How to use Gamification to boost eCommerce sales - Steal these ideas from top brands

Updated: Apr 25

Shopping is a therapeutic activity for many people.


Going to malls and bargaining for your favorite items gives immense pleasure. For many of us, even if we spend the entire evening in the mall without buying a single item, it would still be fun.


But as the pandemic started in 2020, things changed. Window-shopping was no longer an option for people.


Businesses turned their attention to e-commerce.


However, it’s not easy to get people to buy online. Here are the major challenges most e-commerce brands face


Major challenges faced by eCommerce apps


1) Abandoned carts

Abandoned carts are always a dilemma for e-commerce platforms. In fact, e-commerce brands lose over $18 billion in sales revenue every year due to cart abandonment. There are two major reasons for higher cart abandonment -


1) Checkout process is slow


2) Prices put off users.


To solve this problem, Amazon included a progress bar at the checkout page. It has a shopping trolley rolling across the progress bar. This phenomenon is the Zeigarnik Effect which says that people remember unfinished tasks more easily than the finished ones.


Adding a progress bar urges users to complete the task of placing the order instead of abandoning the process midway.


2) Customer Loyalty

Getting loyal customers for an e-commerce platform is difficult when the slightest difference in pricing can nudge them to buy from competitors.


Flipkart launched its rewards program SuperCoins in 2019. Millions of customers have earned more than 10 billion Super coins to date. The reward scheme offered customers redeemable points when they shopped from the platform. Buyers can further use these points in their next purchase.


Super Coins rewards program helped Flipkart build a win-win relationship with customers. It also encouraged them to revisit the platform for their shopping needs.


3) Getting user's attention

E-commerce brands struggle to grab attention. The best way to solve this problem is making your e-commerce platform about them.


Yoox, an e-commerce brand did something unique. Size of clothes is a major concern for online shoppers.


Yoox lets users create their digital avatar and try on clothes exactly how they would in trial rooms.


It’s a personalized way to engage users.


There are countless ways to make your shopper's experience fun. This includes trivia, personality quizzes, redeemable points, countdown clocks, progress bars, spin-the-wheel and scratch cards.


Solving the eCommerce challenges with Gamification


Gamification can be a game changer for eCommerce when applied correctly. Below, I give you four amazing examples of eCommerce Gamification -


1) Pinduoduo - How to make an App more addictive than social media


Pinduoduo is an e-commerce platform that offers a wide range of products at dirt cheap prices through group buying.


If you haven’t heard of Pinduoduo before, here are 3 facts -


  • It went from 0 to 868 million+ active buyers in just seven years.

  • It reported a net profit of $1.33 billion in Q1 of 2022.

  • It has more monthly active buyers than Alibaba.


In Pinduoduo’s case, when more people associate with a deal, higher the discount they get.


The secret sauce to its viral growth is Gamification. It made the user's shopping experience interactive and encouraged them to keep coming back.


Here’s how -


1) Shake money

In China, there is a tradition called 'Hong Bao' where people hand money to others in a red envelope as a gift. Chinese call it 'lucky money’ which brings luck and happiness to the receiver. Pinduoduo offers Hong Bao every day to its users. When users click on the icon at the bottom, they receive transferable points to WeChat Pay.


Another interesting feature is Shake Money. When a user shakes their phone and another user living nearby does the same, both earn coins.


Users are further rewarded with Hong Bao when they invite their friends to Pinduoduo.

Users can redeem these coins only when they reach 100RMB ($15.77). And it must be done within 24 hours. This requires them to return to the app multiple times and get their friends involved.


Pinduoduo users are always looking for new ways to earn coins just so they can convert them into real money within 24 hours.


2) Sign-in beans

Pinduoduo also incorporated a daily-sign task where users would get cash reward for logging into the platform daily. Users were rewarded if they -


- Log in for 5 days in a row


- Return to the App after 4 hours


- Scroll through the product page for 60 seconds


3) Duo Duo Orchard

The next game is the 'Duo Duo Orchard', where users select a fruit tree they want to grow.


To make that happen, users have to involve themselves in tasks to earn water and nutrients for the tree. When the tree is fully grown, Pinduoduo delivers a basket of its fruit to their house.


It also added a competitive element to this game by showing a leaderboard of friends who have successfully grown a tree.


These are some of the surface games users will find on Pinduoduo; there are many more when they sign-up. In Pinduoduo, there is a task for almost everything. The end results of these tasks ensures users stay or more people join the application.


Pinduoduo Gamification works because -


  • Every game is simple to understand and designed to generate curiosity.


  • The tasks aren’t boring either. Users who want to win are on the App 24*7 and invest time referring friends or purchasing items.


  • Offering small rewards makes users want to come back and earn more.


  • To progress in a game, users have to either buy products or invite friends. Result? More sales and users.


  • The 30-60 seconds task of viewing the product page has led to higher conversions and sales.


Pinduoduo's target audience are price-sensitive who love playing these games to save on their grocery bill. So, making them stay on the app and, in return, offering a feeling of reward is a win-win situation for both.


2) Alibaba - A Lesson on Gamification of Philanthropy


In 2019, Alibaba said that it’s working to make Chinese consumers more ethical.


Over the last decade, Alibaba launched a series of mini-games in its App. Unlike Pinduoduo, Alibaba's Gamification efforts focus on sustainability and a low-carbon lifestyle.


The three most prominent game that Alibaba launched was-


1) Collecting Sesame seeds

Users are rewarded with virtual treasure boxes whenever they -


- Buy subway tickets from Alipay or ride Alibaba-owned shared bikes.

- Complete transactions using Alibaba and rent Alibaba-affiliated phone chargers.


Players open these boxes for a chance to win 'sesame seeds’. Players can donate these seeds to various charitable projects for the rural area.


2) Ant Forest: Plant trees

Alipay Ant Forest Project was launched on the company's website to adopt a green lifestyle.


Users were rewarded with ‘Green Energy Points’ each time they performed actions that reduce carbon emissions. For instance -


  • Buying sustainable products

  • Taking public transport instead of cars

  • Buying e-tickets instead of printed ones


‘Green energy points’ help the virtual tree grow on the App.


For every virtual tree fully grown, donates and plants a real one. Similar to Pinduouo’s Orchard game, activities such as signing up regularly to collect fresh air or giving the plant nutrients by completing certain tasks would help the virtual tree grow.


Since its launch, the initiative has attracted more than 600 million users. Over 326 million trees have been planted in Northwest China in 5 years.


3) Ant Farm: Virtual Pet Chicken

Alipay’s Virtual Pet Chicken game was launched in August 2017.


Users keep a virtual chicken as a pet and their responsibility is to keep the pet well-fed. They do this by -


  • Making daily payments via Alipay

  • Winning online Quizzes

  • Miscellaneous in-app activities


If users miss out on feeding the chicken, they run away to find food in other users’ digital farms.


When the chicken is full, they lay ‘love eggs’. After gathering five love eggs, users can donate real eggs to NGOs.


Sympathetic players can also check on their friend's chicken and send them food or alerts urging them to return to the App and feed their pet.


According to Gamification Yu Kai Chou, one of human being’s core drives is Epic Meaning & Calling. It means that people are motivated because they are engaged in something bigger than themselves. Alibaba used this core drive in its Gamification strategies to engage and retain users.


3) Harry's - How to create a buzz about your brand before it launches


In 2012, New York based grooming brand Harry’s collected 100k emails in a single week.


The brand had not even launched yet and they were about to enter a market dominated by giants like Gillette. So how did Harry’s go from 0 to a profitable business?


A milestone based Referral program.

In milestone based referral programs, users are rewarded after they reach a specific number of referrals (milestone).


Harry’s milestones were something like this:


Refer 5 friends = Free Shaving Cream

Refer 10 friends = Free Razor

Refer 25 friends = Free Premium Razor

Refer 50 friends = Free Shaving for a Year


Within a week, 20,000 people referred 65,000 friends.


On an average, 1 person referred 3 friends, 200 users referred more than 50 friends and 77% of the overall email collected were through referrals.


Today, Harry’s is a profitable business valued at $1.7 billion with 20 million customers.


4) Zappos - The Wrong Way to Implement Gamification


Can a multi-billion dollar company get Gamification wrong?


It might seem like an easy task, but Gamification requires extensive planning. If executed poorly, it can heavily backfire. Zappos is one such example.


Zappos is an online retail company, acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion.

It is known for its stellar customer service. It implemented Gamification by giving users a chance to earn badges and points and showcase it on their profile.


But it turned out to be a big mistake.


Zappos treated Gamification as a 'good to have' feature. Customers who left a review on any product got a badge. It created a buzz at first but users quickly got bored of it because the badges served no purpose. Apart from maybe looking cool, it was useless.



The program was eventually scrapped because more than helping, it was harming the company's image.


One of the most important elements of Gamification is Purpose.


“Why should users care?” If a brand does not answer this question, any gamified campaign is sure to fail.


Wrapping up


When it comes to online shopping, India is just getting started.


In 2020, India was one of the fastest growing online retail markets with 179.5 million customers. It is expected to rise to 291.2 million by 2025.


With so many D2C businesses entering the market, it becomes essential to differentiate your brand from competitors.


Gamification can be that differentiator.


It can be an amazing way for brands to provide an actual “shopping experience” to their customers online.


47 views0 comments