Why Companies Are Adding Gamification To Their Mobile Apps

Why mobile app companies are now adding gamification

Let’s start with a simple question: How often do you check your phone during the day? Well, the answer is quite regularly. As a matter of fact, an average person tends to check his/her phone between 50-55 times a day.

With people looking at their smartphones that frequently, companies are seeing more and more opportunities to grab their attention. They seem to have found a powerful way to encourage mobile app users to re-engage with an application.

The key, however, is creating an app experience that is irresistible and convenient enough to turn one-time users into frequent users — and this is where gamification comes in.

This trending marketing tactic will be explained further in this article. Starting with the key principles for gamification, the most common mistakes to avoid, and last but not least: a perfect example of a mobile app where gamification was successfully implemented.

The Secret Sauce for App Gamification

Creating an effective gamification strategy is something you should invest time and effort in. Besides analysing existing apps to get inspired, it’s convenient to familiarise yourself with the key elements of gamification in mobile apps.

Clear Objective

The first thing to think about is why you want to add gamification to your app. For example, if you have an e-commerce app — do you want to attract new customers, retain existing clients, or give your brand awareness a boost? Whatever your goal is, use it as the foundation for your gamification strategy.

Motivating Challenges

What is the reason people are going to “get addicted” to your app? The balance between complexity and motivation here is crucial. When the challenge is too easy, people will get bored. If the challenge is too hard, they will get frustrated. Both cases can demotivate the user to continue using your app.

Continuous Encouragement

Push-notifications, reminders or even alerts are great options to motivate users to come back to your app. Whether it’s for completing a challenge or gain extra points to get a free product. With the right encouragement, you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to do a little more effort if they get rewarded for it. 

Exciting Rewards

So, what’s in it for the user? The options here are basically endless. From discounts or free products to being included in an honorable rank. The important thing here is to find out what your target really wants and offer matching rewards. Remember: people like to compete against others and have a thirst to stand out.

Useful Feedback

Some users simply need guidance to prevent they leave the app, the minute they feel confused. In the case of new users, it can help to include small tips to make them understand what they need to do next.

Eventually, these gamification elements can be implemented in almost any type of application. However, it’s better to decide from the beginning if you want to add any gamification elements to your app or not. This is because the cost to create an app depends strongly on its functionalities.

Mistakes to Avoid in Mobile App Gamification

Now that we’ve discussed the key principles (or do’s) for gamification, it’s time to talk about the don’ts. After analysing several apps, I’ve found a common thread among the reasons that have led to gamification failure. The, in my opinion, most significant ones are listed below.

Unclear Scoring System

Users have to fully understand how the scoring system works. Always explain how these are translated into their success and what they will get when they level up. Start by asking yourself this question: Why would users want to earn more points? and design the solution around the answer.

Non-suitable UX

Keep in mind that gamification is a tool, not a solution. In other words, the design alone must be engaging and convenient for the user. Adding gamification to your app doesn’t mean it compensates the quality of the design. Instead, the interface of the mobile app should complement the gamification elements.

Too many Awards

Don’t give awards for just anything. Users should at least make some effort before they receive something. If it gets too easy, no one values it. Also, try to choose the right type of award depending on the amount of required effort. And remember: the rewards must always lead to the direction you want the user to go.

Over-focus on Competing with others

It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include a leaderboard in your app, just make sure it’s not too focused on competing against others. There’s only so much rivalry that a user can take before he/she gets discouraged to continue with the challenge. Therefore, ask yourself beforehand if result-driven elements would encourage users to return to your app or not. 

Lack of Creativity

Another common mistake is not thinking out of the box. Gamification is so much more than earning points, badges or being included in a scoreboard. Such elements are definitely important but also think about other ways you can stimulate users. Give them something to remember, feel connected with or to show off with. Think of gamification as a way of amplifying existing signals.

The Best example of Gamification in Apps

Now that the do’s and don’ts have been discussed, it’s time to better understand how implementing gamification has benefitted other apps. After analysing multiple mobile applications, I’ve found a winner that took gamification to the next level.

Starbucks — Gamification for Customer Loyalty

Starbucks Rewards is often considered as one of the best loyalty programs ever.

Their secret? A combination of customer experience and a revolutionary rewards system. Let’s sum up the most important features:

Rewarding In-store Purchases

Customers can earn points, a.k.a. stars, for every coffee or other articles they buy in-store. These points can later be redeemed for rewards and free products.

Source: Starbucks


Rewarding Grocery Product Purchases

The app also introduced points for purchases that are made outside of their retail locations, including coffee beans, tea, K cups and ready-to-drink beverages.

Outstanding Mobile Experience

It’s easy to check the number of earned stars, as well as make orders and payments from your smartphone. Besides, every time a user opens the app, he/she is greeted with a new and temporary bonus offer.

Gold Member Card

When a member of the Starbucks program earns 30 stars in a 12-month period, he/she will receive a gold membership card. In my opinion, a great way to make their customers feel exclusive and important.

Results of the Starbucks Reward Program

The features themselves are already well thought out — but what are the results? In Starbucks’ fiscal report of Q3 2018, they’ve announced a new record in revenues and EPS. I’ve filtered out the results based on the rewards program and these are as follows:

  • There are currently 1 million people who have an active Starbucks Rewards membership*.
  • The number of reward memberships is increasing with 14% annually*.
  • In the last quarter, 9 million customers have joined the reward program*.
  • The total member spending now represents 40% of the US company-operated sales.

* These numbers only apply to the US market

Wrapping up

Many of our favourite mobile apps have been tested, developed and designed based on gamification elements. Nearly all of them with the main objective to achieve the maximum level of engagement.

The approach offers you the freedom to choose the strategies and methods that work best for your target audience. Besides, it’s possible to decide whether you want the entire application to be in the form of a game or just a few elements.

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