Mobile Apps

6 Techniques to Effectively Gamify a Mobile App

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No amount of gamification -- incentivizing users with points or collectibles -- can motivate a user to do something they do not want to. It only works when they are already a part of the ecosystem and are engaged with your mobile app.

Gamification will not work on disengaged users and won't bring them back to your app if they’re not using it already. 

The incentive strategy can be used in many different ways, but one of the most common is badges or reward points and leaderboards. If you were to integrate just these dynamics into your mobile app without setting an objective or understanding how it connects with the user, gamification will not work, no matter how hard you try. 

Related: Your Answer to Lackluster Customer and Employee Engagement: Add Fun.

Gamification is more about human psychology than it is about technology or methodology. In fact, many feel gamification is best linked to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physiological, security or safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization.

Before you set out to implement gamification techniques, make sure you’ve got the following addressed:

1. Set objectives. Just like when you market your app, set objectives and goals before you begin. What do you hope to achieve by implementing these techniques? Do you want your retention levels or engagement to increase or do you want to build a viral loop?

Don’t integrate gamification just because it’s a tactic used by other apps and games. The successful ones have a well thought-out plan and a compelling reason to build it in.

2. Add value. With your gamification technique, people should feel like they’ve accomplished something special or difficult, they outdid themselves or others or they learned something really awesome.

3. Ingrained in the ecosystem. Rewards and leaderboards don’t work for all types of apps. With your objectives in mind, you must figure out what suits your app best. Build techniques that are well ingrained in the ecosystem of your app to keep a seamless experience.

Related: Why Your Business Should Get in on the Gamification Trend

Depending on the type of app and current user behavior, gamify those parts that allows for user acquisition, engagement, behavior modification and management, commerce or loyalty.

4. Keep it simple. I’ve seen many apps that had a good core offering, but the moment they started to gamify, the experience became too complicated. Gamification can be overwhelming for the developer with many parts to handle at the backend, but don’t make it difficult for your users. After all, these are your most engaged users already, you don’t want to put a fork in their experience going forward. 

Rather, you want to make it really simple for them to engage further with your gamification techniques. Provided that you are already maintaining some user score, you can gradually unlock features based on the score or level. This approach allows you to keep the first experience simple and gradually add more value later on.

5. Build sharing loops. Gamifying alone won’t help much unless your users get to flaunt their achievements. And in turn, that flaunting will help in customer acquisition for your app as well. So by all means, build loops into your implementation that enables your users to share their achievements on their social-media networks.

6. Quick rewards. It’s natural to assume that a big reward at the end of the complete experience will drive users to be engaged. However, the truth is that users are engaged far more if you break that one big reward into smaller bits that are doled out more frequently at certain milestones. This will give your users a sense of achievement, making them more likely to stay engaged.

Related: How Gamification Can Create Social Media Buzz