Are games the new face of shopper engagement? Ksubaka thinks so

Ksubaka - Retail Tech
While screens in stores aren’t new, our interaction with them may well be. Most of us are used to using our smartphones while out and about, but Ksubaka is using fun-filled games to tempt us to interact with its screens – and provide real-time insights to retailers at the same time.

Amrit Virk, head of business development UK, walks us through the technology, the psychology of gaming and brand messaging and using engagement to understand customer intent:


Can you tell us what Ksubaka does in a nutshell?

We are a plug-and-play network of interactive digital screens that sit within physical retail spaces. The screens allow retailers and brands to advertise at the point of sale and get customers to interactively engage with products sold in that store.

As well as promoting products, the screens allow retailers and brands to gain real-time insights into what customers are thinking and doing within the store environment via interactive content in the form of surveys, but not as you know them.

The screens run on an Android platform, come in all shapes and forms and are connected over 4G and Wi-Fi. As well as the screens, we provide the back-end in terms of running the actual network. We also provide our customers with live data tracking through a dashboard so that they can make informed decisions and optimise campaigns. We provide the entire end-to-end package for our clients.


Ksubaka - Retail Tech In-Store


Who are your customers?

We originated in Singapore where we worked with a large retailer called FairPrice across 280 stores. It was a huge success both for the retailer and the brands sold in that store.

We then branched out to China where we currently have around 9,000 playSpots in different retailers such as Vanguard, 7-Eleven and CRV. We’ve also had a successful pilot in Australia with a major retailer and we are now currently live in Thailand.

In the UK, we have just completed a pilot with one high street retailer and we’re working closely with two other large retailers as well. We’re expanding to Indonesia as well, and we’re looking to expand to different parts of Europe and then potentially to the US.

Brands we have worked with include; Barilla, Coca Cola, Colgate, Cui Cui Sha, Dove, Friso Gold, Head & Shoulders, Heineken, Lifebuoy, L’Oreal, Milka, Nescafe and Oreo.


Does the retailer buy or rent the screens?

We provide the full network on annual contracts, so they’re permanently fixed where they are in the store. We also deploy temporary pop-up networks if that’s what the client wants. Some brands want to use them as a private network for marketing activation, internal use or to put into spaces where the products are sold.


Ksubaka - In-Store Retail Tech



How easy is it for retailers to integrate the screens in-store?

The playSpots need power, but we do everything else. The tablets are all either 4G or Wi-Fi connected, so all the information is sent back to our central systems where we collate the data.

Initially we speak to retailers and we try and gauge how they’re currently monetising space in-store and how they’re communicating with customers at the point of sale. Then we go into the retailer and decide on how big the roll out will be. We then go through a planning phase ensuring we are meeting health and safety compliance. Installation on-site can be completed in as little as eight minutes per playSpot.


What rate of interaction do the screens get from customers?

Our average interaction is over 60 seconds. Nine out of 10 people who start interacting with the playSpot complete a full engagement and we have on average 10 million completed engagements a month all over the world. So, we’re capturing an unparalleled amount of people’s time.

What’s important here is that we are 100% consensual – you have to walk up to the playSpot and start interacting with it because you want to. You give your information because you want to, not because you were harangued by a customer service person.

People are already experimenting with screens, but a lot of the time it’s not very clear what they do. They don’t really say if they’re interactive or what the content is going to be. So we find some people are quite wary of them.

Our playSpots however, are designed to be immediately attractive in terms of the ergonomic look and design – this draws people towards them. We also have a bold and visible ‘call to action’ simply asking consumers to ‘play now’ – this works really well and immediately signals that the experience will be interactive.

What we tend to see is that when a person walks through the door they’ll look at one playSpot and then walk around the store. Then they’ll see a second one, they’ll go ‘oh right ok, this looks like fun’, and by the time they see a third one they’ll have a go. We normally suggest a minimum of four screens per store, but we’ve got one store environment that we’re working with that currently has 19 playSpots.


Ksubaka - Retail Innovation



Do the playSpots show just one brand or campaign at a time?

It depends on the client. The screens usually have about four campaigns running at any given time and then the customer can select whichever one they would like to play. The carousel rotates so people understand that there’s different content on there.

We deal with retailers who are the brand, and who don’t necessarily sell third party items, so they keep all the space on the playSpot for themselves, and promote their own products and special offers. They also do their own research into what’s happening in and around that store.

With other retailers who do deal with third party suppliers, they run a mixture of own label and branded content, effectively running an in store marketing channel for their suppliers.


Do you design the content on the retailer or brand’s behalf?

We always work with whoever is the brand owner. It’s very consultative because we’re such a unique offering. We can either build bespoke engines, which we’ve done for example with Milka who wanted something completely original, but also we have a large library of game engines. This means we take the assets of the brand and we try and fit the right game engine for the message that they’re trying to communicate. For example, we did a campaign for Coca-Cola in Asia using a drag-and-shoot game engine where customers had to drag-and-shoot ice cubes into a glass of Coke.


Ksubaka - Retail Personalisation



Do you help retailers pick the best types of content for their aims?

We absolutely have game engines that are generally more popular and there are some games that are slightly skewed to females and some game engines that slightly skew to male.

We always sit and consult with the client to understand what the products are and what they’re trying to achieve. Then we come up with a plan on how we think we can use the interactive content to get the information they’re looking to get, and recommend the best game engine and the experience it could be used for.

For example, we had a pharmaceutical company who had a toothpaste that they wanted to promote with a new ingredient which helps fight sensitivity. The game engine for that was ‘whack-a-mole’ where people would tap on the tooth and fill in the holes with the toothpaste.

At the end we asked people if they could recall what the ingredient was that helps fight sensitivity and over 78% of them could remember it. When you’ve got an intellectual story and then you’re asking people to connect kinetically to reinforce that brand message, it’s incredibly effective in terms of the psychology of playing games.

The beauty of our platform is that it’s all in real-time and the playSpots are connected over 4G or Wi-Fi so we can push content in an instant. If you just want to know what’s happening on a certain Saturday, we can take over the screens for that day and then change the content on Sunday. This is something that retailers have always struggled with when it comes to traditional trade marketing as if the message is wrong then it’s a complete waste of time. Here we control everything. This is real in-store adaptive marketing.


Ksubaka - Brand Awareness



Of the projects you’ve worked on recently which was the most innovative?

We’re working with a UK retailer that is really interested in trying to digitise their stores. They’ve been looking for ideas for about 8 to 9 months but nothing’s ever felt right because to justify the cost they need volume, but they also wanted to understand their customers in terms of their purchasing intent.

To be able to capture someone who’s in and around the store who may purchase something, or who may not purchase something, and then to be able to influence their buying decision was huge for them as they have a percentage of customers who come in and don’t transact.

Previously, the retailer could speak to the transacting customers via the till receipt survey, but didn’t understand why some didn’t transact in-store. If they can understand why and then make business decisions based on that feedback and ultimately move that needle half a percent that’s huge for them.

So we put together a survey that is incredibly fun to play, while trying to understand why customers don’t buy and then we’re able to report back in real-time exactly what people are saying. We can cut that feedback by gender and by age so you’ve got what people are saying for different age group. Plus, because we geolocate each playSpot we know where they were when they gave the feedback. When you put that all together it gives you a really compelling and powerful story.

When they talk about the customer, they talk about a person but actually what one segment is saying is very different from what the other is saying and that’s how you’re going to move the needle. Because if you change your proposition for one set of people and then change it for another set of people it’s more tailored and that’s how you’re going to see the growth.


Are you able to correlate the engagement with the screens and transactions in-store?

In terms of a branded experience we can get the customer to follow them on social media, get them to enter their details into a competition to win something, give them a voucher at the end of the experience – there’s always a call to action.

Once the customer has given us their contact details there are many ways that we can find out whether they’ve transacted or not. For example, if someone puts in their email address, and more importantly opts in to hear about more promotions or any other marketing content, we can cross-reference that with what the retailer already has in its database.

If we realise that this person has never given their email address before and it’s a new contact detail, we can then verify if this person is currently an online customer. Then the retailer can communicate with them to get them online, which might be via a promotion on their first order. In some surveys we’ve actually asked customers if they shop online with that brand, so when we have responses that say no and then they provide us their email address that’s a whole range of customers that we can now target to get them online.


Ksubaka - Retail Messaging



What do you think is coming next in terms of digital marketing in-store?

I think there’s a lot of retailers who have to innovate or they will struggle in the store environment. Shopping is supposed to be a pleasure, and I think retailers are understanding that the shopping environment and improving the shopper journey is really important. One part of this is to keep people coming in store and not shopping somewhere else, but also offering something a bit different.

Our job is to make people smile at point of sale and to put them in a good mood and then communicate effectively whatever it is the retailer or brand wants to. It’s about bringing joy to the shopper journey and the customer. I think retailers are really aware of that now and they’re looking at a variety of different ways to achieve it.

Previously if you went to a grocery store they would do a taster or a pop-up cooking class or something like that. Those activations are great, but they’re expensive and it’s really hard to measure the ROI. With our platform we know exactly how many impressions have been made, how many times people have clicked on it, how many people start an engagement and go on to complete. In terms of return on investment in what customers spend with us versus what they get back versus other media spend we’re much more effective.


What’s on the roadmap for the future of Ksubaka?

Because the retail space is evolving quite quickly, we have an array of different formats that we can have the actual playSpots in. So, they can be larger screens for certain venues, we can have the traditional mount and we’re also experimenting with how we can fit on shelves.

Rather than just having our standard playSpot that we put into retail spaces, we will have a catalogue of formats on offer. In terms of the back-end, the game mechanics, the insights, the level of reporting are at an excellent standard at the moment, but we’re continuously working on being able to provide more insight to the retailer and brand.

The main thing is that we stick to our core ethos; that it makes sense for us to do it, it makes sense for the client and also it brings that joy to whoever is interacting with that playSpot.

Image credit: Ksubaka

What’s the next phase of retail’s tech innovations? Find out here. See the latest trends for yourself by joining us on a London retail trend tour.