How do you gamify successfully? The complete playbook to app gamification
For apps, the world is a fight for attention. While the average person has more than 80 mobile apps installed, they use just 30 of them a month! Making your app so good that people want to return to it is hard. To hook in your users, try app gamification! Firstly, you can define gamification as more than a “game” – it’s actually a way to build a fun and interactive user experience. Ready to find out more?
Discover everything you need to know in our complete playbook!
Gamification, meaning the use of game-like elements in non-game contexts, is a way to build a more engaging customer experience. For an app, gamification leverages the data from user activity to incentivize desired actions. Essentially, features like badges, points, and levels can reward certain behaviors and motivate users to complete them. In short, you can define gamification as a means of persuasion!
How does gamification drive behaviors?
Firstly, gamification is based on decades of behavioral science. Research shows that gamification taps into the deepest parts of human psychology, and in doing so results in something powerful. In short, by satisfying multiple innate and complex needs like fun, personal growth, and belonging, gamification can improve user satisfaction.
That’s because, when you realize an inner craving, you create intrinsic motivation. And intrinsic motivators make your app naturally satisfying to use. In turn, this entices users to return to your app! Indeed, studies show that while extrinsic motivators – based more on simple, transactional concepts like prizes and hard results – push users through the discovery phase, intrinsic drivers sustain long-term user retention.
3 common misconceptions about gamification (and the truth)
#1 Gamification is a fad
Even in today’s unstable economy, spending on gamification is skyrocketing. In 2022, the global gamification market was valued at $13.4 billion, up 28% a year. And by 2030, the industry is predicted to be worth an impressive $96.8 billion!
#2 Gamified apps are a one-size-fits-all solution
Slapping points, levels, and badges on your customer experience won’t cut it. That’s because your goals, target audience, and value proposition are unique to your product! Given this, your gamification plan is only effective when it’s built with your business in mind. At the end of the day, you should define gamification as a tool that can put your wider strategies into action – not a solution in and of itself.
#3 Gamification means building a game
Gamification is just an added layer over the user experience. At the end of the day, if you have a gamified banking app, it’s still a bank app! Not to mention, you can customize your gamification design to reflect your chosen vision. For instance, gamification features such as personalized avatars, progress bars, and lotteries are elements that can provide rewards and leverage user data without ever feeling like a ‘game’.
Types of gamification
Gamification is a flexible tool. Because of this, there are many ways to gamify! Indeed, how to definegamification depends on your industry. Here are just a few examples:
Apps are perfect for gamification! That’s because apps generate tons of user data, and data is the bedrock of gamification. By tracking user activity, you can learn what makes your users tick – and double down on it with gamification features that unlock intrinsic motivation. More specifically, app gamification is effective for a few reasons:
Data-driven. A great advantage of apps is that you have access to so much rich user data. This can be used to bolster your marketing and development efforts. And app gamification is another way to use that data to create growth!
People want to engage with apps. In fact, 40% of people download as many as 5 new apps a month!
User-centric. App gamification is designed to put the user’s needs and preferences front and center.
Gamification in marketing is all about creating unforgettable brand experiences. How does it work? Simply put, gamified marketing is memorable because it’s interactive and purposeful. In short, behavioral psychologists note that when people engage to achieve a direct goal, such as to gain points, they remember better! That makes sense, right?
Loyalty is the ultimate prize! Usually, loyalty gamification aims to reward the most valuable customers, encourage repeat purchases, and reciprocate the trust loyal users offer. To be sure, people expect this! This is what we call the ‘Lucky Loyalty effect’, where customers feel that their rewards should scale with loyalty.
Loyalty gamification is especially important for growth when the economy is turbulent (like now, for instance). To illustrate, in the post-2007 recession, loyalty programs boomed, growing 19% in 2 years.
Gamification in education
When it comes to education, there is a different meaning to gamification. While the end goal is the same – to make learning interactive and enjoyable – it goes about this in different ways. For one, educational gamification focuses on achieving specific goals, namely the acquisition of knowledge. As a result, this narrows the target audience and KPIs you might choose to track. Not to mention, everybody learns differently!
Employee engagement gamification
Using gamification to engage employees, as well as onboard new team members, is increasing in popularity. By introducing game elements in the workplace, gamification can emphasize the purpose of tasks and reward certain behaviors. According to Hewlett-Packard, employee gamification can boost revenue by as much as 42%!
How different sectors can leverage app gamification
Banking & fintech
App gamification is a great way to make repetitive tasks more interesting. That’s because gamification can create unpredictability. For instance, game features can reward users who save money and hotzones can act as spontaneous challenges to earn bigger rewards. In essence, gamification can give banking & fintech apps a competitive edge through differentiation and the offer of a great experience.
It’s true that learning is sometimes hard. After all, it’s full of things you don’t know! Given this, no wonder educational apps can be demotivating. To combat this, and instead provide positive reinforcement, you can gamify! Studies have explored how gamification in education creates a more motivating experience for students. And in education, high motivation can be the difference between passing or failing.
All kinds of businesses can use gamification to make their platforms and customer engagement strategies more exciting. Basically, it doesn’t matter whether your goal is employee engagement or driving sales. Features of gamification, meaning things like points, badges, and levels, are all flexible tools that you can use to create an interactive experience that pushes people into action!
Fitness app users already have a clear goal, they just need the motivation
mHealth apps generate lots of actionable, quantifiable data
The sector often focuses on repetitive tasks like exercise
Can lose motivation to engage easily
Shared mobility is growing fast. The sector could be worth as much as $1 trillion by 2030. And gamification is helping fuel the rise! Shared mobility is a super competitive sector, which is why app gamification is popularly used to boost customer loyalty. For example, by rewarding riders with free minutes for making purchases or hitting milestones. When you do this, customers are incentivized to stick around! Benefits like this are why micromobility apps like EVO Sharing come to StriveCloud to develop gamification plans.
Jennifer Dittmar @EVO Sharing -“Our business model is also very suitable for gamification. Receiving rewards based on distance, kilometers, or minutes driven makes a lot of sense to use and goes well together.”
There’s always growth to be found in sports and fan engagement! In both traditional sports and esports, every brand has a highly active and unique fanbase of people searching for new ways to engage. To bring back this fanbase regularly, you can post daily quizzes and polls to increase fan engagement and interaction.
Today, the average person spends 1/3 of their time on mobile. Given this, they are always looking for a place to engage. And that’s where app gamification comes in! Game elements can help you maximize app engagement and create a better experience for your users. In addition to higher user engagement, gamification can:
Drive users towards certain actions, so you can achieve your business goals
Encourage engagement with rewards, leading to higher retention
Enrich the user experience, boosting overall satisfaction
To be sure, you should not underestimate the benefits of increased user satisfaction. In practice, satisfaction is a great predictor of loyalty. And loyal, engaged customers are the ultimate goldmine! Time and time again, apps report that their top 20% of engaged users make up 80% of revenue! If that’s not enough, here are a few more statistics on why you need engaged users:
It’s simple – games are enjoyable and people crave fun experiences. That’s why nearly 82% of the world’s internet users are gamers. However, you don’t need to like games to enjoy gamification! That’s because gamification is based on the behavioral psychology that is common to us all. In short, it’s backed up by decades of science into what makes humans tick. And because these principles are so broad and relatable to the way our brains work, it means that any kind of industry can benefit from a gamified app!
How does gamification increase user engagement?
Firstly, you should know that there are 4 key types of user engagement. And to build a truly successful app, you should focus on optimizing all of them!
Contextual engagement. Your content is in the right place at the right time.
Ease-of-use. Ideally, your users should be able to engage in 3 clicks or less!
Emotional engagement. Strong stories or visuals can wow your users.
Social engagement. People love to connect and compete with others.
When it comes to creating user engagement, the mechanics that define gamification tap into our brains to motivate us and elicit an emotional response. Here’s why it works:
Leverages the power of loss avoidance
Loss avoidance is one of the most powerful psychological forces! In fact, the fear of losing out is more motivating than winning. Gamification thrives on this principle. Even a simple reward for completing a task can motivate users to engage!
“Human behavior is more strongly driven by the motivation to avoid losses than to pursue gains… loss aversion motivates higher effort investment in effort-based decision-making.” – Frontiers in human neuroscience
People crave validation
Validation, or positive reinforcement, is a human necessity. When you provide this with a badge reward or even just a filled-in progress bar, you unlock the intrinsic drivers of growth and self-worth. Satisfying these needs makes a completed task more enjoyable, and it encourages us to engage again!
Simplifies the user experience
Essentially, you perform a task, and you get rewarded for it. It doesn’t get clearer than that! In scientific terms, they call this “reducing the cognitive load”. In other words, a simple story makes your app easier to use because it requires less mental effort to follow. That’s thanks to 3 gamification ideas:
App development takes internal expertise, time, and money – lots of money! Given this, only big organizations can afford to build and maintain a gamified app. But there is another way. Growing apps need solutions that can grow with them. And that means using specially designed app gamification software that doesn’t require much investment! In doing so, you will:
Immediately gain the necessary expertise
Gamification companies offer the help of their expert teams! These are professionals who have spent years crafting gamification strategies. They can act as your support agent and design consultant at the same time. In short, you can learn from the experience of others, instead of making your own mistakes.
Save time and money
You can start using the add-on gamification features immediately. As a result, you’ll spend less to develop and maintain features that might end up being either underutilized or overwhelming. In fact, if you build features yourself, you would pay 20% of the development cost in maintenance alone!
5 components and design principles that define gamification
Achievement. Badges and levels celebrate user engagement!
Competition. People are naturally social and competitive.
Feedback. Instant feedback positively reinforces the user.
Reward. Earning a reward feels great and helps give tasks purpose.
Unpredictability. A fresh user experience will keep users returning for more.
The essential frameworks of gamification design
Using a framework for gamification, meaning a set of existing guidelines or design principles can help you implement game elements in non-game contexts. In short, they provide a base of psychology and theory to make you more effective. Although app gamification frameworks can lend structure, you don’t need to use one. If you are confident, you can design a gamification plan that’s more intuitive and creative.
However, it’s useful to know some of the major gamification frameworks today:
MDA refers to 3 key aspects of any game: mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics. In brief, mechanics are the game’s rules, dynamics describe gameplay, and finally, aesthetics combine your visual design and emotional intent. When you define gamification using this method, you can better understand how game elements are interconnected. And with that, you can make a product where the whole is more than the sum of its parts!
This gamification framework outlines the steps you should take to gamify successfully. First, you must establish your measurable business objectives and the user behaviors you plan to leverage. Next, that leads you into defining personas and their motivations. Following this, you can design activity cycles to hook users with fun game features!
In essence, you can define gamification as the art of motivating people. And the Octalysis framework breaks down exactly what makes humans tick! According to the model, there are 8 core motivational drivers:
Purpose/mission. People need a goal to strive towards!
Growth & accomplishment. Celebrating progress is crucial.
Creative autonomy. Empowering users to be free and explore.
Ownership. When people feel they own something, they want to improve it.
Social relatedness. Social influences like competition can be hugely powerful.
Scarcity & impatience. We inherently want rare things. It shows off our status!
Unpredictability. Fresh user experiences drive retention & repeat engagement.
Loss and avoidance. The fear of negative consequences pushes us into action.
How to develop your own gamification strategy
A gamification strategy outlines your planned approach to implementing game elements into your app. Ultimately, your strategy depends on your goals. Are you trying to create a hazard-free simulation where users can learn safely, or just trying to address short attention spans? Once you figure out the issue you are trying to solve, and the users you are targeting, you can develop a strategy for success!
The success of your gamification relies on understanding what motivates your users. So you can’t just tack on gamification elements. Indeed, you need a clear strategy! For sure, this can be hard to devise. To help, here is how our experts define gamification design:
Have concrete goals and track your progress. Gamification drives the action that you want to see. Naturally, then, it’s important that you know what action it is that you want to promote, and when it is that you have achieved success!
Implement game elements gradually. The more choices that someone has, the more likely they will be overwhelmed and quit! In short, don’t overload your users and ensure that learning how your app works remains effortless.
Reward participation! Gamification is all about rewarding users for engaging. Like that, they keep engaging! When rewarded at the best time, (usually right after the task), the benefits are huge. For example, studies find that winning a badge results in a ‘positive effect’ that leads to higher user engagement!
Initially, Nigerian investment app Cowrywise found that many of their customers lacked financial knowledge. As a result, new customers were churning. To combat this, the fintech app implemented a clever gamification strategy!
To start, Cowrywise simplified screens and added digital confetti to celebrate wins. Plus, they reframed tasks as “challenges” to add a competitive element. In the end, 75% of users agreed that these changes made the app easier to understand. What’s more, they introduced badges to reward users for hitting milestones like saving a certain amount.
They also have some more unusual app gamification features. For instance, sports fans can pick out their favorite teams. Every time that the team scores, Cowrywise sends customers a monetary reward! How’s that for uniqueness!
#2 mHealth: Adidas Runtastic
Before, Adidas Runtastic used to support all kinds of sports. But the app really found success when it simplified the user experience and added gamification. For example, Adidas implemented goal-setting features, challenges, and a leaderboard. In particular, the leaderboard made a huge difference. For one, it introduces social interaction where users are motivated to beat their peers. In addition, a leaderboard provides positive reinforcement and fast feedback. And this keeps users engaged time and again!
Team Vitality is a leading esports team in Europe. To maximize their fan engagement and loyalty, they knew they could do more! That’s why they developed a loyalty app called V.Hive built on a gamified points reward system.
Essentially, fans earn points straight away for completing quick tasks, like connecting their wallets and socials. Once they hit a number of points, they then unlock a customizable avatar! Following that, they can then take on a series of quests where they rank against their fellow fans. In the end, the top tier of fans can access exclusive fan experiences, including meeting Team Vitality players.
V.Hive achieved great success, no doubt thanks to app gamification! Within just 30 days, the app garnered over 50,000 downloads and 10 times that engagement on social media!
#4 Shared mobility: EVO Sharing
EVO Sharing’s orange e-scooters can be found in cities and towns across Germany. The company came to us at StriveCloud with the aim of maximizing rides per customer. To achieve this, we designed a gamification plan together! For instance, we introduced challenges. If you define gamification as a way to engage users, then this is how you do it! For example, challenges asked customers to ride over 10km in a period of time. If they succeed, they are rewarded with coins with which they can buy free minutes of riding!
Jennifer Dittmar @EVO Sharing – “With Strivecloud, we want to create incentives to drive more often with the electric scooters from EVO Sharing. Through the challenges and the achievement of milestones, the customer shall be motivated to use our scooters more often.”
#5 Education: Open University
Studying requires dedication. That’s where app gamification can help motivate! When students log in to Open University, they see a progress bar and checklist of unfinished tasks. Essentially, when a checklist displays unfinished items, this results in the “Zeigarnik effect”. Basically, incomplete tasks stick with us more than those we complete! In other words, students are motivated to return and study.
Moreover, checklists and progress bars provide positive reinforcement and direct students to their goals. As a result, this reduces negative feelings like anxiety or being overwhelmed! In short, Open University’s gamification features create better students!
How can you know that you’re on the right track? Easy – measuring certain metrics can quickly convey the effectiveness of your new strategies. Using the right tools, you can leverage real-time data to provide responsive and actionable feedback. This way, you can gather helpful insights into user behavior that you might otherwise have missed! Here’s a handful of key performance indicators that can inform your app growth plans:
Simply put, this metric counts the number of active users during any time period. It is most common to track the daily active users (DAUs) and monthly active users (MAUs). With this data, you can learn a lot about your users.
One of the most important metrics you can track is the retention rate. Essentially, it measures how many users across a time period are still active, in contrast to those who have churned. In 2023, the average retention rate for all mobile apps after just 3 days was a low 33%. That’s not unusual – but tracking the rate is the first step to improving it!
Research shows a modest 5% jump in retention can lead to a 95% revenue boost. Better yet, by combining the retention rate with a cohort analysis, you can narrow down the effects of your changes on certain segments of users and make your data more reliable.
Retention rate = Active customers across period / Active customers in previous period x 100
On the topic of active users, the stickiness rate compares your daily active users and monthly active users to communicate how ‘sticky’ your app is. That is to say, how hooked your users are. If a higher proportion of your users engage daily, then that’s a sign you’re providing value!
3 top tools for app gamification
App gamification tools can unlock real growth for apps. If you’re looking for a fast, user-friendly, and scalable solution that requires little technical knowledge, then using a software might be right for you. Here are 3 examples of gamification tools in 2023:
StriveCloud offers a flexible gamification tool that is trusted by clients across industries: fintech, shared mobility, edtech, health, and enterprise. And because the software is fully modular, you can easily create a great app experience. With over 25 interactive features like rewards and challenges at your disposal, you can easily increase engagement, and user loyalty, and maximize customer lifetime value!
Michael Stewart @HumanForest -“I really like how easy to use StriveCloud is. I don’t need to interrupt any developers or use any code, there’s no lengthy deployment process & changes are updated instantly.”
Insert Coin is a start-up geared towards teachers, HR managers, and product owners. Their gamification platforms offer dozens of ways to buff up the user experience.
SaaSquatch positions itself as a “referral & loyalty software”. In particular, they offer referral programs that can integrate into both web and mobile apps, with features like points, gift cards, and cashback. The focus on loyalty and tangible financial rewards differentiates them from other gamification tools, as they focus more on user referrals.
Gamification, meaning the use of game-like elements in non-game contexts, can build a more engaging app experience. Essentially, gamificationleverages the data from user behavior to incentivize desired actions through fun and psychological satisfaction. In other words, it’s a means of persuasion!
App gamification can maximize your app engagement and retention. That’s because game elements enrich the app experience, leading to higher user satisfaction. Not to mention, gamification drives users towards certain tasks, for instance with rewards, so you can reach your app goals!
App development takes expertise, time, and cash. Instead, using gamification software is a scalable solution! Essentially, you can borrow gamification know-how while using flexible tools designed to easily customize and build a gamified app.
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