The online retail segment is booming. With the convenience of 24/7 shopping and improvements in reliability of the products delivered, easy return policies and money back guarantees, today’s shopper is more likely to go online shopping rather than visiting a brick-and-mortar store. Internet cookies are customizing to our webpage visits to these online retailers. For example, while recently browsing for a DSLR to see what’s trending, cookies pick it as a signal of my interest and for the next couple of days I see my browser showcasing DSLR advertisements, discounts and other schemes that try to get me to buy. In cases where I was genuinely interested in buying, these cookies increased the temptation to buy the product by blinking the product on my browser. For a guy who spends 10+ hours a day on the internet, it would be only a matter of time before I give up my resistance and purchase the product for best possible price at that time.
Being an avid online buyer myself, the strategy for making an online purchase that I adopt is to look for the product on reliable websites which I have been using like Ebay, Flipkart, Infibeam, HS18, Shopclues, Indiatimes, rediff etc. Then I clear clutter of those websites where the prices are too high. A help to do this removal of unnecessary clutter comes from sites where the members pool in to provide the best deals to other fellow members. These so called coupon sites are gamified,the members get points and their names appear on leader boards for placing the best deal that they can find. Even the coupons that are not of general category (redeemed by anyone, multiple use) are traded for other coupons which are desired by the participants or just given for free by the members so that the community in a net gains and not the online retailers that are charging lower than the market retailers but still make sufficient profits to spare for coupons.
With the buzz of gamification and the prediction of M2 Research that the gamification market to reach a 2.8Bn US$ mark by 2016, with 70% of the worlds 2000 companies will be using gamification. The positioning of gamification as a platform to increase customer engagement, loyalty and driving revenue generation the industry is adopting it rapidly. This is natural phenomenon nobody wants to miss an opportunity to engage customers nor I am against it, an organization must adopt all the legitimate means possible to attract customers and keep them loyal to its services.
As this post is for online retailing in my humble opinion the online retailers cannot engage customers by making the system gamified. Being present in virtual environment for all part of transaction selling an experience to engage the customer is very remotely possible. Until they (online retailers) all have the same pricing a customer who has a reasonable prudence and having knowledge of online shopping will go for the best deal and will not prefer a site that is gamified that has her name on top of leader board, as this time actual hard earned currency is involved and with products asking for a good share of your wallet, the habitual visitor/customer of one site will not think much before switching to a lower price, showcasing a lower customer loyalty. Currently the competition in online retail is based on lower pricing with quality starting from ebay, the first ones to enter the online marketing space to the sellers that have just started focus is on discounts and its the same strategy with every seller.
On a recent site visit of one of such online retailers I found that the coupons are shared after playing a game on their gamified platform. First of all the platform may be in the developmental stage but it wasn’t engaging enough for me to move further level 1, also it was shifting my focus from finding the best price to play some games and then win a coupon which at the end I may use or not. My priority was finding the best deal in shortest possible time to make a purchase and take advantage of this festive discounts so I eventually left this site and moved ahead, using my past experience that I have never made any major purchases from this site as prices generally are high here in comparison to other sites.
I would conclude by saying, if customer loyalty is fought on fair pricing across the sites, then only gamification can help in leveling a step up the competition ladder else a gamified portal that has no use after my purchase is made will see a sharp decline in the commitment of the player, conditioned it was engaging enough that buyer atleast cared to complete the stage while hunting for the best price.
image (google): http://tinyurl.com/bqbvodp