Best Buy Lands Virtually on CityVille

Discussion
Sep 26, 2011
Tom Ryan

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."

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?

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8 Comments on "Best Buy Lands Virtually on CityVille"


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Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

What makes this a really interesting tool is not the marketing, not the loyalty and not the sales. It is the input from the consumers on what Best Buy should be in terms of the products they carry, where they should be located and what the store should look like. Hopefully, there is a team at BB that is scouring the data with the objective of making a better Best Buy for the future.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Tut, tut, tut. Where oh where are the stores that opened not so long ago in SecondLife?

The Financial Times speculated recently about the likelihood of Best Buy — only recently opened in the U.K. — closing down there.

So maybe SecondLife was before its (or consumers’) time and perhaps Best Buy launched in Britain at the wrong time. Or perhaps history is destined to repeat itself.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 7 months ago

Product placement in gaming is not new. EA’s NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and FIFA game lines are an excellent example of brand name penetration marketing in gaming. Best Buy is using a high traffic site and game to get its label across to the masses. The question is, what are they going to do with it? Is it just simple product placement or are they going to use the power of social networks to reach out to consumers? I mean, the data mining opportunity is limitless. BB should be able to harvest information related to popular products in a certain geography. That in itself is a goldmine of data. BB should extend some kind of special promotion to CityVille users to track and build brand loyalty through FB.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

And we wonder why and how we have become a nation of overweight, non-social (face to face) people needing exercise and fresh air! The outdoors is there for us. The need for more games to play sitting inside and being non communicative is sad.

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Absolutely a smart marketing move. BBY needs to work to stay in the forefront of shopper’s minds as “the cool e-place.” That’s hard to do when you are a mainstream big box retailer.

BBY actually experimented with dedicated stores targeted to traditional gamers (young males 18-25) by combining games, game gear and beer in a tavern style format designed to be a social destination. That concept didn’t grow for legal and technical reasons, but the notion of being where gamers are — young men or the “wallet-keeper” women — just makes sense for BBY.

Liz Crawford
Guest
9 years 7 months ago
What other game-play for stores could be explored in virtual games beyond those offered so far in Best Buy’s CityVille campaign? The next frontier for gamification will be effective tie-ins with bricks and mortar stores and online purchasing opportunities, as well as incentives for brand advocacy. Gamification affords huge opportunities to marketers to build loyalty and awareness/consideration. Shoppers who are new to a retailer can learn about the retailer’s benefits through in-game engagements. For example, Capital One created an in-game incentive to put a Capital One statue on the farm. The reward to gamers was a quadruple yield of crops. This benefit dovetails with the benefits touted by Capital One on their website, “Earn 5x the Interest” compared to the national average. Gamification also works to help loyalty. However, I believe there are more untapped opportunities in this area. For example, what if the Cityville gamers who were also enrolled in the Best Buy Reward Zone program got extra reward zone points for playing? This would give “real world” discounts/incentives, housed on Best Buy loyalty… Read more »
Carlos Arambula
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

It can be a very effective way to reach consumers with “real world” promotions and merchandising. Best Buy’s category has evolved with technology and so have the distribution points for technology — one doesn’t have to visit a brick and mortar location to purchase the items Best Buy sells. Gamification is not going to replace Best Buy’s circulars or broadcast advertising any time soon, but it can be an effective component of the marketing mix.

Divina Penaloza
Guest
Divina Penaloza
9 years 7 months ago

Capital One also jumped on board, as a bank goal just recently launched in the game as well. So, I’m just waiting for Westfield or Simon to jump on board to have a shopping center on CityVille.

I agree this isn’t new, but I do feel more brands are finding more subtle ways into consumers’ heads. I believe brand placement in video games will continue to grow, since you have a captive audience for hours. I also think those “commercials” within television shows we watch will continue. It’s not even that subtle anymore. It’s like an actual ad in the middle of a television show with the actors working the brand within the conversation. I love how the DVR and TiVo gave us the ability to fast forward through commercials, but brands are now inserting their messages within the television show, so no matter what, we have to watch a character endorse a product and let us know how much they like it.

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