What Can Gamification Learn From Sensory Marketing?: In the Context of Servicescapes

What Can Gamification Learn From Sensory Marketing?: In the Context of Servicescapes

Miralem Helmefalk (Linnaeus University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1970-7.ch003


While gamification research is multidisciplinary and has grown in popularity during the last decade, it still requires further evidence and direction on which and how much various game mechanics impact on cognitive, emotional, and behavioral outcomes in digital and physical servicescape contexts. To shed light on this problem, a novel perspective on sensory marketing and gamification was chosen. This chapter has discussed and analyzed the similarities and differences between sensory marketing and gamification, as well as what theoretical perspectives and practices gamification can borrow from sensory marketing. Six issues have surfaced that require more research on this matter: (1) The interaction effects, (2) Weight and impact, (3) Congruency, (4) Complexity, (5) (sub)Conscious/(non)visible elements, and (6) The causal chain. This chapter explains and discusses these issues and offers future research avenues.
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During the last decade, gamification has gained considerable attention in research and practice (Nacke & Deterding, 2017). During the same decade there has also been an increasing interest in sensory marketing and how it can aid in better understanding consumers’ minds and actions (Krishna & Schwarz, 2014). While both domains may at first seem distant to each other, there are similarities in the underlying logic of modifying and designing elements in a digital/physical place. Despite being about motivating and engaging people to train, or (un)consciously triggering certain purchasing behaviors (e.g. Hamari & Koivisto, 2015; Spence et al., 2014), both domains follow a logic of modifying existing services, environments, atmospheres or servicescapes to impact various behaviors (Helmefalk & Marcusson, 2019).

While gamification is studied rigorously and across disciplines, such as in crowdsourcing, health, computer science, software development, tourism, sustainability, and marketing (e.g. Kasurinen & Knutas, 2018; Matallaoui et al., 2017; Morschheuser et al., 2017; Sardi et al., 2017), more is required in the context of servicescapes, as underlined by Huotari and Hamari (2012). To contribute research on this matter, there is a need to bridge different domains together, as has been partly done in recent years (Hofacker et al., 2016; Högberg, Shams, et al., 2019; Olsson et al., 2016). However, to advance the interdisciplinary gamification theory, currently overrepresented in digital contexts, new insights are required on bridging physical and digital servicescapes with gamification. To gamify servicescapes appropriately, these environments should be carefully designed, with people’s thoughts and emotions in mind (Burke, 2016; Dale, 2014).

To unveil potential new insights, sensory marketing is one potential and fitting candidate that examines how consumers think, feel and act when subjected to sensory stimuli (Krishna & Schwarz, 2014). As sensory marketing is saturated with consumer behavior, gamification has an excellent opportunity to help us understand current gaps and develop a more coherent perspective, especially in regard to how people think, feel and their subsequent outcomes in servicescape contexts.

Mullins and Sabherwal (2018a, p. 1237) state that, “there is a need to understand how more specific emotions, both positive and negative, may help achieve the goals of gamification”. The same issue is emphasized in Nacke and Deterding (2017, p. 7) who raise the specific need for research in gamification. The author pinpoints, “Yet we are still dearly lacking studies with rigorous designs that assess both psychological mediators and behavioural outcomes […]”. Accordingly, this chapter aims to shed new light on gamification in servicescape contexts and what concepts and methods can be employed to develop gamification theory further. To address these issues, this chapter discusses, deconstructs and analyzes various sensory marketing and gamification issues, which will guide further research on gamification in servicescape contexts. To further explain and elaborate on this argument, these subjects will be briefly presented and contrasted with each other.

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