When Duolingo launched in 2011, it had a simple mission: make learning a language simple, fun, and free. Duolingo developed an interactive learning platform inspired by proven educational methods, such as the theme-based teaching approach. This means that courses are grouped in themes, such as ‘greetings’. According to research studies, this method gives a 45% boost to student results.
However, a mobile app differs a lot from the classroom. Given this, Duolingo’s mission faced 3 existential challenges. Today, they have overcome them all!
#1 The low user retention rate affecting all education apps
Clearly, obstacles this big are a problem. You can’t learn a language in 1 day, so how will Duolingo spread the word about their app when their users don’t stick around for long enough to actually learn a language?
Improving short-term user retention is one thing, but it can take weeks to see progress in language acquisition. Given this, users will need to find the app fun! This means appealing to extrinsic motivation, such as the need for results, as well as creating intrinsic motivation. These motivators make the app entertaining and satisfying to use.
#3 Demonstrating genuine progress and improvement in language learning.
A key motivational driver in edtech is the human need for competence. Because it takes a long time to learn a language, any signs of progress might take a while to manifest. Given this, there needs to be meaningful achievements early on to motivate users.
You see this in most games as well, the first levels are easy and get you hooked on the overall game. As you progress the difficulty increases, but so does your skill level and motivation!
To conclude, all these gamification examples helped Duolingo become the app it is today.
Gamification examples in the app range from the obvious, such as the badge reward system, to the barely noticeable. For example, think of that little red dot over the app icon that indicates a new item, or something unresolved. Just that small feature boosted daily active users by 1.6%. While that doesn’t sound like a huge number, they add up when you have millions of users!
By boosting their daily active users bit by bit, Duolingo tackled the problem of user retention. At one point, this was a particular issue.
Initially, the onboarding process was focused on sign-ups, in order to generate email addresses. However, more often than not, these users would ignore their notifications. Remember that 12% next-day user retention rate? Well, the product manager decided to push the sign-up page until after a test lesson. This little change alone led to a huge 20% jump in next-day user retention!
5 gamification examples from Duolingo and how they boost user retention
#1 A character makes push notifications more personal
Duolingo’s green owl is famous and serves more purposes than just marketing. Push notifications can be very intrusive or commanding. Duo’s part in this makes them friendlier, and people are more likely to listen to a friend. Don’t believe it? Well, it’s tested – against other push notifications, the personal greeting from Duo did best, and led to a 5% rise in daily active users.
#2 Badge rewards lift referrals & lead generation
Duolingo’s badge reward system saw an impressive 116% jump in referrals. Badges fulfill the basic need for self-worth, an important intrinsic motivator. Users can look at their earned badges and review their progress, or, show off their badges to their friends!
#3 Instant feedback gives users control and room for growth
Feedback supports the intrinsic need for growth. Also, immediate corrections lend a sense of control to the user. It’s a great gamification example for the case of learning. Imagine if the app made you wait to see what you did wrong. That wouldn’t be fun! It would feel like taking an exam unless you’re into that sort of stuff.
#4 Leaderboards encourage competition and social interaction
Every time a user completes a course, they earn points that gain them a place on a leaderboard. This feature triggers a sense of competition and the need to prove yourself as a leader. In addition, the app often shows where your friends are placed, or tells you when they have achieved something. Not only does this provide the opportunity to congratulate friends on progress, but it also motivates you to keep up with your peers!
#5 Streaks give users a reason to come back.
The famous streak feature has a huge impact. Of course, it is indispensable in forming the daily habits that Duolingo’s product manager Gilani spoke about. As an app developer, you use gamification to incentivize behavior in users. A streak incentivizes persistence and engagement. This keeps users glued to the app!
Finally, a 2% rise here and a 1% jump there might sound inefficient, but Duolingo’s success speaks for itself. From 2017 to 2020, Duolingo’s revenue ballooned over tenfold, jumping from $13 million to $161 million! That’s an enormous increase, and one that the team can agree was based on its strategy of gamification.
Do you want to gamify your app into success? You’ll need a bespoke gamification strategy. To start off your journey, get in touch with our gamification experts and book a free consultation to learn more about how we can help your product reach its full potential.
Studies show that gamification has a hugely positive effect on Duolingo’s brand equity and user retention. Small features such as a red dot over a course indicate new content boosted daily active users by 1.6%. These numbers all add up!
5 gamification examples and why they boost user retention
The small boosts in metrics add up – and they sure do in revenue. From 2017 to 2020, Duolingo’s revenue jumped from $13 million to $161 million! That’s an enormous increase, and one that the team can agree was based on its strategy of gamification.
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