How gamification makes user onboarding better (+11 successful gamification onboarding examples)

Is there a more crucial stage in your customer journey than onboarding? Without a doubt, bad onboarding design can doom your app’s future. Depending on the sector, as many as 83% of those who download a mobile app will have uninstalled it within 24 hours. But it doesn’t have to be that way! By using gamification onboarding examples like progress bars and personalization, you can make onboarding fun and exciting for users. As will become clear below, this is the key to unlocking user retention.

How gamification makes user onboarding better (+11 successful gamification onboarding examples)

In this article, we’ll cover the challenges in onboarding, why current user onboardings need major improvement, and how you can solve those issues with a gamified onboarding (plus 11 gamification onboarding examples to inspire you!

The challenge: How to prevent onboarding churn

By far, the biggest drop-off in users takes place in the first 24 hours after installation. Although, it is important to note that this churn doesn’t affect all apps equally. Indeed, the best apps on the market retain the most users upon onboarding.

user retention mobile apps

So what do the top apps do right? To begin, an onboarding process should introduce your app to new users. Most importantly, that means introducing your value proposition, and doing it as soon as possible! To retain customers at this early stage, you must remind users why they downloaded your app and why keeping it will benefit them, and above all, do it as streamlined as possible.

How apps are doing it wrong

The worst thing you can do is make your onboarding a slog. This could be caused by an unintuitive interface, like having a lack of autofill options to speed things up.

So keep questions to a minimum and make inputting answers simple. Longer onboardings frustrate users and make them more likely to churn. In fact, retention rates can increase by up to 50% with effective onboarding.

Of course, onboarding too quickly has its problems as well. Without any data about your new user, you have no chance of personalizing the application to their preferences. For example, the meditation app, Headspace, has a short and sweet onboarding process. The app asks new users about their experience level in meditation. This is important to know so that when users do make it to the home screen, the first things they see are relevant to them.

Striking the right balance between too much and too little is difficult. The onboarding gamification examples we’ll explore in this article can help you achieve the right onboarding design for your app!

Slash churn with gamified onboarding

Indeed, some sectors have no choice regarding their onboarding length. Just to name a few, banking, dating, and mobility apps commonly have necessary onboarding checks they must carry out, such as age verification or proof of a driver’s license. But most apps generally do three basic things during onboarding:

  1. Ask the user to accept the terms and conditions. Crucially, this shouldn’t feel like you are signing your privacy away! Recent studies show that privacy protection is the biggest security concern for consumers today.
  2. Include demographic questions, like asking for name, gender, and age. To be sure, it improves your marketing if you know who’s using your app.
  3. Perform security checks. Passwords and authentication methods like SMS verification ensure users feel safe on your app.

The trick is making this process fun and personable, rather than a chore.

What is gamification?

Gamification uses game-like elements to motivate users in non-game contexts. Features like points and levels tap into our common human psychology to unlock a powerful sense of motivation. In turn, this makes the app experience more enjoyable, which increases user satisfaction and retention!

Given that gamification ideas are based on shared behavioral psychology, any app can enjoy the benefits of a gamified onboarding experience. Of course, the design plan differs depending on the industry, but learning what works best in your niche can yield incredible results!

Looking to gamify your user onboarding? Learn all you need to know with StriveCloud!

What is gamified onboarding?

Gamification in onboarding is a great way to engage users at the most important part of the customer journey. Given that poor onboarding is the leading cause of user churn, it is crucial to build an engaging experience. And with onboarding gamification features like progress bars and checklists, you can make installing a new app fun, rather than a slog!

Why does gamification for onboarding work?

Your onboarding is judged based on 3 simple measures:

  1. Usefulness – Do users get value from the experience?
  2. Ease of use – Can users get to the value intuitively?
  3. Fun – Are users satisfied and enjoying the app?

And this is where onboarding gamification can help!


Research shows that gamification increases perceived usefulness, which is the biggest indicator of engagement intention! This is true for a variety of reasons. For instance, goal-setting features are a popular gamification onboarding feature. And for good reason, asking users to set their goals is both interactive and personalized – and nearly 60% of people prefer companies that get to know them and their behavior!

Ease of use

Gamification in onboarding simplifies the customer journey. For example, progress bars show how far a user has until onboarding finishes. In scientific terms, they call this “reducing the cognitive load”. Essentially, this means that engaging requires less mental effort! That’s because gamification is based on easy-to-understand principles. You perform a task, and you’re rewarded for it. To be sure, it doesn’t get clearer than that!


People love games – it’s that simple. The image of computer gamers playing alone at home is totally false. In reality, nearly 82% of the world’s internet users are gamers! That’s because games are enjoyable and we instinctively seek out fun experiences.

“This study found perceived enjoyment to significantly influence brand attitude… In particular, the intention to engage with a gamified brand is likely to lead to positive attitudes towards that brand.” – Computers in Human Behavior

statistics data world gamers

3 key benefits of gamified onboarding

Faster time to value

Basically, gamification in onboarding helps you get to the AHA moment and activate your users faster. So, instead of a boring process where users just fill in their details, your app can start delivering straight away with rewards and engaging features. As a result, you shorten the “time to value”, which gives users a reason to stick around!

Higher retention

In short, when you use gamification in onboarding with features like badges and progress bars, you make the process more fun. Not to mention, easier to understand. All in all, this makes it harder to quit! You can see this in the superior retention rates for the top Android apps. Today, 70% of the world’s top 2000 companies use gamification!

Interactive experiences are more memorable

Gamification in onboarding is all about making the process more interactive. In essence, gamification asks users to put in a little bit of effort to get something back in return. And this interactivity helps us remember! Behavioral psychologist Edgar Dale demonstrated this with the “cone of experience”, which notes that people are better at recalling and learning from direct and purposeful experiences.

The gamification mechanics used to improve onboarding

Gamification means using game-like features in a non-game context. These features give your app development toolkit a boost by tapping into a powerful source of motivation that we all have. Based on behavioral science, gamification plays on mechanics that are rooted deep in human psychology.

What is gamification & how does it work? Learn all the basics right here!

Here are some examples of the main gamification mechanics that can improve the onboarding process:

Badges can reward the effort of new users and provide the task with meaning

Try rewarding your new users with a badge. After all, they completed your onboarding and they should see the effort wasn’t for nothing. This is a form of feedback called positive reinforcement and it motivates users to continue! To support that, research shows that ‘status feedback’ positively influences user retention. Of course, badges are just one way of rewarding new users, you can give them points or even vouchers.

Giving users personalized avatars will boost user retention

Let your users set up their own profile pictures. Research is clear that avatars boost a user’s sense of ownership over the app. This is essential for long-term user retention! To back that up, a 2021 study showed that avatars satisfy the psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and social relatedness, in turn influencing ‘reuse intention’.

Progress bars make onboarding flow naturally

Progress bars fill up depending on how far along a task the user is. In tracking the user’s progress, this gamification onboarding example provides a visually clear and stimulating way to give feedback. Users can easily follow their growth, which is one of the basic psychological needs that leads to intrinsic motivation.

11 onboarding gamification examples to inspire you

Badge rewards

#1 BrewDog

As a part of the brewery’s loyalty program, Brewdog rewards customers for “killing carbon” by shopping at their carbon-negative business. To incentivize users, the company offers a spate of different badges. That includes during onboarding, where BrewDog offers badges for registration, first purchases, and other activities.

Why does this work? Simply put, because people love to earn badges! Receiving a badge is positive reinforcement, and having a stack of badges can proudly display your growth. This makes badges a form of “status feedback”, which papers show positively influences user retention.

Here are the amazing results of BrewDog’s gamified loyalty program:

  • 100% rise in average order value
  • 400% higher purchasing frequency
  • 136% increase in email click-through rate!
ecommerce gamified uxdesign loyalty program


#2 Navexa

Navexa is an investment portfolio tracker. To entice users to onboard (and pay for the product), the fintech app uses a clever checklist. Essentially, Navexa extends the free trial to users who complete certain activities on the checklist, like adding their data.

To be sure, this is way more effective than simply giving users for free a longer trial in the first place. Dozens of behavioral studies have shown that the higher the price, the more humans value the item! Of course, with gamification in onboarding, users don’t pay with their money, but with time and effort. And when users are rewarded for that time and effort, they’re more than happy to take part!

gamification onboarding fintech examples

#3 Quora

Quora is a social Q&A website that also uses gamification in onboarding. With just a checklist, Quora elicits the ‘endowed progress effect’. Put simply, this principle says that people are more likely to finish something if they think they’re close to completing it.

To unlock this effect, the checklist includes ‘dummy’ tasks like registering and visiting your feed. In practice, you can double down on this by including a balanced mix of easy and harder tasks. Usually, people finish the easy tasks first, and then they will be compelled to complete the rest!

SaaS web app gamification in onboarding
SaaS web app gamification in onboarding


#4 Headspace

Some apps have a longer onboarding period than others. For wellness app Headspace, they have eight screens with dozens of decisions to make. That’s why when new Headspace users complete onboarding, they’re greeted with this cheery sentence:

“Congrats! You’re now a member of Headspace.”

For one, this acts as a positive signal that the onboarding is over. In turn, this milestone breaks the experience into smaller, more doable parts. Also, the screen’s positive reinforcement rewards the user and celebrates their effort, which is intrinsically motivating. In effect, that means users are enticed to keep using the platform!

headspace wellness app ideas uxdesign

#5 Lime

Onboarding gamification doesn’t stop once the customer signs up! Indeed, shared mobility app Lime offers a great example of how to successfully onboard. When customers finish their first ride on one of Lime’s e-scooters, they get a milestone that celebrates the occasion! For one, this acts as a marker and visualizes the customer’s progress. Ultimately, this personalized feedback builds trust and motivates riders to book another journey!

shared mobility app gamification ideas

#6 Nike Training Club

Fitness apps and habit formation go hand in hand. And gamification in onboarding can help create habits right from the start! When Nike Training Club onboards new users, they reward users who trial the workouts by unlocking milestones that come with an encouraging message. In short, this displays the user’s progress and reinforces the idea that the workout has meaning!

What’s more, users can see all of the future milestones, but they’re grayed out. This psychological phenomenon is called ‘constraint’. Basically, it’s a technique commonly used in gamification where you can’t access certain areas of the experience. As a result, you can’t help but feel that you are missing out – and losing out is extremely motivating!

mHealth apps Nike gamified user experience

Progress bars

#7 LinkedIn

Progress bars are so simple, yet so powerful! As a progress bar fills up, users receive both instant feedback and an indication of how long is left. This helps avoid user frustration and boredom, as progress bars have been found to reduce the ‘cognitive load’ of onboarding. That’s good because a perceived longer onboarding means higher churn!

In short, that’s why professional social network LinkedIn uses a progress bar. Because users must input a lot of data, the app’s onboarding can be quite long. So to combat churn, LinkedIn’s progress bar also features subtle reminders of a user’s incomplete tasks. This plays on a psychological principle called the ‘Zeigarnik effect’.

Kendra Cherry, Psychologist – “When you start working on something but do not finish it, thoughts of the unfinished work continue to pop into your mind even when you’ve moved on to other things”.

By using the progress bar and additional questions to emphasize missing details, LinkedIn boosted profile completion by 55%!

LinkedIn web gamification onboarding

#8 Shine

Fintech onboarding can be a hassle. For instance, there are a lot of legal requirements. That might be why a whopping 38 % of customers drop out of the onboarding process. However, adding gamification in onboarding can achieve real results! This is how French fintech Shine earned a completion rate of 80%.

Throughout each onboarding screen, Shine features a multiple dot style progress bar. This instantly lets users know how long is left, and makes the onboarding flow naturally!

fintech onboarding gamification ideas


#9 Duolingo

Duolingo is the top language-learning app on the planet and for good reason! They are famous for their use of game elements to motivate. This includes gamification in onboarding. For example, new users who open Duolingo are first asked to pick their target language. Next, they play a quick interactive demo lesson. And once they complete it, they earn points, or “gems”. These gems serve multiple purposes:

  • Can purchase perks like extra lives, harder lessons, and streak freezes
  • Celebrates the user’s achievement, spurring more engagement
  • Fast and instant reward, which leads to positive feelings
  • Tracks personal growth, important for Edtech apps!

Only after rewarding those gems does Duolingo ask users to create a profile! This shortens the time to value considerably. And given that Duolingo is known to studiously run A/B testing to improve their metrics by 1% every week, you can be sure that their onboarding gamification is the best! In fact, Duolingo’s day 1 retention at launch was just 13%. But today that figure is an impressive 55%!

Luis Von Ahn, CEO @Duolingo – “Learning a language is really hard work, and the hardest part is staying motivated. Gamification is the key to getting learners to stick with it.”

duolingo edtech onboarding process uxdesign

#10 Tweet Hunter

Tweet Hunter is a growth tool for the social media network Twitter. And they have a unique financial reward attached to their points system! During onboarding, users have a checklist they need to complete. With each item they finish, they earn points, which they call tokens. In fact, users are rewarded with tokens every day that they use the app. And what do these tokens do? They represent a share of the company! If Tweet Hunter gets acquired, your tokens determine how much you’ll get. Sounds lucrative, right?

This feature is so effective because it is essentially a win-win scenario. The company gets your engagement, and you get the potential of a cash prize! This is an example of reciprocity, which builds brand trust and ultimately keeps users engaged for longer.

points gamification in onboarding apps

Contextual notifications

#11 Ixigo

With 12 million monthly active users, Ixigo was one of the most downloaded travel apps around the world in early 2021. Immediately upon installation, the app makes a great effort to make every customer interaction personal and contextual. Shortly after signing up, users get an email from Ixigo. The message’s first line features the user’s name – a must-have personalization tool that convinces the user your email isn’t just any old clutter.

What works amazingly though, is how Ixigo rewards users for signing up by sending a redeemable voucher! This is a clear call to action that shows off the brand’s value proposition and gives users a reason to start using the app. The results are clear – while the average open rate of emails across all industries is just 21%, Ixigo’s first email sees an impressive 54% open rate.

gamification examples onboarding app development

Want great results like these with less hassle? Discover our app gamification software!

Gamify your user onboarding with StriveCloud!

Because onboarding is such a crucial step in the process, it’s important to get your onboarding gamification right. That’s why we recommend using a gamification tool like StriveCloud. And when you use our software, you get more than just a control panel with over 20 interactive features – you also get the advice and assistance of our expert team!

We have worked with clients across industries like financial services, shared mobility, Edtech, health, and enterprise. Through this experience, we have developed 3 simple steps to gamification success:

  1. Workshop. Let’s build a plan together with your unique goals & target audience in mind.
  2. Set-up. We’ll integrate your new features and get you up and running!
  3. Onboarding. Finally, we train your team to use our control panel, so you can make live changes whenever you want! Of course, we will be there if you need us.

Make implementing gamification easier! Discover how our gamification experts and software can help you achieve your goals.


Gamification uses game-like elements to motivate users in non-game contexts. Implementing features like points and levels taps into human psychology to unlock a powerful sense of motivation. In turn, this makes the app experience more enjoyable, which increases user satisfaction and retention!

Onboarding gamification boosts 3 important metrics: the usefulness of the process, its ease of use, and how much fun it is. In short, gamified onboarding can simplify the sign-up and tutorial, which decreases time to value and activates the user faster!

Gamification in onboarding can be highly effective. For instance, fintech app Shine uses progress bars to give users a rewarding dopamine hit when they finish! With this, Shine boasts an amazing 80% sign-up rate, compared to the industry average of just 15%.

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