How to Increase App Engagement and Retention using Gamification

Increase App Enagement and Retention using Gamification

So you have built an awesome product that users love and use. But as a Product Manager, you are always trying to move the needle and thinking of ways to improve engagement even further. Gamification is a great way to build engagement and loyalty in your application.

What is Gamification?
Gamification typically involves applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging with the goal of increasing user motivation to do certain actions or exhibit certain behaviors. Typically there are two types of motivations that drive users to use your app- intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is engaging in a behavior that is personally rewarding rather than doing it for an external reward. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is when the user is motivated to perform certain actions or engage in an activity to earn a reward or incentive. The idea behind gamification is to increase the extrinsic motivation (mostly, at least initially), which over time would translate to higher intrinsic motivation. Once the user has a higher intrinsic motivation, they come back to use your app without any external trigger because they have been hooked to the app.

Why Learn From Gaming?
Gaming companies spend a lot of time trying to keep users engaged and to keep them coming back to their games for a long period of time. Typically, the acquisition cost is higher than other apps and users need to stay around for a long time to allow developers to recover this initial cost. However, most of these strategies are very well applicable to other industries and can help drive engagement when used in the context of the service or user expectations.

Here is how to think about gamification in your app or service.

Establish What You Want to Accomplish
With or without gamification, you need to define what you want users to accomplish. Do you want to drive engagement or improve retention? Having a clear idea of what your goals are with your gamification strategy will help to ideate the right form of incentive to drive user motivation. Goals are different from company KPIs or metrics. A company can have many KPIs across the funnel, but its best to limit the goals to 1–2 key metrics such as engagement or 7-day retention to implement gamification strategy.

Encourage Specific Behaviors
Based on the goals you identified earlier, the next step is to determine what specific actions you want users to take. Do you want them to share on social networks? Or interact more with content? Be as specific as possible. A generic goal like “increase the virality of the app” or “grow the social community” is not quantifiable and will be difficult to measure. Instead, break down into specific behaviors that you want users to do. A goal like “Increase the number of articles average user publishes from 1 to 2” or “increase average shares by X%” would be great goals.

Reward Good Behavior
Once you identify the behavior you want users to exhibit, build the right incentives to reward that behavior. The incentive could be a badge, status or monetary value such as discount coupon- really anything that is valuable to users.

Now getting into how to use gamification at various stages of user lifecycle depending on your goals. Here are some of the gamification elements that product managers and marketers should consider when trying to engage users.Most of these elements of gamification can be added to any product.

Do marketing campaigns that call for users to complete tasks to earn something. Tweeting to get American Express discount offers is a great example of gamification in Marketing. Not only users do some action (Tweet about AmEx offer), which helps with spreading the word about their offer, but users also value earned offer more and are more likely to use it rather than an offer that’s out there for anybody.

Build elements of gaming within the onboarding flow to allow users to quickly and easily learn about the key value proposition in a compelling way. Use earned rewards, status or badges to motivate users to complete the onboarding flow. The progress bar during the LinkedIn profile completion is a great way to use gamification to get users to complete the onboarding process.

User engagement is critical for any app and one of the ways to drive engagement is through incentivized activities. Give users tasks that they need to accomplish and then award credits and gifts once the user completes the behavior. They key is to only give rewards to users who would not otherwise complete the activity. These incentives should be build based on behaviors users exhibit within the app and action required of different segments to get reward should be distinct from other segments.

Reward users for sharing and spreading the word. This is used very heavily in many consumer apps and can be a great way to share products that rely on the network as well as products that require users to collaborate. Dropbox and Box, for example, give extra cloud storage when a user invites a friend. They also frequently changed the amount of space they gave during their early days of viral growth. One of the ways we grew our users virally was by rewarding users with free content and points for sharing games they were playing with their friends.

Build gamification to allow a user to earn status and recognition with a community when the user interacts with the community and improve social interaction. Activities such as posting and consuming content, interacting with the community and engaging with others can be rewarded. These badges can be displayed within the community and can grant special privileges to users with a higher level of badges.

The concept of loyalty is to make user progress through levels based on their interaction and activity in the app. Airline programs have been using this tactic to drive repeat business for decades. But any app can develop a reward mechanism to reward their most loyal users by giving bigger incentives to users who spend more.

Create an Element of Surprise
If users don’t know what they are going to get, they are more likely to take an action to get it. Keeping an element of surprise is a great way to get users to exhibit certain behaviors. Keeping some features behind the wall and showing only a glimpse of it is one way to create gamification. Occasional surprise bonus with a sale or surprise reward is another great way to increase user’s motivation.

People like to solve challenges. Sometimes the thrill and accomplishment of solving a challenge are more than an actual reward. Adding a quest to your product is a great way to get users to do a task or activity.

Ultimately the kind of rewards and incentives will depend on the type of app and users. Status and badges are only valuable in the community but monetary rewards cost the company money. Its the happy medium between the two and that needs to be determined based on company goals and user behaviors I mentioned earlier. Doing gamification requires thinking deeper and determining if that reward would be useful to the user and how that reward would be integrated into the overall user experience in the app.