How Important is Gamification in Apps?

You’ve spent the money and time to get someone to download your app. Now what?

As has been written in this space before, an alarming number of app developers and brands concentrate so much on acquisition that they have no engagement plan.

The ramifications of such foolish thinking? Average retention rates over the first 12 weeks plummet below 10 percent by week five when there is no interaction with an app user, according to Apptentive.

But what about those who know that retention comes through meaningful interactions with mobile device owners?

More and more, the default answer to the “how” question is gamification. But it’s not for everyone and for every circumstance.

Let’s first define the term, then talk about its place in mobile marketing, especially within apps.

Wikipedia says that gamification primarily refers to a process of making systems, services and activities more enjoyable and motivating.

Gamification in mobile commonly employs game design elements that are used in so called non-game contexts in attempts to improve user engagement, among other aims.

The results from gamification could include the awarding of points or badges, or discounts on product provided for a user who reaches a milestone.

As has often been said, an incentive initiative to motivate a person to do something will only work if the intended activity is perceived as a value to the app user.

The downside is that those who aren’t into your app now won’t necessarily be more engaged because of gamification or come back if they have decided to spend their mobile time elsewhere.

Some have suggested that gamification is best linked to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physiological, security or safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization.

Let’s look at one success story.

As explained in a Fast Casual article, Schlotzsky’s gamification strategy led to the creation of “Stackin’ the Original” game, which enabled customers to stack each of the 13 ingredients that made up The Original sandwich as they moved through a series of increasingly difficult levels.

Guests who successfully navigated all five levels won a complimentary sandwich “bite” that would be added to their account. For every seven sandwich bites earned, a Lotz4Me app member received $7 to spend on his next visit at Schlotzsky’s.

The game garnered more than 92,000 plays, resulting in an enrollment of over 43,000 new Lotz4Me members during the three-month promotional period, Mears said.

“Gamification does not necessarily equate to a traditional Instant Win game per se. Rather, there are techniques such as badging and social sharing that also tap into the essence of the gamification phenomena,” CMO Mark Mears told the publication.

Here are some steps to take as you consider including gamification in your app efforts:

  1. Identify your goals and objectives
  2. Define what is valuable to your users and build in gamification only when you can satisfy the user’s wants and desires
  3. Don’t overcomplicate the experience – simple is better
  4. Think that less is more – unless your user signed up to play a game, use gamification elements judiciously. Do not interrupt what the user came for just to include a game – that will quickly be viewed as intrusive.
  5. While stopping short of giving away the store, ensure that any gamification has achievable outcomes. It’s no fun for a user to try and continually fail.
  6. Educate the user on what you are trying to do. Sometimes they can’t figure out the gamification element for themselves. For instance, two Fitbit users who don the same type of wearable could have entirely different experiences. One might use the Fitbit solely for recording activity. The other might enter a contest with others who are using the product and vie to win points, badges, and a spot atop a leaderboard. If you want them to do something, be clear.
  7. Make sharing easy and fun

Many of FollowAnalytics clients wisely employ gamification to realize their large goal of engagement that leads to more loyalty and sales. But it’s short of a no-brainer and must be done within the overall strategy.