Imagine running a large retail chain. Every day, a ton of industry-wide problems confront you, from inventory loss or shrinkage which occurs due to administrative errors, shoplifting, and employ pilfering to typical safety incidents which involve everything from a product falling on an associate’s toe to back injuries from improper lifting of heavy products.

Karl Kapp’s 3-part article on gamification

Pep Boys, a full-service automotive aftermarket retail chain headquartered in Philadelphia, wanted to solve these two problems. Pep Boys has over 700 stores in 35 states and Puerto Rico; those stores have more than 7,000 service bays. The company does over $2 billion dollars of business a year by focusing on meeting the needs of the do-it-yourself crowd as well as people who come in for routine and emergency services and sales to professional garages. Pep Boys has built a reputation for providing high quality, name-brand products at low prices in convenient locations with exceptional service. Pep Boys wanted to decrease both safety incidences and inventory shrinkage.


The team at Pep Boys analyzed the problems named in the first paragraph and was perplexed. They had instituted a fairly robust store-level awareness program that included posters, monthly manager-led meetings, and even impromptu huddles to explain the need for safety and loss awareness. The results were typical: Immediately after an intervention safety increased and inventory losses deceased. Unfortunately, after a short time, the impact of the intervention deteriorated. Employees were not retaining or operationalizing the learning. With over 19,000 employees undergoing the training, it was becoming important to find a way to make the learning stick over a longer period.

Gamification solution

To address the issue, Pep Boys implemented a gamification platform called Axonify. They rolled the platform out to the associates, who received daily reinforcement of the monthly safety and loss prevention training they received through a quiz-type game. (See Figures 1 and 2 for screen shots from the game.) Associates answered quick, targeted questions related to risk, loss prevention, safety, and operational policies and procedures—standard questions in these areas. If they answered correctly, they played a slot-machine game titled “Quiz to Win” for a chance to win cash prizes. If they answered incorrectly, the system immediately presented a short training piece designed to specifically address the topic covered in the initial question. Questions repeated at various intervals until the associate demonstrated mastery of the topic. The entire process takes 30-90 seconds each day and associates do it either at the beginning of a shift or during downtime throughout the day.

Figures 1, 2:
Every day, learners answer questions presented on the gamified platform

Business impact

Now that program implementation is complete, Pep Boys has a voluntary participation rate of over 95 percent. With the increase in safety awareness in the stores and service centers, safety incidents and claim counts are reduced by more than 45 percent—even with an increase in the number of stores and employees. The entire culture has shifted, with safety becoming a top focus throughout the organization. The reduction in shrinkage has been at a level of 55 percent. Contributions to shrinkage such as shoplifting, organized crime, administrative errors, and employee theft have all decreased substantially. In the case of internal loss, each time a burst of content related to employee theft is pushed out, they see at least a 60 percent increase in their “Integrity Pays” hotline calls, resulting in a direct reduction in inventory loss.

Additional benefits include consistency of content. In all the stores, the same content is delivered in the same manner. This provides flexibility for Pep Boys to modify the training quickly and easily by adding content to the Axonify platform for distribution to the associates the next time they log into the system. The daily interaction employees have with the training system provides a constant reminder that Pep Boys cares about their safety and continued success.

Why it works

One of the primary reasons this approach is successful for Pep Boys is because it uses the concept of distributed practice. Distributed practice, sometimes called spaced practice, or spaced rehearsal, is the technique of distributing learning efforts over multiple short sessions with each session focused on the subject matter to be learned. Research clearly indicates that distributed practice is a consistent and heavily supported learning phenomenon for long-term retention and recall of content. Distributed practice helps learners retain access to memorized information over long periods because the spacing prompts deeper processing of the learned material.


The gamified approach of providing questions in a quiz-show format motivates associates to engage with the safety and loss prevention content on a daily basis. Distributed practice reinforces the learning, which results in tangible business results. As shown in this case study, gamification, when applied properly, helps organizations meet specific strategic and tactical goals.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the impact gamification can have on organizations from a learning and development perspective. Karl Kapp gathered these case studies while researching his latest book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Theory into Practice. The series illustrates real-world applications and effects of gamification.