Smartphone owners see app icon badges every day, often multiple times a day. An app icon badge is a colourful dot with numbers in the upper right corner of the icon. These numbers are called badge count. They indicate how many unread notifications or other updates the app has for the user. 

To quickly view a list of notifications, the user has to hold down the icon badge. After that, the badge and the numbers disappear.

Here are some examples of what the badges may mean depending on the type of an app:

  • Messaging or mailing – the number of unread messages
  • Social media – an interaction with your content (likes, comments) or updates from friends
  • Games – a new event or reward, restored lives
  • Dating – a new match
  • Ecommerce – a sales deal
  • Sports/productivity – a milestone achieved
  • Wallet – a new payment
  • Weather – a warning about weather changes

For mobile app developers and marketers, an icon badge is one of the simple ways to engage users and invite them to interact with the app. This works especially well for people with visual perception who may see a badge as a call to action. In this article, we are going to find out how badges can help drive user engagement.

App Icon Badges: Benefits for User Engagement

So why can icon badges act as a powerful user engagement tool? Here are some reasons for that:

  • Becoming a part of a user’s habit or routine. People who use certain productivity techniques such as “inbox zero” may feel an urge to “remove clutter” when they see a badge on an app icon. For example, if the badge appears on a mailing or messenger app, it means that the user has got a certain number of unread messages to deal with. The badge encourages the user to read the notifications and thus feel a sense of achievement that they no longer have any unread messages. As a result, the users interact with the app and get more engaged.
  • Satisfying curiosity. With badges, you can play on the psychology of curiosity. You can show the users there is something there, and they do not know what they are going to get – a sale, loyalty points, new gaming achievements, etc.
  • Promoting push notifications. Having a badge over the app icon on a user’s home screen can also encourage them to interact with push notifications. As a result, the user receives a push notification and is tempted to interact with the notification and app.
  • Being similar to social media. Social media platforms such as Facebook rely on badges, so many users associate badged notifications with some type of social reward, e.g., the number of likes. Thus the use of badges may help users to remember your brand in relation to social media engagement.
  • Adding dynamics. Badges can make an app feel dynamic and active. For example, Duolingo reported a 6% increase in daily active users just from bringing a basic badge strategy into life.

How to Engage Users with App Icon Badges

Icon badges are often overlooked as a simple and cost-efficient user engagement tool. To get the most out of it, you can use it together with push notifications. 

Use badges to show the number of unread push notifications for each user. As the number of unread messages increases, regularly remind the user that they have not engaged yet. As a result, your product will become more visually compelling in comparison with all other apps that are installed on your users’ mobile devices.

Combined with push notifications, badges can also help to re-engage users. Push notifications can be a great way to nudge people back to your app. In reality, people may not read each push notification, so displaying the badge may remind them to read the notifications and thus re-engage with the app.

In addition, you can use icon badges to showcase in-app channels, such as messaging or activity feeds. The key here is to clearly demonstrate the connection between the badge and something inside the app.

Remember to keep your badge count low. Some badge counts can be triple-digit and this may overwhelm the users. 

How to Manage App Icon Badges

For some reason, your apps may not display the badges (for example, custom icons on iOS may cause the badges to disappear) or, vice versa, you may want to turn them off. Before we proceed with instructions on how to do that, let’s find out why the users may need to deactivate the icon badges.

Not all apps can engage users with the help of badges. For example, badges on the icons of clocks, alarms, and calendars can rather annoy or distract users than help them. Additionally, app icon badges are not recommended for notifications pertaining to navigation instructions, media controls, or the management of images and other content.

So here are instructions on how to activate or deactivate the badges for all apps, depending on the platform and the mobile device that you are using.

On Android, the steps can be different depending on the device. For example, on Samsung devices, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > Notifications > Advanced settings.
  2. Turn the “App icon badges” switch on or off.

On Huawei devices:

  1. Go to Settings > Notifications > App icon badges.
  2. Turn the “ALL” switch on or off.

On iOS:

  1. Go to Settings > Home Screen.
  2. Under Notification Badges, turn the “Show in App Library” switch on or off.

If you want to manage the badges for specific apps only, do the following:

On Android (Samsung):

  1.  Go to Settings > Apps.
  2. Find the needed app in the list.
  3. In the app settings, tap Notifications and turn the “App icon badges” switch on or off.

On Android (Huawei):

  1.  Go to Settings > Notifications > App icon badges.
  2. Find the needed app in the list and turn the switch next to it on or off.

On iOS:

  1. Go to Settings > Notifications.
  2. Find the needed app in the list.
  3. In the app settings, turn the “Badges” switch on or off.

It is also possible to customize the look of the badges on Huawei (Android). To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > Notifications > App icon badges.
  2. Tap “Badge display mode” and select either “Numbers” or “Dots”.

Over to You

App icon badges do not just show the number of unread notifications for apps. Actually, they can become a powerful marketing tool, which can help to engage and re-engage users. The advantages of using app icon badges in mobile marketing are as follows:

  • Viewing badges can become a part of a user’s habit.
  • Badges can satisfy the user’s curiosity and encourage them to interact with the app.
  • The users can associate badge notifications with some form of social reward.
  • Badges can make the app more active and dynamic.

In marketing campaigns, you can tie badges to push notifications as well as in-app messages and activity feeds. This will give your app users a clear understanding of what the badge count means.