Avoid terrible app gamification by answering these 6 questions

Author: Steffen Meyer, Mobile Marketing Content Specialist

One more round. Just this one level.

The compelling experience of video games is well known to anyone whoever plays engaging games or who’s got a partner who does. Publishers can use these mechanics for their apps. With so-called gamification, you can implement gaming elements into your mobile app – and catapult KPIs to new heights.

As enticing this may sound, gamification is no easy task: You may have heard about the really success stories like Duolingo, Fitbit, Shein and Mango Health, or maybe you even use Habitica yourself to get these To Do Lists done.

But you probably haven’t heard of all the failed experiments that do exist as well. In these unfortunate cases, important gaming principles were not taken into account, knowledge on motivation management was not applied or business goals were set incorrectly.

Apps that obsessively distribute bonus badges in push notifications annoy their users, and simple scoring without the emotional support of intermediate achievements quickly tires and becomes boring.

For you not to fall into this trap, grab our power-up by answering these five questions on how to implement gamification into your app:

1. What are your SMART goals?

Gaming is fun and distracts your mind but gamification is serious business and requires a sharp focus. To sharpen this focus, you need to know what you want to achieve with your gaming strategy. So set SMART goals, goals which are 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

When developing your gaming mechanism, keep these goals in mind and bring each element of the system in line with them – no matter the stage of your development process.

2. What’s the target behavior?

After having defined the SMART goals, you should ask yourself: What specific steps should the user take to achieve them? Describe all the events users may undertake and how they are linked to each other. 

So basically map out roughly your ideal player’s journey through your to-be-developed system that takes them step by step towards your established goal.

3. What’s the users’ motivation?

Users are motivated differently: Some just like earning virtual points and leveling up, others only care about tangible and practical rewards, and some just want to see their name on top of any table. 

Get to know your users, understand their behaviour and interest and build a reward system based upon this knowledge. This way, they will take the actions you identified before.

4. What’s the gaming structure?

You know what you want, you know what steps users need to take for this and you know how to motivate them. Now you need to implement this information into the structure of your gaming system that consists of two levels:

  • At the Micro Level, you need to build cycles of engagements. These motivate players to act, which then leads to feedback, which then again should motivate the player to take the next action and so on and so forth, getting your players hooked:
  • At the Macro Level, you wrap the “player’s journey“ in an exciting story, most often this is the story of the player’s development from beginner to master. This journey consists of many cycles and must have a pre-scripted scenario.

5. What do users enjoy?

When creating gamification mechanisms or outlining a clever structure for your gaming methods, don’t forget that the game should be an enjoyable activity. If users don’t enjoy it but are annoyed by it or perceive it as a chore, it won’t work. So from time to time look at the app gaming mechanism through the eyes of the participant to see if the game will be fun.

6. How will you implement gamification?

Having answered the last five questions, you need to build a strategy and the technology which is most suitable for your endeavor and implement the gamification mechanism.

And then?

„There are various strategies and dynamics you should know about when gamifying a mobile app, as we described in this blog post. And there are still more to come. So subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn so that you don’t miss out. In the meantime, get our Marketing Master Map to keep an overview of your marketing strategy.“

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