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If you can’t beat it, join it. GAME confronts its demons head on

Posted by Joe McNamara on 20th September 2012

When we wrote our blog on GAME pushing the administration button back in March, it really did seem like ‘game over’ for the former high street giant. Six months on, and having merged with sister brand Gamestation, GAME still boasts 341 existing stores UK-wide – now with an added twist.

It’s quite the story. Having been almost put out of business by the move towards online retail, mobile gaming trends, and the permeation of social media in the gaming world, GAME will now confront its demons head on. The retailer will aim to take its physical stores online but keep the buzz of a gaming workshop by enticing customers back into them.

To achieve this, GAME has introduced free BT WiFi to its stores and developed a smartphone app that will be available for download in store. To access the app, customers can scan a visible QR code that gives them special access to product reviews, videos, news and special offers.

Why would people go to a store to shop online?

There’s a temptation for consumers to say ‘what is the point of going to a store to shop online?’ Why doesn’t GAME just reinvest its money in the online shop and digital marketing campaigns rather than clinging to the past?

It’s a fairly valid question, but from the perspective of a tech PR agency, we can actually see the potential. While online retail is a huge growth area for the gaming industry, high street stores are constantly under threat from the likes of Amazon and eBay. It is pretty easy to pick up cheap deals for second hand games and not pay full price online.

Therefore, it’s about enticing customers into the shop and making the process of purchasing products as easy as possible. Mobile payments is a growing trend thanks to the explosion of smartphones and improvements made in NFC technology. As gaming stores offer, or used to offer, a unique social experience to customers, there may be some mileage in this tactic.

Can mobile payments and exclusive apps save the high street?

By providing free WiFi and a smartphone app available in store, the idea is clearly to get customers back into the store and let them purchase items online. Gartner has predicted that by 2016, there will be 448 million m-payment users in a market worth $617 billion.

Interestingly, Mashable recently reported that, according to research from uSamp, 45% of men have purchased items on their mobile device, 11% higher than the figure for women. Despite the audience diversifying recently, gaming retailers are still aiming at a predominantly male audience – has GAME embraced its main customers buying habits or is that just a coincidence.

With social networks permeating every corner of the gaming world, the camaraderie of entering a gaming shop to play demos and trade-in old games for new ones has been somewhat lost. However, according to MCV, it was these ideals that helped Gamestation outscore GAME in recent years – by staying true to its ideals of a hardcore gaming store, letting GAME get lost with mainstream trends.

In fact, Gamestation also has more followers and a greater presence on Facebook than GAME, so the decision to swallow up the core gaming retailer is partly a bid for GAME to re-establish its position in the market via social channels.

This isn’t the first time technology has directed people back into stores. A previous is example is that of Virgin megastores, placing the emphasis on customer service and experience by allowing people to listen to the music and hang out on beanbags in store. This campaign proved that the physical shopping experience can be as important as the products themselves when building brand loyalty.

While it may not be an entirely new tactic, in a world where many believe the high street is dying, this is an interesting counter from GAME. Embracing the very things that have rendered its position in the market redundant – e-commerce, mobile apps, and social networks. If GAME succeeds in turning its fortunes around using this strategy, it may be an interesting development for high street retail outside the gaming industry.

Photo courtesy of Digital Spy.

Joe McNamara