Gamification is getting more and more popular in the last few years, it has been used everywhere, from business applications to learning and of course: Apps.
Gamification for Apps is the holy grail to develop the best app in the market.
You can use gamification inside your app to increase:
And when my studio and I study for our customer how to increase the engagement of their app, we make sure to use the right gamification technique to cover all of these points.
But where does gamification came from? Well, it’s easy! From games!
Games have only one goal: To entertain the player and provide them with as much fun as possible!
There is also one essential element that in games you put the player in front of a challenge and if the player completes the challenge, you give them a reward.
That is the key point to gamification: Make the user face a challenge and reward them when the challenge is completed, and of course, make it as fun as possible.
That is it: you must be able to keep the player engaged and reward him as much as possible.
To help us achieve this goal, let me introduce you to the flow channel:
The flow channel is a key element in game development and of course, you can use it when you want to insert gamification inside your apps.
The key point of the flow channel is one: you have to keep the player engaged otherwise you are making a boring game or app and that is not easy at all. Understanding how to keep the player entertained is beyond the scope of this article, but you have to study the basic game design technique, and a good book is a very good way to start.
But, before I go on, let me specify the most important thing about gamification: Gamification is not a standard technique that you can apply in every app, you have to evaluate each app and see which techniques/solutions will best fit your app usage.
That is why applying gamification is so difficult, because gamification is the art of converting boring stuff into fun and like every art, there aren’t fixed rules to follow but just guidelines, the rest is experiences and practice.
But let’s start by looking at how gamification improves the retention of our app:
👉 Retention and Gamification for apps:
Retention is one of the most important factors that define the success of your app:
Retention is the metrics that indicate how often the user will come back to your app.
For example, a 7 day retention metrics measure how many users come back to the app in a 7 day period and you want this number to be as high as possible.
This has some intrinsic advantage: the more the user comes back to your app and the more your app will rank on the top position of the App Store or the Play Store. And the more the user uses the app the more likely the user will spend money in the app!
An app with low retention is an app with low value and low conversion rates.
But how can we use gamification to improve our retention rate?
Well is quite easy: we can develop some mechanism that rewards the user each time they open the app. And again this is a very common mechanism used in game development.
For example, Pro Evolution Soccer uses this technique very well:
Every day you open the game, you’ll get a reward and if you open the game 10 days in a row, you’ll get e super reward, a 10x reward.
Now of course, if you are a smart app designer, you can use the same technique to make sure the user opens your app and it is very important that you give him the right reward.
For example, if you reward the player with a virtual coin, then make sure that the user can spend that coin inside your app, this will not only increase the retention of your app, but also the engagement of the app! Kill two birds with one stone.
This is just one way to increase the retention of your app even though it is one of the most used. But as you can imagine there are a lot of different tecquique that you can apply depending on the scope of your app.
Now that we have tasted the influence that gamification can have on the retention of our apps, let’s move forward and see how we can use the retention to increase the engagement of our apps.
🚀 The player engagement
One thing that we know for sure is that gamification can have a dramatic impact on the engagement of your app.
That is because of a very simple reason: the more you give goals to achieve inside your app the more the user will use the app.
The principle is very simple: Challange —> Reward.
So by making all aspects of your app look like a little challenge, you can push the user to complete those challenges, and the more challenges the user overcomes, the more rewards they get.
The reward part is very important because it is that part that will push the user to act and use the app.
One of the most difficult things when you implement gamification in your app, is to find the right balance between the number of challenges presented to the user and the reward for each challenge.
You must be sure that there is a balance and a sense of progression, otherwise, there is the risk of creating an unwanted experience within the app, like the user completing only one task because it is the most rewarding and easy to complete.
So, by using gamification you can make even the most boring task in your app look like an amazing challenge.
For example, a simple bank app can reward the user for every bank transaction they make, and for every 50 transactions, you have a special bonus.
Those techniques are mostly used by American Express and have an enormous impact on the retention and the usage of the card.
Another simple example of a boring task that can become a challenge is the profile registration competition.
Most of the classic apps have a flow where the user has to insert all of his data, like mail, name, surname etc.
It’s a boring process but we can make it fun but using gamification and reward the user when the task is completed.
The example that you see in the image here is from A Seattle startup that has launched an innovative new rewards app, named Frequent Flyer, that is designed to make it easier than ever for users to earn free frequent flyer miles and rewards — as long as they’re willing to share their location data.
And that is a win-win situation, the user shares his position, the app can track where the user is going and the user gets a reward! Everyone is happy!
And this was just another simple example of gamification in action.
💸Gamification to increase your conversion rate
The piece of the puzzle for a successful app is the conversions. The more the user spends in the app and the more money you make.
And gamification can be a great deal to improve the conversion rate of your app, usually, we have an increase of 25% or more on the conversion rate when gamification is used within the app. But how is that possible?
Well, you have an app with better retention and better engagement and this alone can increase the conversion rate of your app, plus, you can use gamification to boost the conversion even more. For example, you can reward the user who spends money on the app.
But be careful, if you only reward the user who spends money, you risk creating an unbalanced system that can be a double-edge sword.
🎮Example of gamification applied to a learning app for kids
When we had to develop this app, we had to face a major challenge: The goal was to create an app for kids to make them learn how to write programs or at least to give them the “forma mentis” of a software developer.
Now, programming is a difficult and boring topic, and making a kid learn it was a really hard challenge to overcome.
But of course, gamification can help, what we knew for sure was one thing: kids love to play games and so, the only way to make the app work, was to make it as close to a game as possible and this is why we made an app that used augmented reality.
And of course, we made sure to challenge and reward the kids who move forward through the game.
In our case conversion rate was not the goal since we didn’t have digital goods to sell inside the game, but challenge and retention was a great deal of the project.
That is why we decided to use gamification to turn what would have been a classic and boring app into a fun and challenging game.
🎲Gamification for apps: the feedback systems
I have just given you a taste of what gamification can do to help you to create amazing and challenging apps, but I missed a very important point to make the gamification work: You have to give the user the perfect feedback to keep them motivated and engaged.
What I mean is very simple: You have to have a system that enforces the reward that you give to the player and make them as cool and easy to understand as possible.
Let me give you a simple example from the game development world: in games, when the user unlocks a reward the game makes sure the player has very good visual feedback of the reward plus an audio feedback just to enforce the reward.
That is true for games but also for the app that used the gamification, so if you are thinking to add the gamification to your app, be sure to give the player as much feedback as possible when you give him a reward, make him feel as cool as possible, and the more you use visual and audio feedback of the reward the more the changes to release dopamine in the brain of the user and that will dramatically increase the pleasure of using the app which is translated into better retention and a better conversion rate.
Last but not least: be sure to test the app with as many users as possible before the release, chances are that you are going to have a lot of good feedback on our gamification system and you’ll end up with a better product.
🕹 Gamification for app case study: Duolingo
Retention on Duolingo
As we have show before, Duolingo rewards the user for every day they open the app, bit they pushed the gamification strategy even further, they will punish the user who doesn't open the app by taking away from them a part of what they have learned.
They also provide levels of progression and rewards for accomplishment, including:
- Leaderboards and leagues: While these also fall under the Social Influence and Relatedness / Envy Pillar, being promoted or demoted to a particular level can ignite emotions within the user. Being promoted encourages the user to continue excelling, and being demoted encourages them to work even harder to get back to the level they were at. No one likes to be told that their skills are lessening.
- Experience points (XP): Experience points are used in a multitude of online games. It is a simple yet effective way to reward your users.
- Progress bars: Duolingo display a progress bar around each unit topic. This progress bar decreases the longer you leave that unit, as language learning requires constant practise and repetition. The user then feels obliged to revisit that unit to ‘top up’ their progress.
- Streaks: Streaks have become quite a popular tool on social applications, with Snapchat being a prime example. The longer your streak, the more exciting it is. And the more pressure there is not to break it. You are also rewarded if you can prolong your streak.
These are strategically placed within the app to make sure that the user knows that they are progressing. Progression and positive reinforcement in turn lead the user to feel like they’re doing something pretty fantastic here, encouraging them to continue to use the platform
Are you ready to use gamification in your next project?
We love making amazing products and since we are born as a gaming company, gamification is in our heart, so if you want to use gamification or just want some advice for your upcoming amazing project, make sure to send us an e-mail.
Marco Mignano 👋 ➡️ Passionate Unity Game Developer Marco - coding aficionado, video game enthusiast, and self-proclaimed piazza addict. Constantly conquering new challenges, one line of code at a time. Got an exciting project? Let's make your game next game together!