4 ways to introduce gamification features that improve the user experience

4 ways to introduce gamification features that improve the user experience

If you want to become successful in today’s app market, you must be able to stand out. On Android alone, there are nearly 3.5 million apps competing for user attention. What then, do the best performing apps have in common? Gaming! Games form a whopping 72% of Android app revenue. Of course, that doesn’t mean your app needs to be a game. Instead, you can take what works for games and leverage them for your business.

After setting up the right strategy, it takes two steps to put it into motion. First, you’ll have to find the app gamification software that suits your needs. Secondly, you’ll need to select which gamification features you’re going to use within your app, and what goal they have.

In this article, let’s cover how to create an effective gamification strategy and look at 5 gamified app examples that did it right!

The biggest challenges that apps face today

Are you ready for a shock? Global research firm Gartner estimates that just 0.01% of all apps are successful. In other words, that’s a 9,999 in 10,000 chance of failure! To become that 1 app that achieves a return on investment, you must tackle what app developers agree are the biggest challenges that currently plague the market:

App discovery is harder than ever

With so much competition, traditional marketing techniques are losing efficiency. This includes methods that create organic traffic like SEO or ASO (app store optimization). In real terms, this represents a particular issue for up-and-coming challengers in consolidated markets, because apps with more downloads rank higher. As such, taking on the incumbent leaders today requires a truly unique and marketable product.

Low rates of user retention

User churn is named as the most critical issue for apps by 55% of app marketers. Worryingly, there is no sign of change on the horizon. Across the board, average app retention actually decreased by 12% in 2020. At the moment, one can expect 71% of users to churn within 3 months. In other words, for every 10 users that you take effort to acquire, only 3 of them will still have your app installed after 90 days. Strikingly, the importance of user retention is laid clear when you know that user churn is what separates the market leaders from their hopeful challengers.
user retention gamification app

Are you experiencing low user engagement & high churn? Learn how gamification can help you →

The rising cost of user acquisition

In the past 6 years, the cost of acquiring customers has shot up 60%. Ultimately, this makes existing customers even more valuable than they already were. Combined with low user retention, the expensive acquisition is a killer for any business model. With that in mind, your app should be engaging enough to retain users. Notable examples of success here are the Uber loyalty program and the Revolut referral campaign.

How gamification improves the user experience

Out of all categories of apps, the above challenges are less threatening to mobile gaming. Games have some of the highest retention rates, by far and away the most amount of downloads, and the largest share of app revenue. Gaming dominates the app market! Indeed, non-gaming apps can learn a few things from this sector of the market – and that’s where gamification comes in.

Gamification is the use of game-like elements in non-game contexts. For example, this could mean adding a leaderboard to your educational app, which can show who in the community is earning more points. Perhaps that feature reminds you of the hit app Duolingo, whose product manager says that “gamification is the reason” they are the most popular educational app in the world!

What is gamification and how does it improve the user experience?

Research has shown that gamification significantly improves the user experience. Studies find that gamification features positively affect the perceived benefits and value of a mobile app. Ultimately, the continued engagement that gamification facilitates leads to customer loyalty and user retention.

4 gamification features that can transform your app and how to implement them

So, how does one implement gamification features? The right strategy is crucial – and the right gamification app software can be the perfect guide throughout the process. Of course, how to gamify your app will vary depending on what you are trying to achieve. However, there are some popular features that will prove invaluable whatever you need:

#1 Set up a points system and reward your users

A reward system does a great job of incentivizing user behavior. For instance, if you want to push people to cycle instead of drive, you can reward points for it. This is how the app Changers saved 80,000kgs of CO2 in just 3 months! However, the important thing to remember is that the points must mean something. To give people the feel-good dopamine hit, gamification features such as leaderboards or prizes are perfect.

#2 Invent a storyline with avatars and create a sense of personal involvement

Research is clear that avatars boost a user’s sense of ownership over the app. In essence, users will feel more personally involved. For sure, this is an important feeling to create if you want to take the user on a story. Not only that, seeing other people’s avatars fulfills the need for social relatedness. It makes competing with other users more meaningful compared to a regular profile pic or nothing at all.

Easily incentivize & keep users motivated to use your product? Discover our app gamification platform!

#3 Hand out badges and boost customer motivation

Badges are a great way of recognizing a user’s accomplishments. In addition, badge systems help align users to goals that you share. Once earned, badges act as status symbols, distinguishing badge-holders from others.

#4 Encourage communities that make the experience fun

One of the most powerful needs that humans have is the need to belong. In the most basic terms, people crave social interaction. Gamification features such as challenges and leaderboards can push users to interact and compete. An in-app community can make customers 60% more loyal to your brand. For example, studies into Nike Run Club found that social interaction was the biggest source of customer motivation.

5 apps that found success with gamification

Gamification can help apps across all categories, from B2B to B2C, and here are just 5 apps that have used gamification features to enhance the user experience:

Headspace will make you a master of meditation

Headspace is a meditation app that wants to improve the mental health of its users (and there are over 2 million of them). Gamification elements help the app achieve this! Streaks encourage daily usage that hopes to install the habit of meditation. In addition, hitting milestones earn users rewards and a digital confetti page will congratulate them.
mobile app engagement user retention

Fitbit’s leaderboard encourages users to run harder

Fitbit is a health & fitness app used with a wearable wrist device. The app tracks daily steps which buy your way up the leaderboard. This creates a sense of social connection; a place to compete with friends and share the results on social media, which we call a positive intensifier. It must work, as Fitbit has over 29 million weekly active users. Studies show that the leaderboard alone leads to a 15% increase in daily steps!
user retention leaderboard fitbit

LinkedIn improved its onboarding with this 1 gamification feature

LinkedIn’s profile creation is subtly gamified. A colorful progress bar shows how far you are to finishing, which creates a clear goal. As well, users receive positive feelings when they reach the color green! With this feature, profile completion shot up 55%!
progress bar customer motivation linkedin

Setting targets with SWEAT creates goals to strive for

In setting exercise goals and time targets, users create ownership over their fitness journey. Studies show that adding a deadline greatly helps goal pursuit! The app supports these targets by aligning them with workout programs, encouraging 12-week deadlines. Just long enough to make a difference, not too long to seem daunting.
fitness gamification app boost

The Starbucks loyalty program that truly rewards

A staggering 16 million users are signed up to the Starbucks loyalty program. The app rewards users with stars for their orders, which can be redeemed for free food and drinks. The program has tiers that reward the most loyal customers the most. As a result, Starbucks can thank the program for 40% of all US sales!
starbucks loyalty reward gamification

As you can see, depending on your business goals, gamification features can enhance the user experience and drive more of the customer behavior that you want to promote. If you would like to start on your journey, the Strivecloud gamification app software can assist your needs and help you overcome the challenges facing your app.


Launching a new app is becoming even harder than before! Apps are facing three major challenges:

First off, app discovery is getting harder and harder. Think about it! Getting on the front page of the app store is not easy! You already need thousands of downloads to get there in the first place, and the competition is steep!

With millions of apps to choose from, grabbing and (even more important) keeping the attention of users is nearly impossible. That leads us to the second challenge: low user retention.

To add to all these struggles, user acquisition costs are also rising. Which makes it a lot harder for apps to be profitable enough for sustainable growth.

So what do the most popular apps like Fitbit or Headspace do differently? Well, they leverage the psychology behind the world’s most popular apps: games!

No, they don’t turn their app into a game. Instead, they use the features and underlying psychology of games to nudge user behavior their way. For instance, by using leaderboards, badges, or points reward systems.

Would you like to see how gamification could work for your app? Learn more →

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