Founder of Kout.io, Sam Huber outlines the progress of, and his future plans for, the gamified e-commerce platform
What is Kout?
The idea we have is to gamify the e-commerce industry. We have created Kout.io to be an e-commerce platform with a twist. The vision is that whatever you want to buy, you can get a chance to win up to 99% off the price by playing a free game. We have a platform that works on all devices, and we aggregate products from many brands, including Amazon, John Lewis and Asos into one platform. Instead of checking out and buying the product, customers get the opportunity to play a game of chance in order to win discounts on the product. The discounts range from 5%, all the way up to 99% off.
How does the integration with retailers work?
We have agreements with the retailers – from day one we wanted to work with the retailers and not just use their products without them knowing. We have affiliate agreements meaning that every time we sell a product we get a commission. We can access their products, and are officially licensed to offer these products. This is a very important point. There are a lot of other websites trying to do this without the brand knowing. What we are trying to do is give the brand value.
Do you have plans to expand and include more retailers?
Absolutely. We’ve started with some of the big ones, to run some tests and see how people respond to it, but the idea is to change the face of e-commerce. We are not trying to be a website where you have to browse an inventory to see what you want from a limited selection. We want to have an inventory where people can search for whatever they want, with our platform then being able to retrieve the product from one of our partners for the customer to be able to play for it. We aim to integrate with as many retailers as we can, and at the moment we are integrating at least two or three a week.
What was the inspiration behind the game and website?
The game at the moment is very simple and works like a scratch card. We hide discounts behind a grid that operates with very simple gameplay. You get free credits every day to try your luck, and every time you click on a square you get a chance to win a discount, that can range from five to 99% off. At the moment this is a minimum viable product, what we want to do in the future is open this platform to designers and game developers, who can contribute and develop their own games that we will run on the Kout platform. We aim to be a complete gaming platform, in a similar fashion to the App Store. But that is our two to three year plan for the company – for the moment, we have decided to start with a simple game and see how people react to it.
What are your future plans?
The main mission is to gamify the entire e-commerce industry, and we want to have every single product available. Whatever you look for in the search bar, we want you to be able to find it on Kout, and it will be cheaper than anywhere else on the web. Through our games we can guarantee customers cheaper products, so they have no incentive not to use Kout. That’s where we want to be, and to keep things fun and exciting we know we need different games.We are also developing products with some large brands that are sponsoring the games, so that when, for example, you come to play for a Unilever product, you will see a different game that is more relevant for that product.
How do these gambling elements enhance the experience for consumers?
We incorporate different elements into the game, such as the element of urgency. When you uncover a discount, you only have a few seconds to decide whether you want to redeem it. We use a lot of behavioural science to make the game more exciting – it’s not just about buying the product, but also having fun playing the game, and seeing if you can bag a discount on top of your purchase.
What challenges have you encountered in getting Kout off the ground?
We had a tough start. The game was initially pay-to-play, with customers spending a few cents on every click in a similar fashion to a penny auction website. We realised that brands don’t want to be associated with that, and many people were not ready to commit money up front on a new brand, so we changed the model to be free to play, leading to an expansion of the platform on both the customer and the brand side.
How have you been promoting Kout?
So far we have been promoting mostly on Facebook and through other forms of web advertising, and have attracted most of our users through these channels. We have also started doing some video marketing, and dealing with people who have a lot of followers on Twitter and Snapchat, getting them to talk about the product. The key is to build trust, as many initially think what Kout offers sounds too good to be true. We have had a lot of interest from small Youtubers who we have created videos for, with the theme: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Or it could be Kout”. We’re not trying to justify ourselves, but instead play on the fun that Kout does sound a bit too good to be true in that you can win your shopping for free.
Can you give us an overview of your own experience in the gaming industry?
I used to be an engineer in the Formula One industry, and I realised while working there that I could use certain mechanics to make myself and my colleagues more active, and that was the first time I encountered gamification, through creating things like a simple leader board at work. Finding that idea really interesting, I ended up quitting my job and designing two products, called Rogue Trader and Betify. With Betify, we created a video platform where you could bet with your friends and challenge your friends through videos, which people could upvote, with the most upvoted videos earning products and rewards from brands that we were partnering with. We became popular in UK universities when we launched, but we didn’t think through monetisation of the product, meaning that we struggled to create strong revenues to raise a second run of funding. However, we did get a lot of strong interest in the product itself, and people are still using it to this day.