Why it works: gaming can drive retail fun and profit, says Prism

“Fun is one of the most important and underrated ingredients in any successful venture.”

Richard Branson

Cliff Crosbie, SVP global retail, Prism, says retailers can make retailing a fun and profitable ‘game’ by using data collected from in-store video cameras in order to empower staff and improve the customer experience

SoTF Crosbie shoe

Crosbie engages with a Store of the Future customer in the Hague

Globally, gamification – applying game principles in commercial and other non-game settings – is set to grow to USD 11.10bn in 2020 (source: marketsandmarkets) and is gaining popularity in retail. Most of the buzz today is about how gamification can drive loyalty and sales in e-commerce. Since it can’t provide a full-on sensory experience, it needs to find other ways of stimulating buyers’ brains. I’m going to focus here on how physical retailers can benefit from creative gamification techniques to tempt shoppers back into stores and make the business of retailing fun and profitable.

Why play games?

Games tap into the brain’s natural drive to socialise, learn, master, compete, achieve, gain status, self-express, give and complete. Physical experiences like shopping and theatre-going are being enhanced with virtual gaming to provide “360-degree” experiences that fulfil these human needs. However, before retailers can even think about stimulating shoppers’ brains through these sensory experiences, they first need to gain control by gaming their own businesses.

In reality, many shop environments are anything but fun and games. Most shop assistants initially take jobs because they enjoy meeting people, selling and giving great service. When they are unable to serve people fast enough, recommend the right items, run successful promotions or keep popular items in stock, they go from being potentially keen ambassadors, to becoming totally demotivated. After all, nobody wants to look stupid or have to make excuses for poor company performance. All these problems, however, can avoided. They usually stem from insufficient data to understand customer behaviour and predict future trends in the store.

The Store of the Future

Frank Quix SoTF

Frank Quix, managing director, the Store of the Future

My involvement with Store of the Future (SOTF), the first retail innovation lab in The Netherlands, has convinced me that physical retailing is set to be a lot more satisfying, profitable and fun. I’ve known SOTF’s managing director, Frank Quix, for many years and his company, Q&A Research & Consultancy, which does research, consultancy and leadership training for a lot of the big retailers in Holland and across Europe.

With SOTF Frank wanted to bring the research to life, in one place. His retail clients wanted a place to test new technology in a live environment to see how it performed in the real world, and this is what he’s provided. More than 15 retailers, including the Dutch brand HEMA, which is expanding rapidly in the UK, and myMuesli, a German retailer of custom-blended Muesli, took the opportunity to ‘game’ within SOTF using leading-edge technology provided by 90 different partners. Frank even describes SOTF as a ‘playground for brands and products’.

We got involved as the sole analytics partner of SOTF a year ago by installing our technology, which transforms IP video cameras normally only used for surveillance into IoT sensors that gather all the data for managing and optimising retail space. When the SOTF retailers were armed with valuable data about visitor numbers, where the in-store ‘hotspots’ were and which products and displays were being touched and felt the most, they were then able to continually fine-tune pricing, promotions and staffing to improve outcomes.

Being able to see and measure this data in near real-time and continually react and adjust accordingly just adds such a new dynamic to working in retail and equips teams to be more successful. Interestingly, in our video about SOTF, Frank explains that its shoe retail partner, van Haren, uses our system to monitor which shoes are being picked up the most. In my experience with a major footwear retailer I found that it’s easy enough to figure out which shoes are high touch / high sales or low touch / low sales. What’s really interesting but much harder to discover is which shoes people keep picking up but not buying. By analysing video heatmaps of shoes that were being handled the most, and then comparing to those that were actually selling, we could then work out whether price, quality, position in the display or simply availability of the right size was limiting the sales potential. We found that by solving these issues we saw sales increases of more 30% in some cases. So it can have a huge impact.

Of all the technologies used in SOTF, Frank believes that analytics are the most essential resource for every retailer looking to improve their in-store customer journey. If you know how people are navigating your store, you gain a better understanding of the needs of your customers and try to adapt to that.

Winning the game

Crosbie Dynamics of Retail SoTF

Crosbie presents to retailers at the Store of the Future

Empowered shop assistants that continually make smart decisions and feel like experts are motivated by the sense that they are winning the game of retail. This translates into greater profits, better customer experiences and more fun for everyone. If knowing your customer well through analytics ultimately leads to staff being happy, eager brand ambassadors then it will, of course, be transformational.

Frank Quix said it best in our video when he commented: “Those [retailers] who are able to meet the new need of new customers, based on analytics – those will be the ones that survive.”

(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)