Creating New Retail Experiences With Social Gamification

This is the second in a two-part series exploring how brands are using gamification to take marketing risks, and combine online and offline experiences to create new customer experiences at live events.

In Part One, we saw how one agency used gamification to create unique calls-to-action. In Part Two, we explore at how two brands build experiences around social media to engage users at live events.

Gamification on-the-go

For Caribou Coffee, capitalizing on organic exposure outside local store shelves was a challenge. The brand wanted to increase awareness about their line of flavored iced coffee products– and took to the streets to do it.

Caribou Coffee teamed with retail marketing agency Shoptology to create the “Real or Not Real Challenge,” an interactive, game-show style activation that dared consumers to test their trivia skills, take a taste test, and “score” some free iced coffee samples.

“With Caribou Iced Coffee, their brand differentiation is that they are from a dairy company. Their competitors (Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks) are not dairy companies, and in theory, their dairy is not “real.” So we actually did a “Real or Not Real” challenge, where we went out to…festivals and let people test ice coffee that’s “real” versus “not real” dairy, and had them taste the difference,” Charlie Anderson, CEO, Shoptology, said.


Consumers could take part in the experience online (to win discounts and free offers) or in-person at their traveling “Real or Not Real?” booth, which toured some of Chicago’s biggest local events last year. Participants were encouraged to share their experiences on their personal social channels, creating new earned media exposure for the brand. 

Anderson says the rise of gamification has been “powerful” to watch, especially as retailers refine their strategies to help gain competitive advantage on mobile.

Related: Building Loyalty On Mobile With Jack Philbin, CEO, Vibes

“It’s been pretty interesting to see how retailers are using gamification to get you to download an app to earn badges and discounts,” Anderson said. “It’s the number one lever for retailers to get you engaged, and to get you to download the app.”

Socially-inspired live events

Earlier this month, beauty, fashion and lifestyle magazine POPSUGAR celebrated “instagrammable moments” at their two-day Play/Ground event in NYC. Vibrant brand displays complete with playful accessories, iPhone-ready camera stands (with picture-perfect lighting displays), and colorful content turned traditional vendor booths into interactive photo experiences.

Related: 6 Social Media Sites Driving Retail Sales

Some brands offered exclusive coupons or raffle entries for those willing to tag the company on social media, creating incentive for participants to submit user-generated content. Otterbox, for example, invited visitors to create their own messages by mixing and matching lettered phone cases along a giant wall at their booth. Lime-a-Rita (a Budweiser brand) used props to make their Pine-Apple-Rita samples more photogenic.



Lulu’s, a women’s fashion brand, invited everyone who uploaded and tagged their booth photos on Instagram an opportunity to win a $500 credit to their online store.

Play/Ground showcased the power digital media can have when integrated into a live event or brick-and-mortar environment. At Play/Ground, social media played a central role in the overall experience, connecting the dots between online and offline mediums. The booths were driven by social opportunity — designed to spark creativity, and promote highly-visual moments.

When coupled with incentives like free coupons or other offers, consumers feel comfortable sharing their interactions, because it’s a seamless part of the experience to begin with.

Looking for more insights on retail innovation? Check out our eBook: “What’s Next In High-Tech Retail?”

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