The power of gamification

Jan Holan

We are pretty sure that if you're not a complete newcomer to the world of web and app development, you will have already encountered the word “gamification” – perhaps even too many times. It is easy to brush off, just like any other trendy marketing buzzword; but let's take a moment to discover what gamification really is and whether it could be an answer to the challenges your product is facing.

What is gamification?

There are many possible definitions of gamification as a term, but our favourite is this: “gamification is a process of using elements borrowed from games and behavioural economy in your product, business or marketing”. You probably could have guessed the first part, but the rest might come as a surprise to you. There are lots of good reasons to take inspiration from games and their design for your project – after all, studies show that young Americans spend more than 10,000 hours gaming before they reach adulthood. And according to a 2021 study by the Entertainment Software Association, more than two out of three Americans play video games. So, games must surely be doing something right to keep their audience so engaged. The same applies to mobile or web apps – many of them would profit from being more fun to use.

But instead of reading vague and abstract definitions, let's take a look at a few specific examples. You'll be able to discover for yourself how gamification is all around you these days

  • One of the best-known gamification processes is Starbucks' loyalty programme. It started as a simple “buy 10 coffees, get one free”, and it evolved into an intricate app with limited time offers. The most loyal customers are even able to get their own physical customised gold card to represent their exclusive status. According to a case study from 2017, millions of customers have joined since the introduction of the loyalty programme and around 30% of all US sales are made through the loyalty mobile app.
  • Many sports apps are also being heavily supported by gamification, which helps them build a community where people engage with each other and are motivated by the shared accomplishments of their friends. Great examples of these are the Run Club app, Strava, and the wacky Zombies, Run!.
  • Another common use case for gamification is making an unpleasant or complex activity more enjoyable and easier to complete. Thanks to this, gamification elements are at least to some extent an integral part of each product focused around educating its users – one of the best-known examples is Duolingo, an app focused on teaching languages.
  • Gamification can be used even outside of apps for more real-world interaction. For more examples, check out the Speed Camera Lottery implemented in Sweden, Moscow's machine promoting the Olympics that gave you a free subway ticket if you did 30 squats, or multiple solutions adding audio feedback to rubbish bins to encourage recycling.

Why does it work?

Adding gamification principles to the product and entwining them with your idea is not as straightforward as it might look. As with everything nowadays, the development and design of even a great idea with pure intentions can be executed poorly and might even make your product less appealing to your customers. Randomly slapping a leaderboard, progress bar or point system on your application will not magically make it more fun to use. You first need to identify the processes and behaviours that you want to encourage through the gamification elements, and their usage should be carefully tailored to your goals. But when gamification is done correctly, it works for the following reasons:

  • Gaming principles can trigger some real emotional responses from customers, for example, a sense of achievement. Lots of game design goes hand in hand with psychology.
  • Different kinds of people are motivated by different kinds of rewards. Some are looking for competition, while others enjoy exploring, socialising, or showing off social status. By leveraging this knowledge and knowledge of your target audience, you can implement the right type of gamification for your product.
  • Positive and negative feedback is a great way to encourage or discourage some behavioural patterns. Although in general, it is much more efficient to rely mostly on positive motivation, because its effect is longer-lasting.

How can your idea benefit from gamification?

There are various goals that gamification can help you to fulfill. Some of them were already mentioned in the previous section, but let's look once again at what problems can be solved with a little bit of clever game design:

  • Motivating users to carry out a certain behaviour that is seen by the system as profitable; for example, creating user-made content if that is something your app relies on. This approach can also be used to discourage users from unwanted behaviour.
  • Making unpleasant processes more fun or at least less uncomfortable.
  • Creating an active community that engages with each other and grows.
  • Breaking a complex process into easily digestible pieces; for example, during the onboarding phase of your application.
  • Get users to come back to your application by giving them various reasons to do so – often time-limited.

Why choose Netvor?

Okay, perhaps this blog post has convinced you that a gamification approach could be the right thing for your idea. But what are the reasons why you should select us as your brother-in-arms in your gamification journey? Well, we're glad you asked because there are a variety of them:

  • We are able to handle all phases of your product, from a mere idea and first design to MVP and final product. This means we are able to estimate in the design phase how much work the gamification aspect will take.
  • We have already worked on projects that included gamification elements. For example, CF Hero mobile app (a game for children with cystic fibrosis), La Lorraine loyalty promotion programme, and our own internal APPreciate bot that boosts team morale.
  • We have already worked on projects focused on education which are a great match for gamification; for example, ELEARN.AERO.
  • We have members of our team who are skilled in psychology and design.
  • Most of our team members are avid gamers; some of them are actively designing and creating games in their free time and one of our members even has a master's degree in game development.

And how can Netvor help you?

  • We can analyse the current state of your app and help you identify behaviours you want to reward and obstacles your users are facing.
  • We can design a gamification system in sync with your own goals and budget.
  • We can implement these changes, whether you are only just building your product or upgrading an existing app.
  • We can collect feedback and internal data from the changes executed in order to analyse and measure the impact that gamification had on your product.

Do any of these sound like a service you would be interested in? Be sure to reach out to us via our contact form. Together, we can make your idea more fun for your clients and more profitable for you.