The Gamification of Shopping
It used to be that shopping was considered a chore. Except around Black Friday, when it turned into blood sport. But increasingly, mobile technology has made shopping more of a game. With the smartphone at the intersection between store and shopper, let the games begin! From a shopper's point of view, it's snagging the product in the cheapest, most convenient way possible. On the merchant's side, it's targeting ads, offers and incentives, geolocating, attracting new customers and keeping existing ones. In all of this, both sides are becoming increasingly strategic as they engage in this game.
Consider this story from the past holiday shopping season: A boutique on the quaint main street of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. opened at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, offering 50 percent discounts to the people already huddled in line outside its doors. At 7 a.m. the discounts dropped to 40 percent, and by 8 a.m. they were down to 30 percent. Sound like a game? The well-informed early bird gets the cheapest, juiciest worm. Elsewhere, bigger brands had special Black Friday offers that could only be accessed and activated on mobile devices. Without your smartphone, it would have been like trying to play a video game without the controller.
If the smartphone is analogous to the controller, then apps are the games, and they're what's changing both consumers’ and retailers’ behavior. Apps like BuyVia, RedLaser and eBay's ShopSavvy enable consumers to find deals by giving them both personalized knowledge of the web and collective knowledge of a product based on other users’ experiences. Then there are apps that compare prices, such as PriceGrabber, Shop Advisor and Walmart Savings Catcher. Or you can avoid the shopping arena altogether and have someone "play" as your personal gladiator, with apps like TaskRabbit, which lets the shopper hire someone to take on the crazy crowds and do the shopping for her.