Why gamification could be the answer to your marketing woes

(c)iStock.com/Sasa Komlen

It’s not often you leave your office in the City and see suited and booted business professionals immersed in their mobile phones, searching for an invisible object. Nor is it the case that teenagers have been excitable about leaving the house to go on a wild-goose chase, rather than watching the newest episode of Made in Chelsea.

Then came Pokémon Go.

Only a couple a months ago we saw the launch of this viral game and people headed out to the streets in a bid to hunt all the Pikachus and Snorlaxes that they could. It was a smartphone phenomenon that many games had not seen before, and brands are keen to replicate this level of engagement and keep it - something that Pokémon Go is now finding a challenge on a long term basis.

By all means, Pokémon Go is its own entity, and a gaming marvel that would be hard to replicate. However, what it has shown is the power of gamification to drive people to specific places. How can marketers use this to their advantage?

The challenge

Whilst online is often presented as the winner in commerce, in fact, in 2015 only 27% of all retail transactions were made online. With this in mind, protecting your offline brand remains critical. However, gaining data about a brand from physical locations has always been difficult for marketers because it is hard to get a true representation of how marketing materials, or promotions are being presented. Ultimately, offline is a big blindspot.

To get even a snapshot of how a brand is being presented offline, businesses traditionally have to depend on members of their sales team visiting the place where their brand is being represented.  This is costly and inefficient; it takes weeks to gather the data because of the travelling involved. In addition due to the impracticality of sales teams having to visit thousands of locations, the data gathered isn’t detailed or granular because only a sample of data can be taken. It would take too long to visit every supermarket or convenience store representing a cereal brand for instance.

However, data insights from real world locations are vital for a number of reasons, from measuring a brand’s integrity across the high street to understanding how out of home marketing materials are performing. Being able to harness mobile and gamification to get this data quickly is allowing marketers to understand their offline presence better than ever before.

Turning to smartphones

76% of UK adults now own a smartphone and they check their device on average 85 times a day. This is a staggering figure, and one that marketers can capitalise on in order to gather data insights from offline.

The inherent mobility of mobile means people can use their smartphone wherever they are. For marketers this means that they can task the ‘crowd’ (members of the public who own a smartphone) with gathering real world data insights, rather than using the time of their sales’ teams to carry out price comparisons or audit the presence of their promotional material or shelf layout.

With the crowd located at millions of different locations across the world, this means that masses of data can be gathered from any corner of the globe in quasi real-time. The information can also be tracked back to the individual store level allowing a census approach for actionable retail intelligence in a fast and affordable way.

However, in order to ensure that these individuals will gather the data on the brand’s behalf, they need to be incentivised and engaged. This is where gamification plays a major role. Companies can task individuals with something, such as checking a competitor’s pricing strategy, then reward them once the information is gathered. The camera within smartphones is a huge game changer in terms of measuring crowd engagement and ensuring accurate data collection – photos provide physical evidence of the data being collected so the insights are reliable and the crowd has definitely engaged with the task because they need to be in that specific location to complete it.

Changing business through gamification

Global businesses such as MSC Cruises are already using the crowd for gamified data gathering, with hugely beneficial results. For example, the cruise company is auditing the presence of their marketing materials in their travel agency partners’ windows on the high street. The crowd is allowing them to check that their brand is being presented correctly, whilst enabling budget efficiencies. The results amounted to a complete overhaul in their marketing strategy – for example, 30% of the travel agent partners weren’t displaying the materials correctly because their windows weren’t big enough for the posters. MSC Cruises used the data gathered by the crowd to segment their approach to sending the marketing materials so it was much more effective and less wasteful.

The best innovations leverage an existing asset in a new and reliable way, and just like Uber uses cars and Airbnb uses homes, businesses have the power to utilise the crowd’s talent, time and location to gain a large amount of information that they haven’t previously been able to get their hands on. By using the power of gamification, marketers stand to benefit massively and will be able to access unprecedented real world insights, faster than ever before.

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