Best Buy Lands Virtually on CityVille
Best Buy recently became the first retailer to open its doors to the virtual world of CityVille, a city-building simulation game developed by San Francisco-based Zynga, which also developed the popular Facebook game, FarmVille. CityVille, also available on Facebook, allows players to become the mayor of a virtual city and oversee its development into a large metropolis.
Starting August 31 and continuing through September 6, CityVille players were able to build their very own in-game Best Buy store. Another week-long effort starts November 6.
"We are constantly looking for unexpected ways to stay connected with our customers through new digital platforms and with the popularity of CityVille, this was a natural step for us," said Alix Hart, senior director, digital marketing at Best Buy, in a statement.
In "CityVille," players build the city of their dreams, including homes, businesses, famous landmarks and public buildings. Players can perform tasks, which include farming, construction, and rent collection in their city using energy points. Via Facebook, friends and family can be recruited to work in police departments and build franchises, such as toy stores.
Under the Best Buy promotion, players can place the chain’s stores in their cities. Collecting items such as a smartphone, camera, refrigerator, TV and a "Deal of the Day" badge can win gamers points, energy boosts, game coins and even Geek Squad vehicles that they can use to roam the city.
Best Buy is one of the early retailers trying to tap "gamification," a marketing concept that fuses social media, entertainment and commerce. In games like CityVille as well as FarmVille, Mafia Wars and Cafe World, players play and interact with each other through Facebook, Yahoo and Google. That potentially offers stores to chance to virtually reach these them through deals, launches or loyalty programs.
According to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, HSN (Home Shopping Network) and Bluefly.com have both explored gamification efforts. Zynga has partnered with McDonald’s for FarmVille.
While hard-core gamers tend to be young and male, a recent Saatchi & Saatchi study on gamification found a much wider audience of virtual gamers. According to the study, about half of online Americans play social games during a typical day. Fifty-three percent of smartphone users play games daily and 66 percent of tablet users play daily.
Of those employed, 28 percent of respondents are playing games more than 30 minutes a day while at work. When asked how they would like to hear about a new product, 44 percent of respondents preferred e-mail communications and 37 percent would choose some kind of online game experience. Seventy-five percent of smartphone owners were interested in playing a clues-based challenge, and 85 percent would be interested in playing for at least 30 minutes for the chance of winning a $100 cash prize.
Of the group, 46 percent of social gamers were women.
"Retailers (covet) female shoppers," Carol Spieckerman, president of Newmarketbuilders and a RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, told the Star Tribune. "And social gaming is relevant to women."
- Best Buy to Open Its Virtual Doors For The First-Ever Branded CityVille Store This Week – Best Buy Co., Inc./Zynga Inc./Reuters
- Retailers angle for presence in social media’s virtual worlds – Minneapolis Star Tribune/The News & Observer
- Frequency of Social Gaming – Saatchi & Saatchi
- Zynga brings Best Buy store into CityVille – Vator.TV
- Best Buy strikes a deal with Zynga, opens its digital doors to CityVille – AOL Games
Discussion Questions: What do you think of the potential for retailers to reach consumers through virtual online games? Do you see gamification as more of a marketing, sales or loyalty tool for retailers? What other game-play for stores could be explored in virtual games beyond those offered so far in Best Buy’s CityVille campaign?