A new product will be
offered only after the supply of the first product has been exhausted,
or by 12:00 AM Central Time. Each day people will wait for the next
product to be introduced, often at the midnight hour.
Since each product is limited and unknown beforehand, there are a
combination of factors which influence the site’s shoppers. They know
that the next item up can be desirable and yet limited in quantities.
They also know that they could be disappointed in the particular
product, and have no desire to acquire it. Thus, Woot’s users are
attracted by the motivation to find out what will be offered and how
“rare” they might perceive it to be.
Often times, when people log onto Woot.com at 4PM, they would see that amazing deal, but unfortunately sold out. After a few days, they feel a stronger desire to finally be able to get the deal. As a result, a bunch of people starts to go on Woot at 11:59PM, constantly refreshing their page, so they can immediately see the new deal, and potentially scoop it up if it’s appealing.
When you get users to change their daily habits before going to bed like Woot.com, you are demonstrating an amazing utilization of Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity, as well as Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience.
3. Nike’s Winter’s Angry Campaign
In 2011 Nike created an online game which enabled players had to help
athletes stay warm while they trained outside in the winter cold. It
was part of an interactive campaign to promote its winter sportswear
at the end of the year.
Players were given the opportunity to
interactively assist a noted athlete of their choice in “beating the
cold” through a series of training exercises. The game features
three outstanding athletes – NFL football wideout Greg Jennings, U.S.
women’s soccer player Alex Morgan, and Olympic gold medal sprinter
Through a given user interface, each player could control their
athlete avatar (screen image) to perform a series of actions. Players
could test their reflex speed during these events and win prizes for
completing different challenges.
As different players competed, their
scores were tabulated with a leaderboard tracking the highest scores.
The highest scores achieved between Dec. 9-15 were then eligible to
win a trip for two to meet one of the Nike athletes.
This obviously wasn’t just for fun, since the website also allowed users to buy the new Nike winter clothing worn by each of the athletes. As such, it is a fairly typical competition and a representative example of how a brand can use an online game to drive awareness for a new product line.
This shows a great utilization of Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling (being an athletic celebrity fighting the winter), Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback (controlling the avatar to perform tasks and win challenges), Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession (feeling ownership over your avatar and tasks, eventually the gear you can buy), as well as many others.
4. BestBuy’s Cityville Presence
Zynga claims to have more than 230 million active users playing its
line of games. Of these, more than 71 million Facebook users play on
its leading title – CityVille. In the game, players build structures
and roads to create unique virtual cities, seeking to collect points they can use to unlock new game features.
On August 31, 2011, Best Buy became the first virtual branded retail
store in CityVille. For one week Zynga allowed its users to place a
Best Buy store in their own city. Prior to this, other businesses
could be placed in the game, but they all had generic names, such as
“bakery” or “hardware store”. Players who elected to add a Best Buy
to their virtual city signified that they wanted the brand present in
their lives. This provided another element of realism to their
Just like the more generic businesses, players could collect various
bonuses from the store in the form of high payouts, extra points,
energy, as well as five special collection items. If a player were
successful in collecting these items – a smartphone, refrigerator, TV,
DSLR camera, and a Deal of the Day badge, they would be rewarded with
a special Best Buy decoration.
To add an additional bit of realism, Best Buy Geekmobiles would be
dispatched (to protect and maintain the technology) as items were
collected. In addition to the store, players would receive two
decorative items, a Wifi Robot and a More Surprises statue that would
remain in the game.
As players collect virtual tech products from the Best Buy store,
other players will also want to collect them.
This is a fantastic example of Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession (actually owning a BestBuy in your virtual city to please your citizens), and Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment (You’ve EARNED the right to have a BestBuy. It must be super awesome!)
5. HSN’s Gamified Website Experience
People like to shop and watch video online. They also like to play
casual games online. The online and television retailer HSN had
already established itself as a dominant market player with the first
two channels through its HSN.com shopping site, which featured live
streams of HSN’s television channel. With the 2011 launch of HSN
Arcade, the company brought in the third element to further engage
their customers and encourage them to stay on the site.
The Arcade initially provided a suite of 25 games inserted into the
shopping and viewing environment. Standard games elements, such as
badges and leaderboards were employed, in addition to player feedback
for game improvement and future game design. By allowing visitors to
post their scores on Facebook, the arcade also tapped the potential of
engagement through social networks.
By combining and integrating the elements of online shopping, live
video streaming, game play, and social sharing, the Arcade created a
distinctive HSN shopping experience. By design it was able to further
differentiate its online product from the competition. Other big
online retailers have followed a similar strategy and added special
game areas to their sites, including Oxygen, People.com, and USA
This is a simple but effective example of using Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback (take control and actively play games on the site while learning about the brand), as well as Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity (People check back to the site to see if there are other games available)
6. Zappos’ Gamified Culture and Customer Service
At Zappos, the world’s largest online shoe store, company culture and
core values are believed to be the keys to its phenomenal success. CEO
Tony Hsieh states that, “if we get the culture right, then everything
else, including the customer service, will fall into place.”
An integral part of this philosophy is the belief that individuals
that have fun on the job tend to be more creative and productive.
Also, that work and play are actually intertwined. Based on these
beliefs, activities that seem unrelated to work actually build
excellent working relationships.
This “culture of play” at Zappos has proven to work in getting people
to unite and stay together in pursuit of a common goal, especially
when they are encouraged to laugh and go beyond superficial tasks.
Because employees feel empowered and believe in the Zappos culture,
they want their community to succeed. As a result, customers feel like they want to be part of this “game” too.
Zappos customers feel the fun in the culture of the company, and buying items or dealing with customer service become a joyful ride instead of a senseless grind. It’s no wonder Zappos, like Woot.com, was able to sell to Amazon for over $1 Billion – nothing I would mind in my pocket.
Zappos is a brilliant display of Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling (being part of the higher meaning that is the Zappos Culture…which was set upon when you decided to NOT take the $2000 for you to leave), and Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback (employees feel empowered to bring out their best and see immediate feedback – satisfaction of customers and laughter among each other).
7. Bonobos’s Scavenger Hunt System
Men’s luxury apparel company Bonobos started to gamify three of its
social media campaigns in 2011. In a collaborative effort with the
design network NotCot.org and using Twitter #secretcode, an Easter
Egg-based campaign was initiated where hidden images of models dressed
in Bonobos signature pants were placed throughout the NotCot and
Visitors could search the site to locate and click on the images. The
first 50 people that found the images each day would received a $25
Bonobos credit plus free shipping. As an added bonus, visitors that
were able to find a guy in paisley pants received a special code for
$100 off their purchase.
By using gamification and social engagement targeted at the male
customer base, Bonobos is attracting the new online male shopper. One
that wants to look great, but doesn’t necessarily want to talk about
fashion. Customers who want to know what am item will look like in
real life. In the process, making the experience more social and less
This is a fine example of Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity (looking for the pants), Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback (do whatever you can to find those pants, and see immediate feedback), Scarcity & Impatience (wanting to find the goal but not being able to), and finally Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment (when you found the item and got the reward – a bit of Core Drive 4). There’s a reason why scavenger hunts are still popular till this day!
8. Aldo’s Instagram MoodBoard
When the Aldo Group (ALDO) introduced its “A is for Aldo” fragrance
collection, it took a truly innovative marketing approach by creating
a Facebook application for its customers. Noted for its shoe and
accessory stores, Aldo realized that its customers were accustomed to
immersive experiences and would likely be attracted to unique social
ALDO created its A is for Aldo microsite to introduced fragrances for
both women and men. Each fragrance was associated with a color that
represented a particular personality – “Colors Are Like
Personalities.” For women, three distinctive fragrances were created:
Red for “sensual and passionate”, Yellow for “chic, playful and
alluring”, and Blue for “sexy, glamorous and seductive”. For men, two
fragrances were created: Red for “modern classic” and Yellow for
The microsite invites customers to match their mood by playing a game
on Facebook. After logging into Facebook, they are presented with a
variety of Instagram images for determining their mood. After
selecting 9 images, each user is given a “mood board” collage that has
a brief personality description which can be placed in their Facebook
timeline. They also have the option to share the board the on other
Each mood is matched with a specific fragrance and a link to purchase
the fragrance at the A is for Aldo site. The end result is for ALDO
to create a branded visual experience for its customers.
This is an interesting display of Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling (feeling that you are called to become a color based on your “given” personality), Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession (This is me. This is my color), and Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity (I wonder what color I will get!)
9 Gilt Groupe’s Gilt Noir Loyalty Program
Gilt Groupe Built VIP Program On Social Rewards
The Gilt Groupe is an exclusive, member-based online shopping site for
clothing and accessories, which runs time-limited sales which can only
be viewed by its members. It features products from a select group of
In late 2009, the service launched its exclusive Gilt Noir category
for its most loyal customers. Based on total value of past purchases
and duration of membership, Noir members represent the top 1% of Gilt
shoppers. Each member receives a scented candle and a member’s card
as well as special early access privileges to preview all product
sales. (They are also given access to special sales not available to
Though they cannot purchase items sooner that other Gilt members,
their early access privilege allows them to survey the sale products
15 minutes ahead of time. This enables them to be aware of the more
desirable products and strategize to beat the “competition” to the
Noir members don’t receieve any advantageous discounts, paying the
same as other Gilt members. This is a case where the early preview
privilage is the premium benefit, and reflects the value of access and
exclusivity. Once obtained, it is desirable to maintain.
This is a great example of Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling (Elitism), Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment (I made it into the club!), Core Drive 5: Social Pressure & Envy (Now my friends are jealous of me), Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession (I get to buy the best stuff!) and Scarcity & Impatience (I’m part of this 1% ultra exclusive club!)
10. Teleflora’s Gamified Engagement Platform
The floral wire service Teleflora gamified its entire store, offering
a social loyalty system that awarded points for a wide range of user
actions including customer reviews, comments, answers and responses to
other customer queries, and posts to Facebook. If an individual
offered the first review of a product or answer a question in the user
Q&A section, they would receive additional bonus points.
As users continued to accumulated points, they would be rewarded with
higher level badges and titles, such as “influencer”. Top performers
were listed on the Teleflora’s leaderboard.
The commercial results were quite impressive with a 105% increase in
Facebook referrals and a 10-fold increase in the number of pictures
and videos uploads. More impressively, Teleflora’s conversion rate
improved by 92%. In total, this is a good example of a successful
gamification effort in ecommerce.
This is a classic example of Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment (earning points and badges), and Core Drive 5: Social Pressure & Envy (Incentivized mentorship/Q&A activities on site and leaderboards/badges).
Thanks to Jerry Fuqua for contributing to this post.