Gamification in eCommerce – does it work?

There’s a term that perhaps not a lot of people have heard of – Gamification.

In the eCommerce world we could definitely argue that our main problem is converting visits to sales but is gamification a viable method of solving this?

As a Magento developer I’m always interested in learning about new ways to improve our client’s conversion rates (a happy, profitable client is normally loyal to the web company that delivered their successful website) and so when I heard about a few companies offering gamification for the Magento platform I wanted to see some stats.

Wikipedia states:

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems

The Theory

The theory behind gamification or ‘gamifying’ an eCommerce website relies heavily on human nature. Instinctively people tend to get excited about things, they tend to take risks and be competitive with other people. Converting the normally click-add-buy eCommerce experience into a game-like scenario is the attempt to capitalise on these impulses.

  • Risk-taking becomes purchasing
  • Competitiveness becomes spending more than other shoppers
  • Our shopping egos are flattered by the reward of badges and points

The objective of any game designer is to create a game that compels the user to keep on playing, the object of gamification within an eCommerce website is to compel the customer to keep on buying.

Who does it?

There are many companies out there that offer gamification as a service (SaaS). I’m going to focus on a couple of companies that offer gamification as an extension of the Magento platform.



Fanplayr have been around for a couple of years now and received a rather grand $2m worth of start-up investment to launch their business. Their solution is that of a hosted platform, I’ve not used it myself but watching the videos and reading the reviews of their service indicates to me that their system relies on an API integration.

I’d probably liken it to Google Analytics, simply because it tracks user activity on the website and you can enter in your own “goals”. When a visitors journey matches the criteria that you set in your control panel they are presented with pre-defined offers and promotions (again based on the criteria). This allow the store owner to tailor promotions based on each visitors behaviour – which is a cool thing indeed.

Not only this, but it seems from the looks of their website that each promotion is presented in their own game-based scenario. For instance if a user searches for “red boots” the system could present the customer with a roulette wheel game – clicking on spin would randomise the customer’s promotion – perhaps offering them the choice between 10% off red shoes or 5% off their entire cart.

They’ve also released a free Magento extension for Magento users with lots of customisable options. There’s no pricing structure available on the website but I can guess that it’s probably going to be a subscription-based model.

Key Features:

  • Conversion Focussed
  • Rich Analytics
  • Tracks Activity on Website
  • Externally Hosted Control Panel
  • Personalised Offers
  • AB testing
  • Library of Games
  • Social Aspect

eCommerce Gamification Suite (Aheadworks)


It was an Aheadworks tweet that prompted me to write this article in the first place, they’re currently in the process of releasing an entire gamification suite that looks pretty darn good – you can pre-order it here.

What I like about this extension is that you only pay a one-off fee. The combination of attributes and rules are all under your control and the control panel is actually located within Magento itself. The downsides however are the flexibility of the system and the lack of analytical data (compared to Fanplayr).

Aheadworks seem to use the core principles of gamification (as I mentioned previously) within their extension through the use of leaderboards (or “The Ego Wall” as they refer to it), live streaming achievements, the ability for a customer to create a profile/avatar and the use of badges and rewards.

Their achievements system will be familiar to many gamers as it is similar to the Xbox and Playstation style of rewarding a players hard-work or length of gameplay.

Key Features:

  • Magento Extension
  • Tracks Purchases / total purchases / referrals / reviews
  • Leaderboard System (“Ego Wall”)
  • Live Stream of Achievements
  • Ability to create a customised profile

Does it work?

So we’ve seen what a couple of companies have come up with in terms of blending “gaming culture” with Magento, but does it really work? If we take a look at the stats coming out of the Fanplayr corner we can see that they definitely think so:

  • up to 25% increase in conversions
  • up to 50% higher average order values
  • up to 20% offer-based margin improvement

There are also a lot of screenshots on their website of an example control panel that does shed some light on the number of customers picking up promotions (roughly 20% pickup).

If these stats are to be believed then there may be something in this gamification malarky after all.


I must say first and foremost that I’m a big fan of gaming…in the right place at the right time. Personally speaking I’d rather keep my ecommerce activities and my online leaderboard achievements separate but am I on my own in this belief?

It begs the question “When does an eCommerce website justify gamification?”. Surely it’s about context? Would we really see an increase in conversion rate if a website that sold pharmaceuticals pitched people against each other on a publicly visible leaderboard?

I bought more anti-wrinkle cream that you this month Martha hahaha!

Surely not, but perhaps that’s why the two examples I gave before are so different, one uses game-based promotions in order to incentivise each customer individually, the game element meant to increase the number of shoppers accessing promotions, the risk factor focussing on the limited time-frame to claim their winning promotion. The other system focuses on personal Ego boosting rewards and the competitive nature of human beings.

Both systems treat customers to discounts and both leverage gaming conventions to keep the customer buying.

Gamification vs Points & Rewards

Gamification differs to points and rewards purely on an interactional level. There are many points and rewards systems out there that do a great job of incentivising customers by allowing them to accumulate points based on how much they spend, more points equals greater rewards.

It’s a great system and it’s worked well for years, SweetTooth have created a very successful business out of this model and I’ve yet to hear a bad word said about them from any of their customers.


Indeed, on this note I remember creating a system using SweetTooth that raised customers up the rankings (customer groups) based on the total points they had accumulated. So in essence this elevated their status or “ego” to a higher level and provided a weak gamification element to that particular website.


Finally a conclusion, but a wooly one at best.

We can all agree that increasing conversion rates on our eCommerce websites is the ultimate goal. Gamification is a rather unique way of doing this, is it the best? Is it right for you? These are the questions you need to ask yourself.

Would your store benefit more from a simple points/reward system such as SweetTooth or do you feel that your customers are eager competitors and that you’d drive more sales facing them off against each other? Would they purchase more if there was an element of risk involved?

In the end it all boils down to promotions – however you label it. Offer your customers incentives and they should come back for more.