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The brains behind supermarket gimmicks

| Marketing and Promotions

Discovery is a great example of a company that has gamified healthy behaviour. But why do other firms get it so wrong?

For weeks Pick n Pay customers were handed cards with animals on them at the checkout till if their purchase exceeded R150.

But the retailer’s Super Animals campaign came to an end in June, and some customers still had no idea what the cards were for.

What Pick n Pay might have communicated more clearly at its tills was that the cards could be scanned on its own app — bringing the animals to life for children — or swiped at a card reader, on sale at the stores.


They could also be compiled in collectors’ activity books sold at the supermarket.

Super Animals is an example of "gamification". The goal is to get consumers to spend money, motivated by a game, says Lebo Lekoma, head of client service at animation company Sea Monster, which helped Pick n Pay create the app.

Companies are looking to gamification to encourage desired consumer behaviour. Some of it is paying off, but other examples have failed. In Pick n Pay’s case, while some consumers said they did not know what the cards were for, others roasted the retailer for errors on some cards.

As embarrassing as these little blunders may have been, Lekoma says Pick n Pay’s attempt at gamification worked because it motivated consumers.

Another example is Checkers’ mini groceries, which have become collectors’ items that are exchanged by parents in their effort to collect a complete set for their children. For a limited period one "little shop" item was handed over at the till for every R150 spent.

Its campaign was so successful that it led Checkers to launch Little Shop 2, after customers, teachers and even therapists requested specific items. And it certainly did encourage more frequent shopping trips to the supermarket.

Lekoma says gamification holds huge potential for companies.

"Organisations who reward people with points, badges and leader boards are tapping into only one [part] of the gamification framework," he says. Gamification is about more than that. It’s about "human-centred" design, he says.

Motivating users may lead to a sense of personal fulfilment, of achieving something and growing. It can take the shape of a reward like a day off work, a discount or a buy-one-get-one-free offer.

"Gamification is creating experiences in a way that places the user at the centre [of an experience]. The purpose is to get the user to engage at a much deeper emotional level," Lekoma says.

A frequently showcased example of gamification at play is Discovery’s Vitality programme. As a medical scheme, Discovery is aware that keeping its members healthy may reduce claims. The programme makes it fun for members to engage in behaviour that reduces their risks of falling ill.

Vicki Knowler from the African eLearning Academy says companies may miss out on the benefits of gamification when they fail to apply its theory and mechanics correctly.

"The biggest mistake most people make is that they incorporate games to whatever scenario or solution and they think that they’re applying gamification principles," she says.

Gamification is not simply bolting on a round of Hangman to keep a user interested. Rather, it is about getting participants to play where the overall objective is not a game at all.

How does one think about strategy? Knowler cites University of Essex professor Richard Bartle’s guidelines to cater for different personality types.

"Achievers" seek success measured by points or prizes. "Explorers" are thrill seekers on a journey of discovery. "Socialisers" have more interest in the social aspects of the game than the game itself. "Killers" are driven by competition.

"If you can put in an element in a gamification strategy for each personality type, you are probably winning. If you don’t, that’s probably where you’re making the mistake," Knowler says.

"A lot of people are fuelled by competition but others aren’t. You have to find something else [to keep them engaged]."

Another mistake companies make is producing games that are too difficult, with rewards that are hard to come by. "You have to make things achievable," says Knowler.

Loyalty programmes, which can be gamified, sometimes lose their consumers for lack of a personal touch.

In the Gartner Gamification 2020 report, gamification was expected to have an impact on trends such as the emergence of customer-engagement platforms.

Lekoma believes this is where local businesses are missing out on the principle’s potential, with gamification platforms being able to help companies understand who their consumers are and how better to serve them.

"When you walk into a supermarket you know that brand intimately because you’ve shopped there a hundred times. But that brand doesn’t know you," he says.

That, he says, is a huge failure for a brand.

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