Top tips on how to build a successful app gamification strategy

Top tips on how to build a successful app gamification strategy

App gamification doesn’t conform to a one-size-fits-all model. In fact, that’s what makes it so powerful! When done right a gamified app is built to drive and reward specific user behavior. For instance, you can use it to boost user activation and increase user engagement! But before you create a great UX and reap the benefits, you need to learn how to build an app gamification strategy. Let’s look at some tactics & gamification examples you could use for your goals!

What is app gamification?

Gamification is the use of game-like elements like badges, points, and levels in non-game contexts. In short, app gamification leverages the data mined from user behavior to incentivize desired user actions. Essentially, it’s a way to persuade and motivate!

Why you need a gamified app

Gamification works on a very human level. Recently, behavioral psychologists have studied how gamified apps tap into the deepest parts of human psychology to create a powerful motivation. For example, gamification fulfills innate and complex needs like fun, personal growth, and belonging.

And when you meet these needs, users gain intrinsic motivation. This means that users are motivated not by external drivers such as rewards or prizes, but through enjoyment and personal fulfillment. To be sure, this is crucial for retention and user engagement.

How do you increase user engagement with mobile app gamification?

When your app is gamified, it becomes fun and satisfying to use and that creates user engagement. Take gamified in-app communities, for example. Studies show that in-app communities maximize retention by nearly 300%. And higher retention means more opportunities to engage! Gamified communities increase engagement because of competitive features like challenges that make the UX more exciting, not to mention the social elements that fulfill the need to belong.

You can also increase user engagement with features like goals and deadlines. Case studies show that adding a deadline greatly helps goal pursuit – making it more likely users will engage to hit their targets. Of course, any app can do this! Whether you’re a fintech app encouraging users to save money, or a mHealth app letting users set exercise goals, you can customize your use of gamification to align with your strategy.

4 tips on how to build an app gamification strategy

To effectively create a gamified app, you need a consistent and integrated strategy. Indeed, today’s mobile app users expect this! Especially since the age groups with the highest levels of user engagement are Gen Z and Millennials – the ‘digital native’ generations. Given this, your strategy must create a coherent user experience.

So how do you build an effective gamification strategy?

  1. What does your app do? Analyze your app’s key features and user actions.
  2. Who are your users? Learn more about your users and what motivates them.
  3. Identify the touchpoints. These interactions are what you can leverage. Think about what the ideal user behavior at these points should look like.
  4. Learn from the best! They say that no ideas are original, just their executions. To be sure, it is smart to learn from other gamified apps, especially if they have the same goals as you.

6 effective features to start your gamification journey

Progress bars make your UX easy (and boost brand trust)

Progress bars fill up as a user advances through a task. At its base, the feature is a clear way to provide instant feedback, which increases the perception of app responsiveness. Likewise, research shows progress bars reduce the ‘cognitive load’, in other words taking a weight off of your user’s mind. In short, the user knows they can rely on you! That’s an essential step in building brand trust and more user engagement.

Streaks are an incentive for daily user engagement

While they are simple, research shows that streaks are effective in boosting daily user engagement. Streaks incentivize engagement by keeping count and rewarding those who notch up high numbers. It works the other way too, nobody wants to lose a streak!

Hotzones keep the UX unpredictable and exciting

Everyone remembers the all-important boss battles they played as a kid. Hotzones work in the same way, acting as flashpoints where users can earn double points. These tests of competence are unpredictable and add variety to the challenges your UX should provide.

Challenges are a focused way to drive user engagement

On that note, a great way to incentivize user engagement is by challenging your users! Studies show that challenges positively affect the ‘sustained use’ of apps. Even better, your challenges can also align with your business goals and drive desired user behavior.

Levels are fun and customizable progress trackers

More than another way to display user progress, levels are uniquely powerful because they are both easy to understand and customizable. Levels can reflect your brand identity, act as a clear goal that justifies engagement, and also be an effective reward touchpoint!

Rewards like badges and points are indispensable

Badges and points are highly motivating, especially when timed right. Received after completing a task (and the dopamine hit that comes with it), the effort expended suddenly feels worth it! Indeed, timely positive reinforcement enhances the effects of a reward.

How to successfully implement your mobile app gamification strategy

Tips & gamification examples for mHealth apps

mHealth is diverse, from specialized trackers to general fitness, but gamification works for both! Diet trackers, like mySugr for diabetes patients, can greatly benefit from gamifying their repetitive tasks. Badges, streaks, and levels can be a great way to incentivize user engagement and make the tasks fun and intrinsically motivating.

But beware – when dealing with such sensitive health information, user privacy is paramount. Indeed, many mHealth app users are concerned about privacy. So while it can be effective to compare users to their peers, putting sensitive data on a public leaderboard might be counterproductive. MySugr challenges users to keep an eye on their diabetes and it clearly works. The app recently received an investment of $4.8 million!

How finance & fintech can build a gamified app

Done right, fintech and gamification can do great things! For example, China’s Alipay gave points to users with CO2-friendly habits like using cycling or buying bio-friendly products. Currently, those points have gone towards planting over 600 million trees!

However, as you are dealing with people’s money, a gamified finance app should be responsible for its application. Finance expert Bjorn Cumps shares his insights on how to build an app gamification strategy in fintech:

Bjorn Cumps – “Have a very clear goal, incentivize ideal user behavior, and make the process fun and engaging. Gamification should be used to take away the barriers that limit a user from fully engaging.”

The success of Alipay has prompted inspiration across the world, like Banx in Belgium.

How to create a gamified app for the education sector

Education is the second most gamified vertical, behind only retail. An important aspect of gamifying education is learning how to give feedback. Research shows that students are motivated by the positive reinforcement provided by points and badges, but also by negative reinforcement!

When it comes to negative reinforcement, it is highly effective only if the user failure can be easily and quickly repaired. To be sure, you don’t want to negatively reinforce a user if, for example, they can not immediately re-take the failed test. In addition, if users feel that your feedback is nudging them on a preordained trajectory, you can induce the ‘boomerang effect’. Essentially, the student will adopt the exact reverse of what you want! To avoid this, make every task matter – and make it obvious why it matters!

Kahoot is a gamified education platform that allows for more interaction during classes. Teachers can share a code in class & students get to compete with their classmates to rank on the leaderboard! With 50 million monthly users Kahoot is popping up in classes around the world. Gamification features such as leaderboards, points, and visual rewards like digital confetti all work to boost user engagement.

How fan apps should approach gamification

Fan apps are ideal for gamified communities and benefit uniquely from higher engagement. Any app can leverage the data mined from user engagement, but fan app users start off with more brand affinity. As such, boosts to your marketing efforts are doubled! Indeed, the more data you have, the more effective your personalized and contextualized offers will be.

The Real Madrid app has such an active community that fan profiles grew by nearly 400% in the past two years, engaging millions of users!

Increase user engagement with fan app gamification strategy

FAQ – How to build an app gamification strategy?

Gamification is the use of game-like elements like badges, points, and levels in non-game contexts. In short, app gamification leverages the data mined from user behavior to incentivize desired user actions. Essentially, it’s a way to persuade and motivate!

Gamification works on a very human level. Recently, behavioral psychologists have studied how gamified apps tap into the deepest parts of human psychology to create a powerful motivation. For example, gamification fulfills innate and complex needs like fun, personal growth, and belonging.

When your app is gamified, it becomes fun and satisfying to use which helps to increase user engagement. To provide just one example, competitive and social in-app communities boost user retention by nearly 300%. And higher retention means more opportunities to engage!

Gamification requires an integrated strategy and several features can create this. Progress bars make the experience easier to understand. Levels, badges, and daily streaks incentivize user engagement with rewards. In addition, unpredictable hotzones and challenges test user competence and drive user behavior.

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