Wulf's Webden

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The Gamification of Shopping

Gamification is a fairly new term which is used to cover the use of techniques used by game designers in other settings. One example would be Bloom Day badges on the Folia website. By noting at least one plant that is flowering in my garden on the fifteenth day of each month, I win a badge on my profile. In some ways it is an inconsequential reward compared to the wonder of realising (and collecting evidence) that there is always something flowering even in the depths of winter but I would be inclined to say that the promise of a monthly badge helped me achieve something I would otherwise have missed.

It is not a new idea. For years, teachers and parents have exploited similar ideas. We like to get a gold star and that can often seem more motivational than the thing that is done to earn it. Standing at the supermarket checkout this morning, I realised that gamification is also at work in the way large supermarkets dole out reward vouchers along with receipts.

I had been attracted back to Sainsburys because I had several vouchers that were shortly due to expire. Even better, I managed to hit the jackpot of saving £10 on a £70 spend even though I hadn’t thought I would win that one, largely thanks to the 25% off when buying six bottles of wine (Christmas stocks laid up). I’m rather glad that the only new voucher I got today was for a measily 40p off my next shop so I won’t feel quite so constrained on my next choice of shopping location.

The real game behind shopping though is that contest between me, playing the hunter-gatherer, and the many providers of groceries. Each of them is seeking to get me to spend more money in their store while I am seeking to get all that I need, avoid the temptation to get lots of things I don’t need and end up spending less overall. Who is winning? It is hard to say as there is no central scoreboard to refer to but that would be an interesting game to track. I will have to think what tools (aside from an innate tendency to thriftiness) will help me win that übergame.

ps. Extra points for anyone who comes along to tonight’s Peter and the Wulf gig! (7:30pm… more details at the end of yesterday’s post).

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