In today’s dotcom landscape, people of all ages utilise some form of gamification on their smartphones to enhance their lives in different domains like health, business, entertainment etc. Nowadays, more businesses are embracing gamification to design incentive-driven mobile applications that engage employees through rewards and badges.

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As such,  gamification-based applications now facilitate many areas of our daily lives in different ways. So, in today’s blog, we shall delve into this vertical of mobile applications that seeks to engage and motivate users to frequently use apps. 

What Is Gamification?

Engaging mobile users encouraging them to keep utilising an app isn’t an easy task as many companies still struggle to discover ideas that could improve overall user retention. One way of solving this debacle is gamification.

The fundamental premise of app gamification is to get users to perform tasks or exhibit specific behaviour by adding game mechanics to a mobile app. As such, gamification is generally considered the application of game-design elements and principles in non-game contexts to improve user engagement, flow, learning, ease of use, the usefulness of systems, etc.

Gamification through mobile apps is a relatively emerging approach that seeks to create a fun, creative, exciting, engaging and challenging environment in mobile apps. Generally, gamification is leveraged in several different contexts, mostly in business and marketing, as any computerised application, task, process or context can theoretically be gamified. 

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For the most part, gamification’s main goal is to increase the motivation of users by using game-like techniques while making people feel more involved when engaging with tasks. As such, gamification revolves around human psychology since humans love achievements, rewards, community involvement, competition, high scores, leader-boards ranking, etc.

Characteristics of Gamification 

To better define the concept of gamification, there are four characterised components to consider: 

  • Game: Similar to games, the design of gamified apps will often give rise to playful behaviours and mindsets. 
  • Elements: Gamification isn’t aimed at creating full games but rather using elements characteristic to games. 
  • Design: Gamification can be described by five levels of game design: interface design patterns, game design patterns/game mechanics, game design methods, design principles/heuristics, and conceptual models of game design units. 
  • Non-game context: Gamification utilises games for other purposes other than their normal expected use for entertainment.

Typical Gamification Examples Executions in Business

  1. Boosting Customer Loyalty: You have probably seen businesses reward loyalty points and bonuses in the e-commerce world. This is the simplest but yet most effective method of retaining the customers who purchase regularly while rewarding them with bonus incentives for continuing to be loyal customers for a long time. Gamification for consumer loyalty is crucial as acquiring a new customer can be up to five times costlier than just retaining an existing one.
  2. Supercharging Engagement with Contests: Generally speaking, Online trivia and quizzes are not out of fashion, and they never will be. Such contests are powerful motivators that compel audiences to compete for a bigger value prize in exchange for their personal information or perform a small desirable action.
  3. Lucky Draws at Checkout: Many brands still use this gamified approach to boost overall sales. This approach simply involves placing ‘Spin the Wheel’ or ‘Hat Draw’ games in front of customers as they check out, thus serving as a great strategy to encourage them to buy more from the business. 

In addition, because this is a post-purchase approach, since the customer has already invested in your product, customers feel motivated by the chance to earn rewards, which significantly multiplies their chances of staying loyal.

Practical Gamification in Mobile Apps


Fitocracy is a unique personal productivity application for workaholics that have little time for exercising and staying in shape. 

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In practice, Fitocracy enables users to log workouts and celebrate when a particular user completed certain challenges by basically gamifying, starting an exercise program, staying consistent and becoming fit. As a result, players not only win badges and levels, but also battle other members as well with an element of social influence that is an addictive factor of the game.


HealthifyMe is essentially a fitness app that facilitates users to stay fit and healthy by losing weight via regular exercises, yoga, and diet planning. 

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In practice, mobile users can set personalised fitness goals and track their progress every day utilising the app. Furthermore, fitness, yoga, and diet plans are all pre-defined by industry experts that users have to strictly adhere to in order to achieve expected results. Basically, on the completion of each task, the mobile app credits a few points in the user’s account, which works as a motivational factor since users can compete with other users on a leader-board.


Timehop is a unique mobile application designed to help people visualise the best moments from their past by showing users photos and status updates that they shared on the same date at a point in the past. 

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For example, if you went mountain climbing for the first time with friends three years ago today, Timehop will notify and encourage you to re-share your post. If you were on a tropical island sipping a cocktail in 2013, it will remind you of the moment. 

In particular, Timehop’s gamification attributes come in the form of letting you know the number of consecutive days you’ve shared a memory. So, the more days, the large one’s sharing streak. This has proven effective for the app users’ desire not to break their streaks which helps to keep them coming back to share more.


With approximately 293 million daily users, Snapchat is a popular story and photo-sharing mobile application that revolves around videos, photos, and messages, typically with quirky overlays and diverse filters. 

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Snapchat has become extremely popular since all of the content shared on it disappears almost immediately after being viewed (thus helping maintain users’ privacy). Also the fact that the more one uses the app, the higher scores they earn and the more trophies they’re awarded. 

Though a high score or the trophies won’t really get you any physical price other than bragging rights, it’s enough to keep many people engaged and coming back to the app frequently.


Habitica is basically a free habit-building and productivity mobile app that treats real life like a game. In practice, Habitica constitutes in-game rewards and punishments for motivation, and a strong social network for inspiration to help users achieve their goals to become healthy, hard-working, and happy.

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Mint Financial Tracker  

Mint is a mobile app that serves as a virtual money manager and performs tasks that revolve around budgeting, bills, and finance. As a mobile financial tracker app, Mint can integrate with your bank accounts, credit cards, investments, and bills in order to give users a clear idea about their credits and debits in a gamified format (using ‘Blank Fills’ to help create budgets). 

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Starbucks App

Starbucks’s “My Starbuck Rewards” program” was incepted to fulfil its commitment towards its staff and customer loyalty. The Starbucks gamified mobile app rewards engaged customers and incentivises them to take specific actions using a gamified approach to compete and earn rewards.

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In practice, the more coffee one buys, the more rewards they get and the more they can fill up their cup. Consequently, with its implementation, Starbucks saw the loyalty of their customers significantly increase with the number of purchases(in 2019, Starbucks recorded its highest net earnings ever at approximately $19.2 billion. according to Statista) as their loyalty points provide them with free products and extra offers. For example, Starbuck’s Digital Flywheel program, launched in 2017, links with Starbucks Rewards to offer personalised recommendations to customers. 

Nissan Carwings 

This is basically a program Nissan offers in their electric car models, which compares its performance with others. And as a result, accordingly provides them with bronze, silver, and gold rankings.

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Nike+ Run Club App 

This unique app from Nike allows all the running athletes an opportunity to join the community of runners with the objective of measuring personal performance while following a personalised training program. It also provides an option to share detailed race statistics on social networks.

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The Axonify app combines short, fun, app-like games into the learning experience to engage employees and help their brains to absorb information. In practice, users earn points for everything they do, for instance, answering questions or encouraging a colleague to take their daily training—actions that can be redeemed for prizes.


A Fitbit is a state-of-the-art hardware device that delivers personal fitness metrics, and visualisations to reinforce how active a user is on a given day. To complement its mobile app’s capabilities, Fitbit also provides social features that bring gamification to personal well-being, happiness, and personal goal-seeking, and health.

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MathLand is a gamified mobile learning application that Michigan University created to help at-risk students succeed in mathematics. In practice, the game allows students to level-up based on their completion of allocated tasks, activities and exercises. 

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Core Recurring Principles That Help in Achieving Mobile App Gamification

  • Should involve fast and entertaining on-boarding 
  • Should implement a rigid step-by-step system of levels and achievements that force users to follow a convoluted path
  • Should have manageable levels of increasing complexity
  • Should have visible checklists and progress bars that motivate players to improve their status. In practice, these levels, bars, and displays remind users of how far they have already gone, and encourage them to keep progressing as far as they can.
  • Should clearly show where the journey is heading have concrete expectations to guide users (for example, reach 2K points and receive a bonus)
  • Should have an accessible list of achievements and a collection of assets/resources to prove progress. For instance, social graph or leader-board to create benchmarks and push players to continual engagement.
  • Should contain novel elements to maintain user attention
  • Provide a feature that gives the opportunity to share progress and achievements with other users.
  • Have several unique recognition and approval elements to congratulate players for their new achievements.


In summary, the proliferation of mobile Internet has enabled the creation of unique applications that provide new and easier ways for people to trade, socialise and interact. However, a lack of motivation often prevents many from keeping loyal to these apps.

Fortunately, gamification harnesses the motivational power of mobile apps to create new habits or make otherwise routine or “boring” processes more compelling. So, consider testing this route of development.

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