updated icon November 16 2016

Take a look at your app store and tell us if there isn’t an app for every need.

Be it gaming, taking notes, editing and saving pictures or chatting with your friends, you literally have more than a handful of apps to choose from. So how do you expect your target users to choose your app over others’, every time? In this post, we’re discussing how gamification can be the only way to save your app.

According to a report by App Annie, the app economy is all set to double in size to $101 billion by 2020. But what the report points out clearly, is how well games are doing in the app market when it comes to monetizing from their users.

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App market: It’s a huge opportunity

The report suggests that games generated 85% of the app market revenue in 2015, which is about $34.8 billion globally. The number is set to grow to $41.5 billion by the end of 2016 and $74.6 billion by 2020.

As suggested in a study by Statista, the number of apps getting introduced to the leading app stores – Apple, Google, Windows and Amazon, are increasing by the day. This only goes to say that the competition for every app, irrespective of the industry is growing at an overwhelming rate that isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

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Number of apps available in leading app stores as of June 2016

Now with the increased number of applications available to a typical smartphone user, businesses are not only going to have a tough time acquiring new users, but also retaining the existing ones!

According to a report by Leanplum, apps have a retention rate of just 21% (active users) 24 hours after their download. After 90 days from the download, the number drops to a mere 1.7%. The report includes dormant users in the non-retention figures.

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Retention is no easy task!

Now, the reasons for a user to leave an app could be any – his experience with the app’s interface was not good; he didn’t find any value in what the app has to offer; it did not meet his expectations; what he wanted was offered in a paid version or as an in-app purchase; the app didn’t really become a part of his break time, or he simply found another app that seemed a lot more interesting!

Either ways, your app lost a user simply because it wasn’t able to keep him engaged or re-engage with him at the right time.

This is where the tactic of gamification steps in.

Why gamification is important

Gamification is the tactic of using gaming elements such as competitiveness amongst users, scoring points, leaderboards, etc to increase the user engagement. In a previous post, we discussed how businesses who are able to implement gamification on their apps stand a higher chance of creating a loyal user community and effectively monetizing from them.

But in case you were wondering why gamification can’t just be left for the games and not used on other apps, here’s the explanation.

According to a study by Arc, games have the highest engagement and retention rates. They have a 40% retention rate after the first day from install and although the number drops to 20% after seven days, it is still a lot more than other apps.

Most of the retention is done by keeping the users – players in this case – actively engaged in the game. Be it by using the natural gamification in the flow of the game or implementing social features like in-app chats, activity feeds and push notifications.

A study by Flurry, explaining the app matrix for user retention and engagement, clearly shows that games in different categories do better than other apps – no matter how useful they are to an average user in their day-to-day lives.

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iOS and Android games are doing well in retention and in engagement

With engagement, retention and monetization rates as high, games are definitely doing something right. Right?

So here’s how you can implement gamification in your app.

How to implement gamification on your app

Now your app could be one that helps users remember their day-to-day tasks, one that lets them take quick notes while commuting, shop on the go or any other, but here’s how you can use gamification on your app effectively.

1. Set clear objectives

Just like setting clear goals for your app’s purpose, set clear objectives for the app user, right from the time they download your app. Don’t just wait and watch how they decide to interact with your app; instead, guide them on the right path which would lead to them exploring all the features of your app. Just like games, ensure the user feels like he is moving from one level to the next.  

2. Add value at every milestone

Another very important aspect of gamification is adding value to the users. In games, this is usually in the form of being able to get extra coins, unlocking a new level, etc; but when it comes to other apps, you need to be a little more strategic. When setting objectives, ensure each milestone that the user crosses, he feels like he has accomplished or learnt something that adds value to him.

3. Create a user community

The only way to keep a person motivated to continue doing something, is by letting him know that other like minded users are also doing the same. Creating an active community for your app’s users. It’s a great way to ensure that they remain engaged and driven, adding to the growth of your app. In a previous post, we discussed how games created player communities via activity feeds and social media to boost gamification as well as drive their in-app sales. You can read it here.

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Fancy Cats showing how to do great community engagement!

4. Make it simple

Games keep it really simple for its players – complete an action, get more coins and unlock a new level – yes, this simple. And that’s exactly how your app needs to do it too! Don’t make it difficult for your users to explore a new feature of your app. If there’s an action like an in-app signup or purchase to be made, introduce it to him using a simple and natural flow, that he is more likely to convert on. State what the user is going to gain right from the start, to keep him motivated.

5. Ensure quick rewards

If your gamification strategy involves getting some rewards for an action that the user completes, make sure they can be used quickly and easily. Most apps make the mistake of adding points up to an unreachable benchmark before letting the user redeem them – which leads to most users losing interest. Create smaller rewards that are easily redeemable by the user in the very next step and encourage more actions to earn more such perks. This tactic is more likely to keep them motivated over a longer period of time.

6. Create a sharing loop

Gamifying the app alone isn’t going to help you grow. You need to incorporate a way for the users to flaunt their achievements in the app. Build loops that enable users to share their milestones on social media or messages via chat apps with their friends and family. The more the word gets out, the more likely are more users to join your app.

For instance, apps like Nike have enabled users to login with their social accounts and share their runs with friends.

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Nike+ social sharing example

Conclusion

Gamification is a proven technique for apps to boost your user engagement and also boost your user acquisition rates, when implemented right.

So take a look at what some of the most popular games are doing to keep their players engaged and find inspiration for your next strategy!

Have you gamified your app yet?