Back to Blog & the Target cashier game: feedback is essential to gamification

May 14, 2015 • gal
feedback in gamification by gameffective
A screen shot of credit: techcrunch

One of the benefits of gamification is the immediate feedback it can give people about performance. I believe this is one of the more salient points about gamification, but it is nevertheless often missed as people imagine looking at their leaderboard position at the end of the day, but don’t get the compelling immediacy of gamification and its power of real time feedback.

What gamification offers is that instead of a too-late discovery – “oh, I’m not performing well today”, which immediately dampens enthusiasm for the remainder of the day – performance can be reflected as feedback immediately, effectively indicating the next best action. Gamification can be used to immediately tell people how they are doing and give them the auto-corrective measures to do so. That’s why we’ve compared gamification to fitness trackers such as fitbit and even wrote about the quantified self becoming the future of HR software.

I’m always on the lookout for great examples of how gamification and feedback work well. One of the better known examples is Target’s use of gamification and feedback for its cashiers. Another example I just discovered, through this TechCrunch article, is So, gamification feedback examples, here we go:

Target as a case study – Feedback-centric gamification turns work in to a game for younger employees

Target has quite a well-known gamification mechanic for its cashiers – you can read about it here. The cash register monitors the time it takes the cashiers to handle each client and gives them simple and immediate feedback on their screen. Employees see one of three letters (G, Y, and R for green, yellow and red), which indicates whether they have met their speed requirements on the last transaction. In this case, if they inadvertently slowed down, they are immediately notified. If they are doing well, they can see that too, and feel accomplished.  In addition they can see an indication of their average speed for the last several transactions – a personal benchmark for achievement rather than an external one.

Interestingly, the different Target employees have differing views on the practice. While the older employees feel that this is a simple way for Target to monitor employees and send them a message about the need for efficiency and speed, the younger employees feel quite differently. Having grown up with video games and various gamification engagement features in all walks of life, younger employees see the target feedback in more of a positive manner. One employee even said that it “makes work feel like a game”.

The point of the feedback here is that it is constant, giving cashiers an immediate indication of their performance. The interesting side here is whether the positive cue given by meeting the requirements is enough of an immediate “brain” reward to make checking performance a habit. Is craving that reward a driver for cashiers to pace themselves and perform better?.  To me it seems that this is the case.

As millennials start comprising more and more of the workforce, gamification will become more and more acceptable and natural. After all, these are employees that were born in to a world where internet exists everywhere, everybody owns a laptop or tablet, and smartphones are an essential tool. As a result, they are much more experienced in interacting in a playful way with machines and technology and in sensing emotional achievement while doing so. – a hack to sit up straight


“Sit up straight” is what teachers and parents tell children. Kids slouch at tables. They are reminded to sit up straight. This is a feedback mechanism of sorts. is this same feedback mechanism, and is the brainchild of developer Joe Heenan, which was presented at the recent Techcrunch Disrupt NY event. Using simple and affordable hardware (the device’s total cost is around $30), Heenan has invented a device which connects to the back of the wearer’s belt and detects whether they are slouching or sitting upright. The interesting part is that the user’s interaction with the app is through a posture score, and as Heenan says “your goal is to keep your posture score as close to 100 as possible”. Immediate feedback – here we come!

A hack for training through gamification

Another way to raise your posture score is by doing a series of hand gestures over the motion gesture controller which is part of the device. These gestures are similar to those recommended by physiotherapists to patients developing hand problems as a result of overuse.  This game mechanism is really a way of letting the player make up for poor performance by undergoing additional tasks and training. In enterprise gamification we use this mechanic for the lesser performing players, which can choose to undergo training or micro-learning in the system to make up points. Rather than punishing performance, this approach gives the player new tools and better training for better future performance.

Habit forming and gamification is another example of how gamification is being used to change people’s habits. Habit formation is also an important aspect of gamification. For all of us, having better work habits could be extremely beneficial. Research shows that the average employee is only productive for three hours a day (!). The problem is that even when the best intentions exist, it isn’t easy for any of us to change our habits. That’s exactly where gamification, and the constant feedback that it brings, can really help to make a difference. As mentioned, gamification software is all about telling us how we’re doing, sometimes without us even realizing that that’s what is happening. This feedback can be the first and essential step on the road to formation of new habits.

We can expect to see such feedback mechanics integrated in to more and more areas of our lives as technology infiltrates every aspect of our existence. People have always had a desire to know how they are doing, be it regarding their work, their health, their popularity or any number of other areas. It seems like the combination of technology and gamification will make this possible even more. We will all sit up straight, and if we’re cashiers, we will work really fast.

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