Technology

Reward scheme apps: The gamification of retail.

GBK_APPWhen a trip out for a meal, to Gourmet Burger Kitchen specifically, turned into a long conversation about the ‘gamification’ of real life, I knew that there was something to be said about how companies are starting to be inspired by the Achievements and Trophies seen in our videogame systems. The GBK mobile app is designed in such a way that your earnings feel like accomplishments, something I’m sure has been done before, but I’d never experienced it first hand before.

Reward Cards have been the subject of debate for a while now. As long as I have been able to spend my own money there have been opportunities to earn reward points or build up savings through repeated visits. The transition from stamps on cards to swipe cards was a steady one, there are still some companies that use this even now, but recent years have seen mobile apps emerge as the easiest and most interactive reward scheme on the high street. Just about every high street chain has its own App, mostly for ordering items online, or viewing menus and store locations. The chains that run rewards schemes however have an even greater use for these applications, with users being able to check on the earnings or see which special offers they are eligible for.

Apps from the likes of Costa and HMV (Before the buyout) allow users to check how many points they have earned, the value of these points coming under fire from some users given how many trips it would take to earn even the smallest of monetary value rewards. That said, it makes for an immediacy that having to go into the store themselves, like the Boots cards of old, prevents. Speaking of Boots, I was surprised to find that they haven’t adopted the App approach to their rewards scheme, the only official apps I could find were a catalogue and an Opticians app.

Starbucks Card

Starbucks take a slightly different approach, their mobile content is front and center in their stores, the official Starbucks App of the week is usually located right where you’d pick up your coffee; they are really pushing the extra content. Of course they have their own app too, which allows you to earn extra rewards such as free coffee and extras for your drinks. I often see people checking their points totals after they’ve bought their coffee, the idea of earning rewards in such an immediate way makes the experience worthwhile.

The Gourmet Burger Kitchen app was introduced as soon as we got through the door, so it’s obvious that much like Starbucks their reward scheme is an important aspect of the brand for them too. Sat at our table I downloaded it and was confronted by the page you see above, a list of achievements. I had never seen anything like this before, the presentation copying directly from the now industry standard Achievements system for Xbox. These ‘Challenges’ seem pretty typical at first; Sidewinder – Spend £6 on 2 visits and get a free side.


gbkburger

Reading through the list though, things start to get a lot more interesting. Traveller – Eat at 3 different GBK’s to get a free Kiwiburger; Regular – Visit the same GBK 10 times to get 25% off the bill for a whole month. These are proper challenges, with worthwhile rewards. Things only get better though, my favourite being Fireface – Add extra jalapeños to a Habenero burger to get a free cold drink. That’s a very specific task that regular users of the app will probably give a try, ordering something just so they can earn that reward. It’s part of the Achievements system that splits opinion. Being forced to do something you wouldn’t usually do, but for those who crave completion it can be part of the fun.

The final twist comes in the form of Leader of the Pack, which offers you the chance to have a free meal worth up to £100 if you manage to be at the top of the monthly leaderboard. This leaderboard keeps track of how many times people have visited (or specifically ordered from) a GBK in the last month. Right now the leader has visited a ridiculous 22 times, so while the chances of winning are slim and you’d have to spend a lot more than £100 to earn back your money, the concept is interesting.

More and more our everyday life is being filled with the sorts of challenges and tasks you’d be doing to earn that Platinum trophy or extra Gamerscore. From apps like GBK’s to the constant fight for retweets and followers on Twitter, game mechanics are permeating their way into our lives. If more companies adopt this structure of rewards, it could mean good things for all of us. That said, it could also leave us all penniless as we fight for that ‘free’ loaf of bread in the local Tesco.

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