Tomorrow's business students and bloggers may well look back on June 2014 as a key month in the history of modern retailing. Amazon launched its Fire Phone - packing features like the Firefly button and contextual recognition that it hopes will change the future of retail.
June was also the month in which GAME Digital capped a remarkable high street turnaround: the fastest stock market re-listing of a business that had previously been in administration. In March 2012, the company was staring into the same abyss that had recently swallowed Woolworths, Zavvi, Borders and dozens of other high street names. So how did GAME manage it - following the worst recession in a generation, huge category disruption and the apparently unstoppable march of a competitor like Amazon?
3 successful habits GAME shares with Amazon
- Obsessing about the customer
Easy to say, hard to achieve - yet both GAME and Amazon have embraced the customer revolution by ensuring that every decision is considered through the eyes of those who matter most: their customers. GAME knows its customers are not simply - to paraphrase the Unilever CMO - eyeballs and fingers waiting for the next blockbuster console release. It listens to and innovate for the whole person, and in doing so has found opportunities to launch related products, create new services, and make recommendations for third party offers.
- Embracing innovation
Modern retailing is a far cry from simply shifting boxes. In GAME's world, both the product and the customer experience are increasingly digital and cross-platform - which requires a constant pipeline of innovation to stay ahead. Smartphone apps offer targeted promotions, trade-in opportunities via barcode scanning and access to credit for Xbox and PlayStation Network; a sophisticated loyalty programme connects shoppers' in-store behaviour with their online activities; and the recently launched GAME Wallet will provide an integrated loyalty point, smartphone payment and in-game purchase platform.
- Prioritising customer insight
Amazon was the insight and analytics pioneer in the e-commerce world: it blazed a trail with customer reviews and feedback, recommendation algorithms and programmatic email campaigns.
GAME has high quality multi-channel data for 13 million loyalty card holders; customer feedback from all touch-points is integrated in a single platform to support complex analysis, profiling and segmentation; and the company has made the strategic decision to in-source the insight and analytics function - a growing team which is increasingly seen as a key source of competitive advantage.
3 strategies unique to GAME
In addition to the online best practices GAME shares with Amazon, it has made smart use of its network of bricks-and-mortar stores to develop strengths that let it compete with even the biggest online retailers. Here's how:
- Leveraging local
GAME has over 300 stores in the UK. These locations are rapidly transforming into destinations for engaged customers and enthusiasts. The online social strategy is joined up with in store activities; GAME Events are frequently held for local customers, themed around platforms, categories or major new releases; and the whole shopper journey now assumes complete integration of online desktop, mobile app and in store channels.
- Empowering employees
GAME employs passionate enthusiasts in its stores: people who connect with customers, who understand their needs and can be relied on for expert advice. This combination of passion for the business and deep customer understanding has carried many store staff into senior management positions at the company. And GAME trusts its staff: every store has its own social media accounts, entirely managed by the local team. Customers know that their interactions with staff - whether face-to-face or online - are credible and authentic; satisfaction feedback and loyalty metrics reinforce how important this is.
- Fostering community
GAME has a bold vision: to build the UK's most valuable community of gamers. It is doing this with its loyalty programmes, its social strategy, its in store activities and events, its focus on people - customers and employees - and its use of tools like the GAME Interface online insight community. The company even distributed å£2 million in virtual loyalty shares to 20,000 of its most loyal customers at its recent flotation.
GAME's story should inspire retailers everywhere. It shows that far from being a liability in the era of online retail, physical points of sale can help companies build the customer relationships and insight that drive lasting success.
Vision Critical is the software provider of GAME Interface, an online insight community providing customer intelligence to GAME. We also manage this insight community on behalf of GAME.