Gamification Techniques for Creating Great Product Experiences

March 26, 2020

Everybody loves to win. Well maybe it’s more accurate to say that “nobody likes to lose.” Regardless of your competitiveness, when deployed correctly, gamifying experiences are proven to increase the stickiness of a product, creating a level of commitment that all companies dream of during development. And it pays to do it well. 

As Gallop lays out in a 2014 study, fully engaged [customers] represent an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer. This means that with a well defined and executed strategy, a company can see a 1 in 4 increase in retention compared to a company that does not integrate gamification into their product experience. As a business goal, the less likely your users are to churn, the better your chances of long term success. 

Some industries make more sense when it comes to building in reward-like systems; social apps, learning experiences, fitness platforms are more stereotypical examples of places to find gamification.  Debugging, as we know, is boring and tedious. So the challenge that stands in front of us is to reinvent the way that developers interact with the process of solving issues, in ways that we’ve seen more typical B2C companies execute on in the past and present. 

At PlayerZero, we’ve analyzed the following companies to unearth the best way for our product to interact with our users and make their experiences unforgettable. With these nuggets of insights, we aim to transform our user experience into one that not only drives value, but brings a sense of fun and connectedness as well.

Gamified Products

Duolingo

Looking to learn a fun new language? Duolingo can help with that! They can also help keep you motivated to meet your goals through some pretty sleek strategies.

Latent users are actually punished for not brushing up on skills they once built up. When you take a break from a specific topic, Duolingo reduces your “strength” in that area. This, combined with very prevalent progress trackers, will push you to use the application more consistently and expansively over time. From a functional perspective, consistent reengagement with a topic is a great way to cement learning new things, so while it might cause a bit of anxiety, it’s better in helping users meet their goals in the long run.

Source: https://www.imore.com/learn-new-language-duolingo-your-iphone-or-ipad

Duolingo uses the social pressure of connecting you with friends and other users on the platform. Through lessons, forums, or groups, you are able to see who is achieving what, and identify how you stack up. 

Snapchat

Snapchat ranks as one of the most obvious gamification experiences on this list, mainly because it’s built on the idea of fostering social interaction. Outside the normal filters, animations or other content enhancing functionalities, there’s one feature that really pushed Snapchat to a new level of user engagement.

Snap streaks! In case you aren't familiar with a snap streak, this is when you and a friend have exchanged snapchats everyday for at least 3 days. The more days connecting, the bigger your streak! It’s a point of pride to keep these alive, which leads to continued interaction and emotional reliance with the application.

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/teens-explain-snapchat-streaks-why-theyre-so-addictive-and-important-to-friendships-2017-4

The emotional reaction to breaking a snap streak evokes one of the most traumatic gamification experiences of any specific product user group. 

Uber

Two sided marketplaces are a unique use case for gamification; it becomes an intricate decision making process testing and iterating on which user-type will be most influenced by an emotional reward pitch.

In the case of Uber, the two key users are riders and drivers. Uber chose to more closely target the experiences of their drivers for gamification influence. Why do they do this? Maybe it’s because churn is much higher for drivers, or maybe it’s because the lifetime value of a driver increases after a specific threshold, and the goal for the customer experience team is to get past that point. Unpacking why they chose to do this might lead one down a very long rabbit hole, perhaps a blog for a different time.

When you jump in an Uber and your driver makes an effort to really engage in conversation, the rider might be thinking something along the lines of “oh, wow, this person is so nice, they really care about me!” On the other hand, they might be the type waiting until there's a gap in the conversation to throw on their airpods and shut them out! Whatever floats the boat. But did you know that drivers actually get rewarded for striking up quality conversation in the form of badges? Yup, it's true. The higher the quality of the conversation, the higher reward. As a person who likes to engage in conversation with new people, I really enjoy chatting with drivers. Hearing that it might have all been a lie hurt a bit… I feel used… 

FitBit

Fitbit brought in the wearable tracking experience with a bang, but it did more than provide simple heart rate and distance traveled metrics.

Something we're constantly iterating on here at PlayerZero.ai is streamlining the onboarding experience. FitBit does a superb job on this, especially with its focus on creating milestones of achievement. They build clear goals introduced in a strategic cadence, not too much too early. As you progress in using the product, you receive more information, basically “unlocking” further insights into the power of the product. 

Source: https://www.weareageist.com/wellness/fitness/testing-things-the-step-count-of-the-iphone-vs-fitbit/

One aspect of gamification that many companies get wrong is challenging the user to do too much, too soon. Rather than focusing on what actually makes the user comfortable, many companies simply open up the floodgates, releasing all of the complex product features in one onboarding dump. FitBit starts with very clear challenges: “walk this many steps”, or “walk more than your friend”. Once you are consistently achieving these goals, you can move to the next step of the FitBit experience.

More apps and technologies have followed suit, such as Strava and Garmin, but FitBit was a prime mover in the connected tech / gamification marriage for streamlined use.

Peloton

When you thought of “at home workouts” 10 years ago, you think a bowflex some resistance bands. Now, you think of interactive streaming platforms with live coaching and connectability. You can thank Peloton for this.

Now a behemoth in the industry, Peloton rode great coaches, sexy content and most importantly (for the sake of this article), consistent motivation from peers to not only bring the gym-like experience into the home, but take it to the next level.

Sure, the bikes are nice. But seeing your name competing for the top spot is so much better. The team at Peloton built the initial experience to connect you with users outside of your home, and allow other people to engage in a friendly bout of competition. Ride faster, harder, and more often… or someone else will. What does this look like tangibly? Leaderboards, badges, and shoutouts from trainers live. Peloton draws you in with great marketing and world class bikes, but it keeps you coming back with the gamified, network experience.

Starbucks

While your local coffee joint might still have a punch card program, Starbucks ups the ante with an intelligent “star” experience that lives to make you more addicted to coffee, if that’s even possible

After downloading the mobile app, Starbucks begins to track how often you are buying their delicious nectar. The more frequently you buy coffee, the more rewards you get. After earning so many stars, you can cash them in to earn a free beverage, not a revolutionary idea, but one that Starbucks pioneered in the big-coffee space. They even are generous enough to give users a fun timeline showing how close they are to reaching their goal (why are skewed by the up front initialization stars you get for simply downloading the app).

And if you want to earn more stars for your ‘buck, look for non-peak hours of coffee buying. Starbucks is looking for you to be caffeinated at all times of the day, so they incentivize you to buy with more stars! If you’re a person that likes to buy coffee and stick it in the fridge, then they’ve got you covered with some extra rewards to boot!

Asana + Monday.com

Asana and Monday.com use gamification in a simple, but extremely effective way. Depending on your personality, you might be able to argue that the word accountability and gamified can be interchanged in this scenario (as this is a production tool), but don’t kill our fun.

Boards and dashboards are a subliminal way to benchmark your personal progress against other team members. Outstanding tasks, time to completion, number of people working on a specific item, all things that help you track team activity, are also strategic forms of gamification. Do you feel like you’re getting behind on your tasks because you see other people checking their boxes? Ya, that’s the point.

Sure, you can also use this as a tool to internally track your progress, but you can't overlook the subconscious pressure to keep up with your team. Asana and Monday.com will likely continue to find creative ways to soften this gamification concept, such as Monday.com’s new sparkly success notifications after you change a task to “done”. Even hackathon participants are building internal applications around this concept. 

Waze

The Waze gamification story stretches back to the early days, and has a loto of layers. Waze was once built as a giant navigation game to map streets for rewards, pushing users to take side streets and new roads so the app could gather more mapping data. As the product grew up, the app began to focus its efforts on getting users from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. With this renewed model, the gamification element also needed to be adjusted.

In such a monotonous and normally stressful space (helping someone get from one point to another while navigating traffic), Waze embraced fun interactions and rewards that brought in a next level of engagement. The more you participate in identifying accidents and optimal routes, as well as engage with other users real time, the better the product becomes. 

Harnessing active user-participation to drive product growth is a community-based differentiation strategy that greatly differs from the likes of Google Maps or Apple Maps. Rather than using sensor data, how about using real-person, qualitative data? Genius! Following a similar view to many of the other companies outlined here they Waze utilizes leaderboards and badges for work well done. 

They also add a fun twist to their gamified experience; depending on your efforts, a user can unlock avatars and “moods”, allowing you to further customize your profile in the Waze experience. Who is going to want to navigate to a new platform where they lose their ability to identify as a T-Rex?

Conclusion

So do you feel like your whole life has been one giant game after reading all of this? Hopefully not, but maybe you can see how companies are driving continued engagement with tactical strategies. Some are quite simple and topical (Asana/Monday.com), while others are functional cornerstones of the product experience (Waze). 

We challenge you to fire up PlayerZero and find the ways that PlayerZero integrates some of the strategies above to make a more well-rounded product, removing users from the typical monotony of debugging into a world where they can be excited to find bugs in their code. Jump in and get started with product now!

Written by:
Matt Kasner
Additional Articles

Gamification Techniques for Creating Great Product Experiences

March 26, 2020

Everybody loves to win. Well maybe it’s more accurate to say that “nobody likes to lose.” Regardless of your competitiveness, when deployed correctly, gamifying experiences are proven to increase the stickiness of a product, creating a level of commitment that all companies dream of during development. And it pays to do it well. 

As Gallop lays out in a 2014 study, fully engaged [customers] represent an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer. This means that with a well defined and executed strategy, a company can see a 1 in 4 increase in retention compared to a company that does not integrate gamification into their product experience. As a business goal, the less likely your users are to churn, the better your chances of long term success. 

Some industries make more sense when it comes to building in reward-like systems; social apps, learning experiences, fitness platforms are more stereotypical examples of places to find gamification.  Debugging, as we know, is boring and tedious. So the challenge that stands in front of us is to reinvent the way that developers interact with the process of solving issues, in ways that we’ve seen more typical B2C companies execute on in the past and present. 

At PlayerZero, we’ve analyzed the following companies to unearth the best way for our product to interact with our users and make their experiences unforgettable. With these nuggets of insights, we aim to transform our user experience into one that not only drives value, but brings a sense of fun and connectedness as well.

Gamified Products

Duolingo

Looking to learn a fun new language? Duolingo can help with that! They can also help keep you motivated to meet your goals through some pretty sleek strategies.

Latent users are actually punished for not brushing up on skills they once built up. When you take a break from a specific topic, Duolingo reduces your “strength” in that area. This, combined with very prevalent progress trackers, will push you to use the application more consistently and expansively over time. From a functional perspective, consistent reengagement with a topic is a great way to cement learning new things, so while it might cause a bit of anxiety, it’s better in helping users meet their goals in the long run.

Source: https://www.imore.com/learn-new-language-duolingo-your-iphone-or-ipad

Duolingo uses the social pressure of connecting you with friends and other users on the platform. Through lessons, forums, or groups, you are able to see who is achieving what, and identify how you stack up. 

Snapchat

Snapchat ranks as one of the most obvious gamification experiences on this list, mainly because it’s built on the idea of fostering social interaction. Outside the normal filters, animations or other content enhancing functionalities, there’s one feature that really pushed Snapchat to a new level of user engagement.

Snap streaks! In case you aren't familiar with a snap streak, this is when you and a friend have exchanged snapchats everyday for at least 3 days. The more days connecting, the bigger your streak! It’s a point of pride to keep these alive, which leads to continued interaction and emotional reliance with the application.

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/teens-explain-snapchat-streaks-why-theyre-so-addictive-and-important-to-friendships-2017-4

The emotional reaction to breaking a snap streak evokes one of the most traumatic gamification experiences of any specific product user group. 

Uber

Two sided marketplaces are a unique use case for gamification; it becomes an intricate decision making process testing and iterating on which user-type will be most influenced by an emotional reward pitch.

In the case of Uber, the two key users are riders and drivers. Uber chose to more closely target the experiences of their drivers for gamification influence. Why do they do this? Maybe it’s because churn is much higher for drivers, or maybe it’s because the lifetime value of a driver increases after a specific threshold, and the goal for the customer experience team is to get past that point. Unpacking why they chose to do this might lead one down a very long rabbit hole, perhaps a blog for a different time.

When you jump in an Uber and your driver makes an effort to really engage in conversation, the rider might be thinking something along the lines of “oh, wow, this person is so nice, they really care about me!” On the other hand, they might be the type waiting until there's a gap in the conversation to throw on their airpods and shut them out! Whatever floats the boat. But did you know that drivers actually get rewarded for striking up quality conversation in the form of badges? Yup, it's true. The higher the quality of the conversation, the higher reward. As a person who likes to engage in conversation with new people, I really enjoy chatting with drivers. Hearing that it might have all been a lie hurt a bit… I feel used… 

FitBit

Fitbit brought in the wearable tracking experience with a bang, but it did more than provide simple heart rate and distance traveled metrics.

Something we're constantly iterating on here at PlayerZero.ai is streamlining the onboarding experience. FitBit does a superb job on this, especially with its focus on creating milestones of achievement. They build clear goals introduced in a strategic cadence, not too much too early. As you progress in using the product, you receive more information, basically “unlocking” further insights into the power of the product. 

Source: https://www.weareageist.com/wellness/fitness/testing-things-the-step-count-of-the-iphone-vs-fitbit/

One aspect of gamification that many companies get wrong is challenging the user to do too much, too soon. Rather than focusing on what actually makes the user comfortable, many companies simply open up the floodgates, releasing all of the complex product features in one onboarding dump. FitBit starts with very clear challenges: “walk this many steps”, or “walk more than your friend”. Once you are consistently achieving these goals, you can move to the next step of the FitBit experience.

More apps and technologies have followed suit, such as Strava and Garmin, but FitBit was a prime mover in the connected tech / gamification marriage for streamlined use.

Peloton

When you thought of “at home workouts” 10 years ago, you think a bowflex some resistance bands. Now, you think of interactive streaming platforms with live coaching and connectability. You can thank Peloton for this.

Now a behemoth in the industry, Peloton rode great coaches, sexy content and most importantly (for the sake of this article), consistent motivation from peers to not only bring the gym-like experience into the home, but take it to the next level.

Sure, the bikes are nice. But seeing your name competing for the top spot is so much better. The team at Peloton built the initial experience to connect you with users outside of your home, and allow other people to engage in a friendly bout of competition. Ride faster, harder, and more often… or someone else will. What does this look like tangibly? Leaderboards, badges, and shoutouts from trainers live. Peloton draws you in with great marketing and world class bikes, but it keeps you coming back with the gamified, network experience.

Starbucks

While your local coffee joint might still have a punch card program, Starbucks ups the ante with an intelligent “star” experience that lives to make you more addicted to coffee, if that’s even possible

After downloading the mobile app, Starbucks begins to track how often you are buying their delicious nectar. The more frequently you buy coffee, the more rewards you get. After earning so many stars, you can cash them in to earn a free beverage, not a revolutionary idea, but one that Starbucks pioneered in the big-coffee space. They even are generous enough to give users a fun timeline showing how close they are to reaching their goal (why are skewed by the up front initialization stars you get for simply downloading the app).

And if you want to earn more stars for your ‘buck, look for non-peak hours of coffee buying. Starbucks is looking for you to be caffeinated at all times of the day, so they incentivize you to buy with more stars! If you’re a person that likes to buy coffee and stick it in the fridge, then they’ve got you covered with some extra rewards to boot!

Asana + Monday.com

Asana and Monday.com use gamification in a simple, but extremely effective way. Depending on your personality, you might be able to argue that the word accountability and gamified can be interchanged in this scenario (as this is a production tool), but don’t kill our fun.

Boards and dashboards are a subliminal way to benchmark your personal progress against other team members. Outstanding tasks, time to completion, number of people working on a specific item, all things that help you track team activity, are also strategic forms of gamification. Do you feel like you’re getting behind on your tasks because you see other people checking their boxes? Ya, that’s the point.

Sure, you can also use this as a tool to internally track your progress, but you can't overlook the subconscious pressure to keep up with your team. Asana and Monday.com will likely continue to find creative ways to soften this gamification concept, such as Monday.com’s new sparkly success notifications after you change a task to “done”. Even hackathon participants are building internal applications around this concept. 

Waze

The Waze gamification story stretches back to the early days, and has a loto of layers. Waze was once built as a giant navigation game to map streets for rewards, pushing users to take side streets and new roads so the app could gather more mapping data. As the product grew up, the app began to focus its efforts on getting users from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. With this renewed model, the gamification element also needed to be adjusted.

In such a monotonous and normally stressful space (helping someone get from one point to another while navigating traffic), Waze embraced fun interactions and rewards that brought in a next level of engagement. The more you participate in identifying accidents and optimal routes, as well as engage with other users real time, the better the product becomes. 

Harnessing active user-participation to drive product growth is a community-based differentiation strategy that greatly differs from the likes of Google Maps or Apple Maps. Rather than using sensor data, how about using real-person, qualitative data? Genius! Following a similar view to many of the other companies outlined here they Waze utilizes leaderboards and badges for work well done. 

They also add a fun twist to their gamified experience; depending on your efforts, a user can unlock avatars and “moods”, allowing you to further customize your profile in the Waze experience. Who is going to want to navigate to a new platform where they lose their ability to identify as a T-Rex?

Conclusion

So do you feel like your whole life has been one giant game after reading all of this? Hopefully not, but maybe you can see how companies are driving continued engagement with tactical strategies. Some are quite simple and topical (Asana/Monday.com), while others are functional cornerstones of the product experience (Waze). 

We challenge you to fire up PlayerZero and find the ways that PlayerZero integrates some of the strategies above to make a more well-rounded product, removing users from the typical monotony of debugging into a world where they can be excited to find bugs in their code. Jump in and get started with product now!

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