Gamification is one of the big drivers for innovation and engagement this year and the fashion industry won’t be left behind. As engagement becomes a standard currency, technology offers a built-in framework to incorporate gamification into fashion that will change the game for brands, retailers, startups, and consumers. Even for those that are new to gamification, the ideas, opportunities, and fun, will change the way we engage with fashion.
Gamification and the Relationship with Fashion
Gamification is the use of game design techniques and mechanics to increase user engagement and to incentivize action. If you’re new to the concept, think video and social games – Super Mario Bros. and Farmville – where you “level up” by beating the clock, earning points, exchanging or buying virtual goods. Now apply this framework to non-game applications, from health and fitness to employee training, and one can begin to see the importance and size of this ecosystem to drive engagement, action, and, yes, money. Fashion already has a foothold in gaming, so we believe there’s a great opportunity for the fashtech industry.
What foothold am I referring to, you may ask? Well, first, fashion is not new to gaming. Online game companies and developers have ramped up the creation of fashion games for a few years now. Style Savvy launched on Nintendo DS in 2009, where players act as shopkeepers of virtual boutiques, engage with characters, meet customers, and participate in runway shows. Social games Fashion World, Mall World, and CocoGirl have thrived on Facebook (the latter two averaging over 2.5M monthly active users), taking advantage of rewards, virtual goods marketplaces, buy and sell exchanges with other players, voting systems, and other techniques easily integrated into the social network. Online media company Popsugar even launched the social game Retail Therapy on Facebook in 2010, working with brands such as Diane von Furstenberg and Topshop to help drive in-game branding.
Equally (if not more) important, gamification is not new to fashion. Online fashion communities such as Chictopia and Lookbook.nu have been using reward systems since they launched back in 2008. Chictopia users can earn Chic points by commenting on or posting photos, writing articles, and other activities. Points can then be redeemed for covetable goods. Lookbook.nu, for instance, engages its users through “Hype” and “Karma”. The more Hypes a look gets, the more likely it will be featured on the homepage. The higher the Karma average (i.e., number of Hypes per post), the more exposure a user receives in the photo feed and the higher the user ranks on the leaderboard. The game mechanics are the same – rewards in the form of goods or social status.
Location-based services such as Foursquare have also added gamification layers to fashion brands through a badge and reward system, which helped Marc Jacobs drive engagement and word of mouth marketing during New York Fashion Week in 2010 and 2011. Users checked in to various Marc Jacobs stores to receive custom badges and exclusive content, and lucky members won tickets to his fashion shows.
Opportunity for Fashion Brands and Startups
So where does fashion go from here? What are the opportunities for fashion brands and retailers? Gamification is entering a Renaissance period, and we expect to see great opportunities for the fashion world to take to it by storm.
First, you’ll see growth in the number of gamification platforms available, which will drive more fashion-based campaigns. Bunchball, Gamify, and Badgeville are some of the leading vendors of gamification services today. And Badgeville, the world’s first behavior platform, partnered with etailer Bluefly to reward customers for onsite behaviors.
Additionally, as new technologies continue to develop, including gesture-based systems, augmented reality, and real-world game environments, fashion brands and retailers will have more reason to participate, especially in more “natural” ways. For example, Stylmee, the 1st 3-D iPad application and community for fashion enthusiasts, offers a virtual and real ecommerce platform for brands, bloggers, and consumers based in a 3-D fashion boutique city. Fashion, after all, is tactile, visual, and social.
Second, gamification will drive the value of data. If we think about this in the context of a supply chain (e.g. designer, manufacturer, retail, consumer), the real opportunities might rest in the support tools and infrastructure behind gamification platforms, which we are keeping an eye on. For example, gamification analytics offer deep insight into user behavior and metrics. Think about applying that information and rewarding loyal customers with exclusive offers, first access to new collections, and other special content. This is great stuff for marketers and brand strategists.
Finally, gamification will drive the importance of brand partnerships, impacting both fashion brands and startups. A few fashion brands and retailers have developed partnerships outside of the industry (Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, and Norma Kamali immediately come to mind), but overall the fashion industry is still reticent and hesitant about social technology. But it is these very partnerships that drive engagement, buzz, and sales. It will be the bold and the brave who will develop innovative strategies, separating them from the fash pack.
So if you’re a fashion brand, retailer, or startup, dip your toe in the gamified world. Start small by offering exclusive content and other access points to those who engage with your brand or company. Or go big and create a multi-faceted game level approach that addresses your engagement, brand, loyalty, and sales objectives. Fashion and gaming are meeting and interacting in different ways and there are plenty of platforms to support it. Level up, and don’t be left behind.
Mika Uehara is Co-Founder of SFFT. Send your comments or follow her on Twitter.