How Gamification is helping you with last minute Christmas shopping

Saturday, December 15, 2018

At this point in time, if you haven’t done your Christmas shopping you’re probably really starting to feel the squeeze (don’t worry, you’re not alone).

Wow, Christmas sure has crept up on us. I know for myself, I only just came to terms that we’re well and truly into December just a few days ago, and with that means a mad, last minute dash for everyone to purchase all the gift shopping they’ve been putting off for too long.

It all seems a little overwhelming but never fear, gamification is here to help you get across the line with your shopping. These days, consumers during the holidays are increasingly purchasing directly from mobile devices, in an effort to skip the aisles, checkouts and madness, but also as a way of catching exclusive online sales options and gamification initiatives.

In just 2018, online sales have skyrocketed to over $132 Billion across Mobile devices alone. That. Is. Crazy!

The underlying factor to online shopping around Christmas seems to be ‘convenience’, also known to some as ‘laziness’. Now I’m not saying that everyone who shops online are necessarily lazy, sometimes people are so inundated with life that it truly gets in the way of them venturing out to do their gift shopping, but if a lot of us were to be honest with ourselves, we quite simply could not be bothered to battle it out for a car park, power our way through the crowded shopping malls and expel a lot of physical, emotional and mental energy while looking for the right gifts.

A lot of companies recognise this about shoppers at this time of the year and in an effort to scratch each other’s backs, they will incentivise customers to commit to their gift shopping via online promotional sales. This approach has very passive undertones, the consumer is almost reduced to a purchase transaction. A good deal no doubt, but it seems to be lacking any true motivation.

This is where Gamification steps in to enhance the whole online shopping experience. When the activity of shopping can be more engaging and the opportunity to earn a reward is possible over just being offered one generically, that is when consumers lean into their shopping experience.

Retailers are leveraging mobile marketing and social media to capture shopper attention and dollars this holiday season. Because today’s shoppers are more hyper-connected than ever before, online holiday programs that contain social media components generate approximately 30% more campaign visits than those that don’t.

So, what is retail gamification exactly? RetailDive defines the practice as combining “elements of play and common game mechanics such as points, badges, and other incentives in nontraditional contexts in order to affect behaviour. Done right, gamification is a subtle but fun way to get people engaged.”

Around the holiday season, feeling engaged and motivated in your shopping efforts is everything. Retailers are taking note, in fact many merchants from Target to Macy’s and more are offering holiday-specific apps or tailoring existing apps to include holiday trimmings.

Now, let’s take a look at some brands that have used holiday themed retail gamification successfully to drive traffic, bolster engagement, and increase sales.


Through Target’s app, they have created 2 different seasonal offerings, one of them being a Christmas themed deal throughout the month of December, offering a 50% discount on a different toy each day until Christmas Eve, and the other being a 10% discount on all items that have been curated on a shopper’s own in-app Kids’ Wish List. These are two perfect examples of making the shopping process both fun and rewarding.


Formerly known as ‘Catch of the Day’, this website uses game mechanics all year round, yet when it comes to the Christmas period, Catch goes out of its way to make sure that customers are proactive about their shopping, launching initiatives such as Catch Live, a live-streaming shopping event that combines shopping, entertainment and gamification through collaborations with some of the world's biggest brands, such as Nintendo, Lego, Dyson, Apple and Google.

“Catch Live is about engagement; it’s about interacting with our customers, attracting new customers and offering them 10 minutes of light-hearted fun and an element of exclusivity in that they need to RSVP to take part and win the games to score a great offer or prize,” Catch chief marketing officer Ryan Gracie.

On top of Catch Live, the team at Catch have a seasonal category in their header simply titled “Christmas”, which collects different groupings of Christmas deals that have an exclusive time-window. Customers feel an urgency to jump on the website in order to make sure they aren’t missing out on any shopping opportunities the website may provide, everyday there seems to be something new on offer.


Sears has partnered with the popular game show Wheel of Fortune for a holiday themed gamification app called the Wheel of Fortune Holiday Puzzler. Users can play the word puzzle once a day throughout the holiday season and compete against others for the opportunity to win Sears gift cards. In amongst the gamification campaign encouraging app downloads and repeat plays, it also creates positive brand association and puts those that participate in the game, in a mindset of what they will use the reward for when they get it.

If you’re winning a Sears gift card in the lead up to Christmas, there’s a strong chance that you are doing some of your Christmas shopping at Sears, that’s just a fact.


It would seem that these Christmas themed App initiatives have a few running similarities, but essential to their success is the way they draw on both emotional and practical wishes for the season. There are three must-haves for a holiday app to be a rollout success.

  • Be more than a gimmick, be useful: A good app will serve as a tool, enabling its users to accomplish holiday tasks with ease. A shining example of this is Target’s “Kids’ Wish List”, as it collects and organises what kids want for their their Christmas gifts. Beyond having a festive feel, this function is extremely practical for parents conducting their Christmas shopping. A function this helpful will be referred to year after year.

  • Associate your brand with the nostalgia of Christmas: Most people have fond memories of Christmas time, yet as the years go on we discover that not every Christmas can feel as magical as the last. When a company can create an in-app experience that reminds customers of their favourite parts of Christmas, the customer will become emotionally connected to the brand, as nostalgia can be a powerful tool (Coca-Cola’s Christmas campaigns, anyone?). A good holiday rewards app packages that nostalgia in ways such as “25 Days of Christmas” rewards and deals.

  • Tis the season to give back: Studies show that people make anywhere from 24 to nearly 43% of their annual charitable contributions in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Retailers can use holiday apps to facilitate this generosity by offering to match or make their own contributions. When brands offer to donate money, toys, clothes and so on, in an effort to match their customer’s contributions. These Philanthropic acts are greatly appreciated by customers and become a great motivational drive for customers to conduct their shopping through particular brands.

For those of you that are doing the selling this time of year, you’ve carefully curated your product offerings, you’ve built your brand, and now you’re working to grow your business. If you’re looking to increase your sales, build your brand awareness, and increase your customer loyalty, then consider introducing some gamification into your retail business strategy.

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