September 22 2016

Acquiring mobile app users and keeping them engaged over a long period of time, is a daunting task for businesses today. But no matter how many apps come in, the one genre of apps that is still able to retain its users and effectively monetize them, are games. In this post, we’re going to discuss how gamification is the hack that mobile apps need to use for growth.

Understanding gamification

Gamification is the tactic of using typical gaming elements, such as competing against others, scoring points, or ranking in learderboards, and using those in other contexts, to increase engagement. In this case, applying those gaming concepts in apps to increase end-user engagement.

Why use gamification?

Businesses who have been able to effectively implement gamification on their apps, stand a higher chance of creating a community, by piting app users’ performance against one another and sharing who are the top performers! With a loyal community, you can effectively drive monetization.


Source: Facebook Study

Here are a few additional benefits of implementing gamification in your mobile app:

1. Incentivize your users to use a specific feature

Every user has a different way of interacting with your app. His sessions may or may not add to how you wanted your app to be used. By using gamification, you can encourage users to ‘use a feature’ in lieu of points that can be redeemed on an in-app purchase.

2. Keep your users motivated 

Continuing on the point above, gamification keeps your users motivated. When they know they will gain something out of every session, they will continue to interact until they get it. But it is important to ensure that with that specific gamification element, you’re adding value to them consistently.

For instance, here’s a Supercell game, Neighborhood Derby, that uses the competitive instinct every player has to keep them motivated by using leaderboards.



3. Boost user engagement rate 

Users who remain motivated to interact with your app – even if just for the perks – remain engaged with it for a longer period of time. Gamification improves the user engagement rate. For instance, if I promised you that you could earn 100 coins that are redeemable on an in-app purchase by completing 5 sessions on the app, you’re more likely to do so. The only thing I need to ensure is that the in-app purchase is attractive enough.



4. Improve user retention rate 

The higher the engagement, the longer your users will stay on your app and the lesser are the chances of churn. You can implement gamification not just to keep your active users motivated, but also to re-engage the inactive ones. For instance, by using push notifications you could encourage a user to try out a new feature added to your app and earn a 5% discount on the pro version of it!

For instance, this gaming notification is clearly trying to nudge the user to compete with Nigel Zedman!


Also read: 7 examples of push notifications that will bring users back to your app 

5. Monetize more effectively 

When your users are engaged with your app, they are more likely to convert on the in-app purchases you offer. But there a catch: only if they think it adds value to them and only if they feel that the offer is lucrative enough for them when compared to what others offer.

This is where gamification comes in handy. For instance, by getting a gamified discount, I am more likely to convert to a pro user even if the total value is $10 – because it is like actioning a deal that I won’t see again!

How to gamify your app effectively

If you think you want to give gamification a shot for your app growth, here are 6 techniques from experts that you need to keep in mind:

1. Set clear objectives 

Are you looking at acquiring more users via word-of-mouth gamification, trying to re-engage your inactive users or pushing active ones towards an in-app purchase? Set clear objectives for your app gamification. Trying to achieve too many things out of one action, will not add up to an eventual end goal and will only overwhelm your user.

2. Ensure you’re adding value 

The idea behind gamification is to incentivise the user’s activity. But unless the action also adds value to the user, do you really think he will follow through? While implementing this tactic, you need to ensure your campaigns are data driven and you understand what your users are looking for in the first place.

3. Keep it natural 

If a user feels ‘pushed’ towards a certain action, he thinks the app is trying to make him convert on a purchase – and not add any value to him. This is why you need to ensure that gamification is implemented only in parts it would seem natural. Consider the your type of app, your users, how they interact with it and then implement gamification aimed at engagement, user loyalty or further acquisition.

4. Make sure it is easy 

If an app asks you to complete 10 complicated steps to earn 5 coins that you can redeem on a purchase of $10, you’re going to ‘skip it’. You’d rather purchase it at the full price than spend 10 minutes completing those steps. While implementing gamification, it is important to ensure it is easy for the user to complete an action you want him to. The easier it is, the more likely they are to interact with it.

This example here simply wants the user to rate the app to earn more points – simple, isn’t it?



5. Create a sharing loop 

Games ensure that their users are not just actively engaged with their apps, but are also in a constant sharing loop. So ensure that you have enabled social sharing as well. For instance, Runtastic lets its user share his run/ milestone on his social profiles. This helps you get a word-of-mouth, as well as giving him some motivation from friends.



Psst. It would also help you get some word-of-mouth marketing for your app!

6. Deliver quick and redeemable rewards 

You could have created an in-app gamification program that promises your user a major win at the end of it. But most users might lose their motivation trying to reach that point. So instead of waiting till the end, giveaway smaller bits of the bigger reward to them as soon as they complete an action and ensure they can be redeemed easily.

For instance, the same game, Neighborhood Derby, gives the player the option to claim his rewards as soon as he gets them. This lets him use what he has won to move further in the game.




Gamification is a great tactic that some of the most popular games and apps have implemented to keep their users engaged and create loyal communities. When implemented well, it is a marketing tactic that adds to the sustainable growth of an app in the competitive mobile market.

Is your app tapping into the power of gamification?