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Architaa Pandey
Architaa Pandey October 11, 2022

Games have been around for a while now, and everyone loves a good game. What started as outdoor games soon transformed into indoor and video games. Games are popular because they are addictive and offer rewards on winning levels or on completing specific tasks. And people keep playing, hoping they’ll move up levels and be on top of the leaderboard. It’s all about the hit of dopamine. While parents frowned upon their children playing these “addictive” games, product designers sat up and took notice. It was then that gamification came into existence.

Gamification is on the rise and is seen everywhere, from music streaming to learning apps.

Gamification yields such good results in increasing user onboarding, engagement, satisfaction, and retention that companies don’t ask whether they should invest in gamifying their product. Instead, they ask how much gamification they can leverage in their products to get the best results. There are several ways of monetizing apps through the use of gamification. But before moving ahead, we must first have an answer to the most important question.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the application of game design principles and elements in non-game contexts. It adds the fun element of games to not-so-fun situations and has seen its application in various places, such as increasing employee productivity at work, promoting the development of healthy habits in patients, boosting the learning process for students, encouraging better financial management, and improving the travel economy.

“Gamification is the process of engaging people and changing behavior with game design, loyalty, and behavioral economics.”

Gamification Guru and co-author of “Gamification by Design,” Gabe Zichermann

Products leveraging gamification keep users engaged by giving them tasks that align with their goals and intrinsic motivations. On completion of the said tasks and goals, users are rewarded with progress indicators like badges and point systems. Such tactics motivate users and keep them coming back to the product for more.

One brand leveraging gamification even before it became digital is Starbucks which has had a gamified rewards program in place for years. The program allows users to collect points on purchases, which can be redeemed for free food and beverages. The rewards program is now offered through the Starbucks app, enabling users to track and record purchases and plan rewards. The introduction of gamification in the Starbucks Rewards Program grew it to over 16 million members.

Starbucks gamified Rewards Program
Source: Starbucks

Why is Gamification a winning strategy?

At the heart of gamification lies human psychology, and the reason that gamification works is that it appeals to human instincts.

Gamification is three-quarters psychology and one-quarter technology.

It is a winning strategy for businesses because it appeals to humans in the following ways:

1. Rewards

Everyone likes to be rewarded with gifts and prizes. Kids are willing to go to the doctor or do their homework in exchange for an extra hour of television or getting their favorite snack. This core drive exists in everyone, and it is one of the factors that makes gamification the huge success it is today. Gamification leverages several rewards, like virtual coins, extra lives, gift coupons, etc., to motivate users to perform any task.

2. Progress

The way to grow is to make constant progress toward one’s goals. We, humans, like to feel that we are progressing and getting closer to our end goal. Gamification leverages this human need for progress and motivates and engages users to keep working on their goals. 

3. Competition

Winning is important to us, whether the desire to come first in a race or excel in our careers. The desire to win makes users come back for more and increases engagement. Gamification fosters competition by creating scoreboards and leaderboards and awarding points to users who engage and perform better in the game tasks.

Gamification in scoreboards encourages competition
Source: TipTopTalk

4. Recognition and status

Boasting about our success and achievements is human nature. Everyone likes to show off, flaunt all they can do well, and demonstrate their skills. Gamification plays to this desire for recognition by awarding badges according to skill development or level of task completed. Users can share these badges and achievements with their peers to maintain their status. One example is a badge of having walked more than 20k steps weekly.

Badge awarded on walking 20k steps in a week gives recognition and status

5. Fun

We all like to have fun, relax, and enjoy ourselves. Gamification plays on this need for fun by engaging and motivating users for that dopamine hit. If gamified, people readily perform mundane, repetitive tasks, like taking their medication on time.

Gamification Elements: A Complete Breakdown

For all the reasons stated above, gamification developed several techniques that appeal to human nature. You might have seen these techniques used in many products but might not have recognized them as gamification tactics that the business implemented to increase engagement. Some of these gamification elements are listed below:

#1 Story

Stories keep users engrossed with exciting characters and plots. A good storyline in any app can keep users motivated and engaged to perform virtually any activity. The story could be of a space mission or saving a kingdom. For instance, in the United States, students learn geography to save themselves from a “zombie apocalypse.”

#2 Countdown

A famous gamification tactic that TV programs, product owners, and marketing campaigns often use is setting a time limit. You must have encountered phrases such as “You’ve got 60 seconds left”, “last 5 in stock”, and “today’s challenges.” A countdown or a time limit is a highly motivational factor that encourages app and product users to complete activities and tasks at the earliest. FOMO (Fear of missing out) also plays a role here as people fear that the amazing deal or discount offer might not be available to them in the future.

Countdowns create a sense of urgency

#3 Levels

Levels indicate progress, and progress is desirable. At the start of a user journey with a product, the user is at the lowest or the first level. The level rises as the user keeps moving forward in his journey and completes activities and tasks within the app. This infuses in the user a feeling of progress, success, and recognition. It motivates the user to keep advancing to the next level.

Adding levels adds the gaming aspect to any product
Source: Rainbow Reef (2018), Duolingo (2011), Owls and Vowels (2017)

#4 Badges

As discussed above, players like to be awarded recognition and enjoy a higher status among peers. Gamification uses badges as a form of recognition and status reward to allow users to flaunt their achievements to friends and family. It’s super easy to implement and often is just about putting a gold badge next to a profile. Duolingo, a language learning platform, uses badges to indicate learners’ mastery over a new language.

Badges show mastery or the level of completion of tasks

#5 Ranking

Gamified products show rankings to promote competition and encourage users to keep trying to beat the high scores. A ranking system or a leaderboard on display prompts users to check their standing. People also check who is ahead and who ranks below in the competition. It’s normal for people to feel motivated to try and pass those above them and climb to the top of that list.

Gamification element: Ranking
Source: StepSetGo

#6 Virtual currency

Greed is omnipresent, and gamification appeals to the materialistic nature of humans by motivating them to earn virtual currency in the form of points, coins, or stars. This currency may seem simple, but it is a highly potent tool to change or influence user behavior. Extra lives or double-value coins are motivation enough for users to do any required activity. The user can redeem this virtual currency through gifts or coupons.

Virtual currency in the form of points can be redeemed later for rewards

#7 Progress bars

A progress bar with a percentage inside is a very powerful mechanism because we humans are ready to do everything in our power to get it to 100%. This is probably the most widely used gamification element and often yields the desired result. LinkedIn has a progress bar for profile completion, and users tend to give more information about themselves than they would otherwise.

Gamification elements, such as Progress bars encourage users to finish tasks
Source: LinkedIn

#8 Teamwork

People like to believe they belong to an elite group and consider themselves better than everyone else. Gamified products often use groups as another way to encourage competition. Users, when divided into groups and in competition with others, perform better and are more engaged in projects because they feel a need to identify with their teammates and beat their rivals.

Conclusion

It does not matter whether the rewards we receive are real. What matters is the emotional reward we get, which is real and is followed by a sense of satisfaction and achievement. It is for this reason that gamification is becoming a ubiquitous part of product design. If implemented correctly, it skyrockets user engagement and makes completing necessary tasks easier and more enjoyable. Companies should remember that successful gamification balances users’ needs, motivation, and desire to be entertained. Think deeply about human behavior and the instincts that drive it, and you will have a winning gamification strategy.

The Upshot.ai Advantage

Upshot.ai is an omnichannel, user engagement, and gamification platform that helps digital product owners and marketers improve product adoption and conversions.

With Upshot.ai, banks, Insurance, and FinTech firms can enhance their digital experiences with pre-built gamification features. It can provide personalized insights, actionable recommendations, and contextual nudges designed to deepen its relationship with its users. 

Book a demo of the most comprehensive user engagement and gamification platform to achieve your digital product goals. Join our communities for more insights, guides, and best practices that keep you updated with proven strategies and tips to supercharge your campaigns.

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