Gamification is having a significant impact on ecommerce in Southeast Asia. It involves using game design principles—such as competition, problem-solving, badges, leaderboards, and other add-ons—to attract customers, promote products, build brand loyalty, reward users, and enhance engagement with the business. 

According to Statista Research, revenue from the eCommerce market in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will reach USD 109.60 billion this year, with a user penetration of 58.1%. The industry benefits from increased smartphone use and internet connectivity, a young and tech-savvy population, rising incomes, concerted tech innovation, and startup ecosystem funding from local and international investors.

We share some ecommerce startups in Southeast Asia that are getting attention in 2023

Even so, additional research from Insider Intelligence shows that the online retail sector faces many challenges, with sales growth dropping from 21.6% in 2022 to 13.5% in 2023. Some concerns include the low participation rate in the digital economy, sustainability issues due to shipping products worldwide, poor infrastructure, and logistical problems. Furthermore, competition from larger retailers like Amazon may overwhelm smaller startups seeking a foothold in the market.

Game design solutions may be key to overcoming the challenges and boosting the internet economy.

Impact of gamification in Southeast Asia

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth of online retail after many physical store closures occurred in 2020 and 2021. Over 2.14 billion people switched to the internet and started spending money on digital marketplaces. 

Gamification adds a different layer to the ecosystem by making the user interface customer-friendly, which enhances the buyer’s overall experience in a marketplace. It applies the principles that make video games popular to real-life scenarios. Here are examples of its impact on online shopping:

Product visualisation

Buyers hesitate to make internet purchases because they are unsure of the product’s suitability and quality. As such, they rely on user reviews, which may only sometimes be reliable. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) make it possible for the customer to better understand what they are purchasing.

VR creates a computer-generated version of the product, which a user can view by wearing a VR headset. For example, travel companies can use VR to provide their customers with a preview of a holiday destination or offer digital tours of countries. 

AR is an immersive experience that combines real-world experiences with a person’s generated perception through sensory stimuli, for example, overlaying the product into the shopper’s world. For example, a shopper can picture how clothes will look on someone or how furniture will look in a home.

Personalised shopping experiences

Since eCommerce is online, customers need to replicate the feeling of visiting a physical storefront. Livestreaming on social media triggers the same game design concepts by making purchases more competitive, interactive, and engaging for the shopper. 

Other marketplaces enable their users to scan their likenesses and try out products. For example, someone looking for spectacles can sample different options online, pay for their choice, and have the glasses shipped to their location.

Sales, customer engagement, and loyalty

Free mobile mini-games with gamified features help boost brand awareness. They can keep customers busy while they are waiting for service or downloads. They can also make in-game purchases if available. Some platforms offer arcade-style games, enabling users to explore a brand’s offerings playfully. 

Moreover, buyers enjoy seeing their progress with the company through earning points per purchase or getting to the top of a leaderboard in a company-run competition. They can then convert the points for shopping at a later date. Increased participation in various activities means more conversions and sales.

Lazada offers mystery boxes, whereby customers can queue to buy from well-known brands. The shoppers’ excitement of not knowing what they will get in their boxes, keeps them engaged with the company. 

Gamified marketing campaigns and promotions 

Businesses can promote themselves through giveaways, offer spinning wheel games or virtual scratch cards to give customers discounts if they win, or attract them through other brands.

According to a TMO Group report on the top 10 eCommerce marketplaces, Shopee does this well with its mobile-focused interactive platform, offering flashing discount banners and gamified selection menus. Buyers can win Shopee coins, which they can convert into cash on their ShopeePay wallet. This interconnectedness ensures that the customer is constantly engaging with the company.

A steady growth towards a better future

Despite the global economic headwinds, eCommerce in Southeast Asia is rising slowly, with a 20% user penetration rate. That means there is enough room for growth to reach China’s 47% rate. There are many opportunities as regional countries are in different stages of their development. Thus, as they grow, they will provide new opportunities for startups in online retail to reach out and sell to shoppers.

Gamification can take online business apps to the next level, helping industries integrate engaging, interactive, fun, and valuable solutions to enhance customer experience and meet their needs.