By Jack M. Germain
7/21/2021 5:00 AM PT
A new e-commerce trend that is taking hold as the pandemic stranglehold on consumer access to brick and mortar stores is loosening is the convergence of shopping with playing games as the source of entertainment.
A good example is the startup Tophatter. This retail discovery market, where shoppers spend time instead of saving time, is what CEO Ashvin Kumar calls the “anti-Amazon.”
The E-Commerce Times spoke to Kumar to discuss the driving factors that are driving the popularity of this new gamified marketplace and how it works.
The appeal of Tophatter lies in not just offering buyers steep discounts on a large inventory of available products. The entertainment factor is gamifying the shopping experience.
The platform connects buyers with thousands of sellers worldwide. This allows them to search through millions of items and conduct lightning-fast auctions in real time. Tophatter gives consumers choice in their shopping experience. They can participate in auctions or browse for items they like.
This is where the incentive to discover begins.
In contrast to shopping on platforms like Amazon, where shoppers usually know what they want to buy and are simply looking for the best purchase option, Tophatter’s audience is on a kind of treasure hunt. They look for products that surprise them and can also participate in real-time auctions for some products and buy others directly.
Tophatter buyers can take either approach with or without the angle of play. But gambling while shopping is what drives consumers to visit the platform to look for offers.
This marketplace does not have a search bar by default to search for specific products. That is by design and works, observed Kumar.
Tophatter has adopted the gamification concept from popular digital marketplaces in Asia. A few months ago, Kumar added the first built-in games. The novel approach is highly praised by frequent repeat consumers.
“We found that the average number of hours we spent using the app has doubled since we launched our mini-games. The app is live in several countries, but our largest shopping base is still in the US,” reported Kumar.
The Tophatter platform adds a unique touch to the convergence between shopping, gaming and gaming. However, he anticipates that similar combinations will become more common on US-based digital shopping sites. The concept is already growing rapidly around the world.
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Kumar’s innovative creation is a pioneering project. He is breaking new ground for e-commerce.
The name of the game is Mobile Discovery Shopping. Tophatter combines digital marketplaces, gaming and discovery retail.
This platform is not suitable for all buyers. However, it has been a huge hit so far with consumers looking to be entertained and delighted by surprise products while they shop in batches all day while otherwise sitting around in their cars, at home, and elsewhere.
“Consumers are looking for convenient and fun ways to pass the time, whether they’re at home or waiting to pick up their kids from school or soccer practice. Since our inception, Tophatter has made it easy for anyone to browse and bid on go – with the added layer of gamification, we offer a retail process that goes beyond quick checkout for an all-round fun experience, “explained Kumar.
In January 2012 he founded Tophatter together with CTO Chris Estreich. Goodwater Capital, August Capital, and others have invested $ 35 million to date. The company is based in San Francisco and Shanghai.
The gamified marketplace seems to be growing. Tophatter leads the way with more than 35 million customers worldwide and a 26 percent increase in C2C sellers on its platform from May.
Two factors seem inevitable. First, more and more people are flocking to shopping experiences that also serve as entertainment. Two other retailers will eventually add the play element to their retail offerings.
Two new mini-games are currently integrated into Tophatter’s gamified shopping experience.
Quests is a series of daily and weekly challenges where customers can earn points by completing tasks while shopping. These tasks include displaying products and placing bids. Treasure Spin is a digital wheel that visitors use to collect points, cards and other items
Gambling addicts collect their points in the online card store. You earn three types of cards that enhance your e-commerce experience or unlock other features within the app.
“Based on how Tophatter shoppers have reacted since we launched our integrated games a few months ago, we can see that there is a growing appetite for retail gamification for our customers in the US,” said Kumar.
Stacking the deck
Tophatter visitors can scroll through the available products without playing the games. But they miss out on fun and discounts. There are no registration fees or registration fees for using the marketplace.
Participation in the games gives players the opportunity to win cards that offer discounts on items purchased, which in some cases are already heavily discounted. The cards include:
- “Win Skins” to customize the look and feel of virtual auctions and add special effects such as fireworks or dancing animals to bidders’ screens.
“Function cards” can change the function of an auction while playing. These features allow users to place a last minute bid on an item without turning back the clock for a near-guaranteed purchase.
- “Credit Cards” can be redeemed for $ 0.50 to $ 5.00 off a purchase.
- “Mystery Packs” that contain a mix of three to five cards. They can include a “credit card” of $ 5 or $ 20.
Tophatter’s concept of shopping in a Discovery marketplace differs from other sales platforms.
According to Kumar, most retail marketplaces are designed to benefit buyers who already have a purchase in mind. They visit the website for a specific item and in most cases they will buy it.
“Discovery marketplaces like Tophatter give people the ability to go beyond their shopping lists to search for and find new, unexpected items simply by scrolling down,” he added.
Buyers who bid on an auction item only pay when they receive the bid. Auctions take place in real time. Otherwise, visitors can simply buy a product that they discover directly with a click of the buy button.
Fulfillment and marketing are also different
Suppliers on Tophatter do not send their products to a central warehouse for distribution. Instead, they take care of their own warehousing and fulfillment.
“Sellers set their own shipping prices, and we’ll be guided by what will resonate with buyers,” said Kumar.
Another difference to other digital marketplaces is the quantities a seller has available. Some Tophatter sellers may have a special offer available prior to checkout so that buyers can get a different, identical item at a special price.
“To retry a purchase, shoppers can click the item title on the My Orders page to see if there are more items available to purchase,” he said.