7 proven ways to motivate users on your mhealth app

The average retention time for mhealth app users is only 3 months. Mostly because it’s very boring to look at variables that barely change. For this to change, the experience should feel effortless and provide motivation to the end-user to improve their health.

Professional services market leader Deloitte states that using cognitive or motivational stimulation in the form of gamification for health can promote positive behavioral change. It allows biopharma companies to improve adherence and health care institutions to provide preventative measures that could delay or prevent the onset of chronic diseases.

To overcome this app engagement challenge, mhealth companies have to build a user-friendly app that motivates its users to stick to their health goals. We listed out 7 gamification tactics that will help you achieve just that.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  1. Set challenges to trigger user participation
  2. Reward app engagement with points
  3. Empower your users through progress bars
  4. Boost motivation through competitions and leaderboards
  5. Encourage active participation with a badge reward system
  6. Drive long term app engagement with a leveling system
  7. Nudge the user in the right direction with notifications

How does gamification for apps motivate users?

Gamification for apps is about leveraging the psychology and motivational elements of games in a non-game context. In this case: your mhealth app. We all know it’s hard to get your users to take action. In order for them to participate in your app, they need motivation. So how does gamification for mhealth apps help you overcome that obstacle?

First, you need to activate your user. This happens through an initial trigger. Something that prompts the user to take action. We call this an extrinsic motivator. It’s when users take actions in order to get something in return. These are reflected through rewards such as points, badges, or sometimes monetary rewards. Remember when Dropbox gave you that much-needed free storage space when you went through their onboarding?

However, extrinsic motivators alone won’t keep your users engaged in the long run. Researchers call this the Overjustification effect. It implies motivation drops when we’re too focused on earning rewards.

That’s because true motivation comes from within. It’s the satisfaction of mastering a skill, making progress, gaining social influence, and positive empowerment that’s truly motivating. We call this intrinsic motivation. Here, users are driven to work on something because they enjoy the experience itself.

According to cloud leader Oracle, Gamification for mhealth apps can literally change the lives of people around the world. It increases patient compliance for clinical trials, boosts adherence to treatment and patient retention. Creating a good mix between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators can support long-term behavior change while boosting app engagement.

New to gamification? Get up to speed with our ‘What is Gamification’ page!

7 Gamification for mhealth tactics to try out!

Ready to see what that could look like on your mhealth app? Check out these 7 gamification for health tactics:

1) Set challenges to trigger user participation

Challenges help to move your user forward by setting a clear goal. In order for the trigger to work, it needs to be achievable but still challenging enough to be interesting. To boost motivation a little more, you can tie a reward to obtaining the challenge. Not only is it a fun way to increase app engagement, but it also gives grunt work meaning.

2) Reward app engagement with points

Implementing a point system is a way of giving instant feedback to the user. It triggers multiple motivational drivers. Not only does it triggers users to take action, but it also helps them identify priority tasks. Collecting points can be a way of measuring progress towards a user’s goal. It’s usually the cornerstone of all progress mechanisms in your app.

3) Empower your users through progress bars

One of the greatest tactics in gamification for mhealth apps is visualizing progress. It tells your user that what they’re doing is good and reinforces that behavior.

Additionally, it can help you keep the user involved in their journey. Seeing the progress you’ve already made, makes it harder to quit. It’s a way of avoiding loss. Let’s face it, most of us like to finish what we started because we feel it would be a shame not to.

4) Boost motivation through competition and leaderboards

People are inherently motivated by competing or comparing themselves with their peers. Leaderboards are a great way of introducing a competitive and social element into your app.

With leaderboards, you can compete against friends or just try to beat your own high scores. When implemented correctly, a leaderboard drives a sense of competition, collaboration, or relatedness. You can use this trigger to fuel user motivation and increase goal completion.


5) Encourage active participation with a badge reward system

Badges can be an indicator of social status and trigger the human intrinsic desire for achievement. Gamification for mhealth apps uses badge reward systems to reward certain milestones within the app. For instance, your user completed his first 10,000 steps or checked in 7 days in a row. It’s a pleasant surprise that encourages further participation in the app.

The potential is limitless here, as you can create badges for virtually anything you find important. Adding a fun narrative or creative design makes them even more fun and unexpected!

6) Drive long term app engagement with a leveling system

Levels are a way of indicating users’ progress over time. They trigger a sense of achievement and indicate social status. Every time a user levels up, he or she can get an extra boost of motivation. When they get to a new level they can often unlock new parts of the app, which triggers a desire to explore even further.

Adding a leveling system to your mhealth app reinforces good user behavior and boosts long-term app engagement.

7) Nudge the user in the right direction with notifications

Notifications are a way of providing instant feedback to users. In gamification for mhealth apps, you can use them to reinforce good behavior and correct bad behavior. The great thing about notifications is that they’re based on the context a user is in. That’s why the message doesn’t feel interruptive or irrelevant.

Not only do notifications trigger a participation loop, but they also promote long-term app engagement.

Add a little fun to your mhealth app, without all the development struggles? Check out StriveCloud’s app gamification software!


The average mhealth app user churns after three months. That’s because it’s uninteresting to look at variables that barely change. Engaging with boring mhealth apps feels like another chore on our already endless to-do list.

Gamification for mhealth can turn a boring app into a fun and engaging experience. It triggers user motivation every step of the journey with fun elements and drives meaningful retention within any app.

First, extrinsic motivation is triggered through rewards. Gamification for apps allows you to reinforce positive behaviors with a variety of rewards such as points, badges, and leaderboard rankings. Intrinsic motivation on the other hand relies on deeper emotional desires. Our need for progress, achievement, and a sense of relatedness can boost app engagement and user retention significantly.

The differentiating key however lies in putting these motivators together into a user-friendly experience. When done correctly gamification for health can enable sustainable behavior change, and make the lives of their users healthier and more fun!

Need help gamifying your own mhealth app? Get a free consultation with our team of experts!

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