Required Escapism: Gamify The Retail Experience

Our International Client Director, Danny Newman, explores the role of gaming as part of the retail experience.

Having only recently relocated to Amsterdam before the world went into lockdown, I know all too well about the required need for escapism after 12 weeks in isolation staring at the same four walls. The definition of escapism is ‘to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities’ and this couldn’t resonate any more with the current situation.

“Around one in five people around the globe are under lockdown” The Guardian (March 24)

During this period of time at YS, our trends & insight team have been kept busy looking at the changing world around us and observing how people and brands are adapting with amazing resilience and creativity. Moving our typical breakfast talks into a virtual format, we’ve presented the topics Community Reconnect, New Values and, most recently, Required Escapism to our global network - including what these mean for brands and the physical, digital & human experiences they create. 

‘The Experience Economy’ by Pine & Gilmore defines escapism as one of the four experience realms, an experience that includes both active participation and total immersion. In a world where human attention is a scarce commodity, with brands vying for their customer’s limited time, escapist experiences present the ability to captivate an audience like no other. 

“Escapist experiences can teach just as well as educational events can, or amuse just as well as entertainment, but they involve greater customer immersion” Pine & Gilmore, Harvard Business Review

Gaming is a perfect conduit for this, especially considering people’s current reality, with brands needing to deliver their customer experiences safely at distance but needing to have the same impact as when the relationship was more intimate physically. Oh the good old days!

COVID has pushed brands to be more conversational & less transactional online; primed for gamification. With brands currently delivering a digital narrative, a successful use of gaming cues and techniques will enrich the customer experience and move it far beyond the traditional and transitional stronghold of e-commerce. 

Razer, a flagship destination by YourStudio to gamify the shopping experience with retail, e-sports, entertainment and live streaming under one roof.

The boundaries between retail and gaming will continue to blur, and within the gaming realm itself, we are seeing more product placement, launches & marketing activations appearing. With this market set to continue to grow significantly over the next 5 years, this isn’t just a niche opportunity anymore and all brands should be thinking about the potential to leverage this.

‘The global gamification market will grow at a rate of over 30% during the forecast period 2019–2025 and will be valued more than $32 billion by 2025’ Infoholic Research

Innovative gaming experiences are already popping up at key moments along the customer journey and this is not just specific to the online channels. Techniques can be used to help solve post-COVID physical retail challenges too. For example, with brands needing to reimagine their store layouts to deal with social distancing and queues, gaming presents an opportunity for distraction, diversion, entertainment and engagement when designing for the line of people queuing for your store.

Here are a selection of case studies that highlight the role gaming can play for brands to facilitate required escapism.


Designing For The Line

Brands are turning to gaming when faced with the challenge of removing friction or adding entertainment to the shopping experience. This thinking can be applied when designing for the line, in-store or online, adding excitement to the shopping journey and flipping friction into fun.

Kenzo Shopping League

French luxury brand Kenzo’s Shopping League transforms the frustration of limited sales into a more enjoyable e-shopping experience. As part of their promotion of the new Sonic sneaker, in which there were only 100 pairs, customers were invited to connect to the dedicated e-shop and fight for a pair of trainers via a computer game. Only a small number of people made it through to the game, and when they got there, they were able to steal shoes from each other's cart. The campaign drove over 20,000 fans to the site in 12 hours and boosted engagement over six times.


Augmented IRL

New technologies offer brands the opportunity to create compelling customer experiences focused around participation and interactivity; merging the online and offline worlds with games that put the power into the hands of the customer.

Hipanda Flagship, Tokyo

The first ever Hipanda flagship store in Japan, a streetwear label, created a black and white labyrinth using lights, mirrors and augmented reality to add a new gaming dimension to the environment that can't be seen by the naked eye. With the use of an iPad or smartphone, customers can search for the invisible ghost (a Panda that is the host of the house) roaming the stores and hiding amongst the brand's products - triggering analog experiences in-store using lights. Hipanda use technology as a tool to challenge what’s real and what’s not, providing immersive brand storytelling for the customer.


Interactive Storytelling

Gaming presents opportunities to tell brand or product stories in a more fun, playful manner. By immersing customers into the story, as opposed to this being a passive interaction, brands will drive stronger engagement by tapping into the emotions of the customer.

Nike, Reactland

As part of the launch of Nike’s new React running shoes, an interactive gaming installation was implemented into 4 stores in China. Trying on the new product on a treadmill, customers could control an avatar of themselves in a fantasy land that represented the attributes of the product. 48% of those that played the game went on to purchase the product. 


Virtual Worlds

Creating an experience within a virtual world means there are no boundaries to what can be achieved and, in a world currently defined by distance and boundaries, this offers a unique opportunity for total immersion. 

Travis Scott x Fortnite: Astronomical

Over 12 million players logged into Fortnite to witness the live in-game concert featuring Travis Scott, who performed his latest track from within the game. The event included a skyscraper-sized version of Scott teleporting across the landscape, attracting millions of attendees. It highlights the power of bringing two strong brands together to deliver a memorable experience to ultimately driving more engagement within the Fortnite game.


Building Community

Brands are using gaming as a tool to increase customer engagement and build their community. With the high levels of engagement in the gaming world, which have increased dramatically since lockdown began, brands can be smart with their partnerships to build this community.

Animal Crossing Runway Show

As Alexander McQueen said, ‘Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.’ Some of the worlds most pioneering designer fashion labels are partnering with Nintendo’s real-time simulation game Animal Crossing: New Horizons to host virtual fashion shows within the game. This includes brands such as Marc Jacobs, Valentino and Prada leveraging this platform with events off the agenda and the added opportunity to create a waste-free runway show.

“In an era of social distancing the game has become the best way to turn a look — and engage with community while you're at it.” i-D (Vice)

The opportunity here is significant. Using gaming as part of the retail experience presents a chance to increase dwell time, improve retention through engagement, gather data, offer rewards to encourage loyalty, raise brand awareness and provide a positive shopping experience. It can enrich the overall Cx, blending the best of the physical and digital.

“Fully engaged customers represent a 23% premium in share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth over the average customer.” Gallup

We’ve been working with a number of our clients to explore what required escapism means for them, and how new experiences like these can be included within their brand ecosystem, as we enter a world where the physical and digital become more intertwined than ever.

Get in touch if you’d like to see the full Required Escapism report or explore what this means for your brand.