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BLOG: Gamification Series #3 – Achieving daily engagement with digital products

So far in this series of blog articles, we have explored how to drive business objectives using gamification techniques which play on our inbuilt desire to complete tasks and our satisfaction we get from our effort being celebrated.

Today we’ll be taking a look at how to specifically target increased regularity of engagement on digital platforms such as apps and websites. It’s commonplace in the digital space to use gamification techniques to build positive habits around using products on a regular basis. In the case of the popular language learning app “Duolingo”, the technique of “streaks” is used to great effect to help its users remember to spend some time every day studying their language of choice.

We’ll be delving into the Duolingo case study to explore the methods behind their implementation of the “usage streak”, and looking at how the same principles can help to bring fans back to a digital sports product or service on a more regular basis.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll mostly refer to an ‘app’ as our target digital product, but the same methodology is fully applicable to a website or pretty much any digital service/platform.

Usage streaks

Digital platforms often employ a variation of the “usage streaks” technique to help drive very frequent (daily or weekly) engagement with their product. The concept involves tracking and clearly visualising to the user how frequently they use the app or website. The aim for the user is to build up a “streak” of continued use for as long as possible without breaking the said streak. Most often, the desired engagement frequency is once per day, but the concept is somewhat flexible to other regular or well-defined intervals and can even be used over short periods of time perhaps for a one-off or a special event.

This technique can be easily adapted to accommodate a prize element, perhaps where users are rewarded with increasingly valued prizes for reaching a higher and uninterrupted streak.

Streaks are effective because they encourage users to put ever more time and effort into the app or website whilst building a usage habit.

The user doesn’t want to break the habit of using the product because doing so will forfeit all of the rewards which come in part from the effort which they have built up so far. This helps to ensure that the lure of potential prizes for reaching large unbroken streaks is always in the user’s mind when they pick up their phone. There is a fear of letting oneself down by forgetting to use the product one day, since it’s known to the user that doing so will result in them having to redo all of their hard effort to date to catch back up to the same point.

When paired with a well considered reward system, this technique can be very effective. There are two different types of reward to consider, both equally applicable. First is the rewarding of physical prizes at streak intervals. Pick streak thresholds at which to reward the user with a prize; these could increase in value as the streak gets higher. You can even set highly sought after “ultimate prizes” for extremely long usage streaks which could help with marketing campaigns and promotion.

Regardless of the actual prizes you pick, the key is to make the next prize always within reach… It may take 30 days to reach the prize you wanted, but if you are on day 23, you’ve only 7 days to go! Give up now, and you’ll be set back to day 1 again.

Second is to reward with prizes of personal and social value; essentially something with which to recognise and celebrate a user’s personal achievement. Ideally, such a reward should be easily shared with friends and peers. Typically this form of reward would be digital, meaning that it’s inexpensive and easy to distribute and as such can help to fill the gap between physical prize thresholds.

The key here is to (a) make the user feel proud of their achievement and (b) give them something which they can share with their peers to earn social respect. In existing products, this often takes the form of a personal “congratulations” screen, or a personalised shareable graphic which can be shared to social media, or even a badge which forever certifies the user’s achievement.

Case study: Duolingo

Duolingo is a very popular language-learning platform with a mobile app at the centre of its offering. Duolingo is monetised with adverts which appear after the conclusion of most lessons (lessons typically last between 5 and 15 minutes depending on format and ability). They also have a premium subscription service which offers some benefits in addition to removing the ads.

Duolingo incorporates a “Daily Streak” feature which clocks up the number of consecutive days in which a given user has completed a lesson. Upon completing the one required daily lesson, the user is shown a screen which confirms the advancement of their daily streak and congratulates them on getting so far. For reaching certain milestones, the user is also given a shareable graphic which they can post to social media or share via chat messages. Furthermore, there is an Achievement system which awards digital badges to the user’s profile for crossing big streak milestones for the first time.

Duolingo daily streak indicator. Screenshot of Duolingo on Android

Users keep track of their daily streak progress on the main app landing page, where it is clearly represented by a symbol of a flame with the number of current consecutive days streak. Users are also sent push notifications in the last few hours of the day to remind them to complete a lesson if they happen to forget, an effective backup prompt.

Whilst it is clear that the more frequently the app is used, the greater the opportunity for Duolingo to earn revenue through its ads, the streak technique serves to benefit the user as well. The streak makes you feel good about yourself as you do more practice, and the fear of losing the streak is enough to make you keep going. It helps to remind users to do their daily practice for their own personal benefit. With each day, you get closer and closer to beating your previous best and having something worthy to be proud of and show off to your friends.

It also helps to ensure that out of all the tools that language learners use, Duolingo is the least likely to be forgotten about or skipped, even on the busiest of days. As superficial as it might be to miss one single day of study, the feeling of being set back to the beginning or missing out on that next Achievement badge draws you back. You “may as well” just complete a lesson to ensure you keep on track.

This feature brilliantly combines the world of business and their corporate objectives with the key themes of self improvement which Duolingo’s users strive for, to build a product which satisfies both through engaging gamification.

Duolingo further plays on our emotions by making very good use of graphics and animations to further discourage users from forgetting to practice. If the user attempts to quit out of a lesson prematurely, they receive a graphic of the platform’s mascot, Duo – a green multilingual owl – on the verge of tears seemingly distraught that you could possibly neglect to study. In contrast, completing streak milestones depicts Duo with a broad smile, confetti and balloons. The mascot is represented throughout the user experience along with other characters to reinforce positive motivation and encourage you to not give up.

In-app graphic of Duo looking disappointed. Screenshot of Duolingo on Android

The streak feature makes it progressively harder to put the app down by building increased perceived value in your progress on their platform. So in summary, Duolingo is very effective at achieving daily retained users by engaging them through the key motivating factor which drove them to download Duolingo in the first place – their desire for self-improvement by learning a language… the embodiment of the notion that practice makes perfect. It creates a gamified value proposition to its users; “keep practising daily and we’ll celebrate your success with you”. Give up and you’ll lose out, not just in terms of progressing your linguistic skills; you’ll also have to start your streak over again.

Driving daily use among sports fans

The Usage Streak concept can be applied to any digital product. It doesn’t necessarily need to target daily engagement either.

In the case of digital products in the sports industry, the method can be targeted towards driving regular matchday behaviour.

Consider a team who wants to drive more frequent usage of their app or website. They can reward users who visit their digital platform every match day to check the scores by giving away merchandise or match tickets to users with the highest match day usage streaks. This can be presented in a fun, interactive way to users too, such as by collecting a digital stamp on their card for each successive matchday usage until they have enough to earn a prize.

This implementation provides clear indication to users about how to participate, which prizes are on offer, and how far they have progressed towards earning a prize. In doing so it keeps interest levels up and helps to show how tantalisingly close the next prize is. It doubles as a fun way for fans to track the matches they watch (either on TV or in the stadium), so that they can look back and recall their memories from throughout the season.

Streaks are not just applicable to matchday engagement, they are also a great way to run promotions or as part of a special event. For instance, a broadcast partner, club or league may be looking to increase the number of subscribers to their Premium Subscription or Video On Demand (VOD) service(s). In such a case, they are able to run a special content plan over the span of one or two weeks whereby a free piece of content (such as a video) is released on the platform for free every day during the promotional period. Users are encouraged to create a free account on the platform and come back every day to watch the new piece of freely released content. Users are able to see their current streak of days for which they have viewed the free piece of content, with each day being checked-off the list. If they come back every day during the promotional period, they can earn themselves a free one month subscription to the platform.

This approach not only gives the user added value in the form of a free piece of daily content, but it also gives them practical first-hand experience of the platform which may help them to make a decision to purchase a subscription once the promotion is over.

It serves both to drive increased usage numbers during the period of the promotion and beyond by demonstrating the value in the services offered, and gamify the process of earning a prize. The prize of 1 month’s free subscription further helps to build trust in the platform through giving users extended first-hand experiences, and can ultimately help to drive purchases.

Whether the user wins the free subscription or not, all participants will have had the opportunity to sample the benefits in one form or another. The platform may choose to expand this concept by introducing discounts for subscription purchases rewarded for reaching lesser daily streaks, further increasing the chance of a purchase.

Apply this to the context of a club shop or online store and you’ve got a way to encourage fans to purchase merchandise through rewarding them with discounts for daily interaction.

Variety is the spice of life, and the same is very much true for gamification. While a series of daily videos may be good, video content may get a little time consuming to produce.

An even better approach is to mix in different types of content for the user to engage with.

This could be articles, matchday previews, photo gallery, and more, and is highly advantageous since it puts less strain on the club’s video content team, spreading the load out, while making the experience for the fan more enjoyable (less monotonous). This is a technique commonly used throughout gamification and is described brilliantly in Nir Eyal’s book “Hooked – How to build habit-forming products” as being like a refrigerator which contains a single different random food item every time you open the door. The key is that the variety of possible products in the fridge always creates a surprise when the door is opened, which is a lot more engaging than if the product were always the same.

This applies to our selection of daily content in the same way – it varies randomly every day to make the experience more interesting. It helps users to appreciate each individual daily content piece much more since there’s no guarantee what tomorrow’s content will be, further heightening the perception of value in the services offered to them.

Increased Regularity of Use Leads to Increased Revenue

Of course, this process isn’t all about distributing prizes. The product stakeholders are ultimately looking to generate revenue from this. This technique gets users to open our app or website (and to interact in some specific way if desired).

The technique is designed to prompt the user to use the product every day and begin a usage journey. It’s then up to us as to how we choose to direct the user to the subsequent steps in that journey.

Once on the app, we can prompt users to participate in other features, such as to read articles, check scores, see the date of the next fixture and consider buying a ticket, or browse the online shop.

Regularity helps keep the product relevant in the minds of users by creating prompts to interact with it, leading to a greater likelihood that they will choose to use the app in situations where they might have time to use their mobile device or computer. In other words, we help the user to become more accustomed to our product in general by building trust through repeat usage with the intention of this leading to preferential consideration of our app/site over competing options.

With all this increased usage and relevancy, we can turn a digital product into a key driver of sales and revenue.

Consider how much more desirable an advertising spot on your website would be if users were coming back daily, or how much more likely a fan might be to purchase a subscription to your platform.

Streaks are a great way to keep fans coming back to a digital service, whether it be over a short period (such as a week or two, or even during a match day) or as a longer term proposition (to engage fans throughout the season).

Next Week…

In the next blog, we’ll explore how a variety of digital platforms successfully engage entire communities of fans. Ranging from viral videos to digital community projects and video games, we’ll uncover how to unite users together around your digital product to share a common goal and help drive the levels of usage that you desire.

Previous Blogs…

Blog #1 – Delivering Great Digital Experiences with Gamification

Blog #2 – Driving Retention to Meet Business Objectives

BLOG: Gamification Series #2 – Driving Retention to Meet Business Objectives

In the previous blog we reviewed how gamification techniques could be applied to our digital products. From now on, we’re going to look at specific example case studies of techniques used across a variety of industries in the digital space and delve into the reasonings and outcomes of using them. We’ll also look at applying these techniques to users of apps and websites in a sports contexts to create great digital experiences for fans. In this blog, #2 in the series, we will be taking a closer look at a gamification technique which will enhance fans’ digital experiences whilst delivering on targeted business objectives.

Gamification technique #1: setting personal goals and challenges

The first gamification principle we will cover in this series is the setting of personal goals or objectives. Our aim in this topic of gamification is to bring users back to a product more frequently than they would otherwise do and reward them for coming back, consequently extending the average usage lifespan and frequency of engagement.

The technique of setting “personal goals and challenges” is highly versatile and revolves around the idea of presenting users with a series of small tasks.

The user is given a reward for completing certain tasks and is able to track how many they have completed. Tasks can directly relate to business objectives; for example, in the case of a football club, selling more merchandise. An example task in this case might be “Purchase an item of merchandise from the club shop”, from which we can then reward the user with a discount on their next purchase.

The tasks get progressively harder and require more time and effort to complete. They usually relate to the use of main features of the product across different scenarios. Once a user completes a task, the next one appears and there’s often a choice of several different tasks to complete at any one time.

With this technique, rights holders can turn a series of relatively standard points of contact with the fans into a fun, interactive game in which participants can win prizes and earn social recognition.

The benefits

The implementation of this technique offers a number of benefits. To start with, the user is shown how they can earn rewards by using the digital product; this is a clear, obvious value exchange between the user and the app supplier (namely: “Do this, earn that”), providing more incentive to use a digital service.

Rewards don’t have to be physical prizes, they can be digital ones like discount codes or a digital badge to certify that the user completed the task. The latter provides official and social recognition and taps into the innate human desire to collect things (programmes, ticket stubs, club shirts etc) and boast about it over social media and other channels.

Secondly, this technique directly targets our aim to increase retention on the digital platform, as we are asking the user to participate in tasks which explicitly require progressively more time and effort to complete. We have the power to tailor the requirements for fulfilling each personal goal to help return usage and retention, like setting a task to be be completed over a number of days (weeks, months etc), or by requiring a certain action to be performed a certain number of times.

By slowly increasing the effort involved in tasks, the user is eased into having more contact with the product instead of throwing them straight in at the deep end.

Essentially this aims to help a new first-time user become a highly engaged user much quicker and with greater likelihood. The non-linear scale of progression further means that the user is rewarded, albeit in a smaller way, more frequently during the most critical period of use (during their first few days/weeks using the product), but can still be rewarded (perhaps with bigger rewards) later on.Small victories are very important for the user in building positive association with a product.

Thirdly, this technique helps the product to become more sticky; harder for the user to forget about and uninstall.

This is because they will have built up perceived value in the platform; a knowledge that they have put time and effort into progressing through the tasks to reach a certain point. If they uninstall now they won’t stand a chance of earning the next reward. There can also be considerable personal and social prestige in having put so much effort in. It’s something to be proud of or brag about and show off to friends. It becomes a challenge or game to try and complete the hardest tasks. Repetitive tasks which require regular interaction (e.g. every day) are then brought to the forefront of users’ minds, and can even lead to the app being dropped into casual conversation among friends or colleagues. One can imagine a conversation between friends who all use the same app saying “Oh I managed to complete that task over the weekend”, “No way, really?? That must have taken you forever!”. Take the daily HQ Trivia quiz app that was popular in 2018; we frequently played and discussed our progress in the InCrowd office!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly in regards to ROI, we can write tasks which are derived directly from business objectives. We offer fans a value exchange in a similar way to a loyalty scheme (which, incidentally, I would argue is also a form of gamification).

As a side note, this process can also be used to help new users of a product by providing tasks which help to guide the user through basic functionality. In essence adapting this feature to act as a tutorial or guide, further reinforces positive outcomes early on in the user’s experience.

Case study: Call of Duty

Let’s take a look at this technique in action.

For our first case study in this series we will turn to the video games industry and to the current iteration of one of the most popular games of all time; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (MW). MW makes use of setting personal goals in a couple of key ways…

Members of the InCrowd Call of Duty squad preparing for the start of a match! Screenshot: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare “Warzone” on PC, captured using NVIDIA GeForce Experience.

The multiplayer portion of MW has a number of weapons for the user to use in battle. Each weapon has a collection of attachment upgrades used to fine-tune the performance of the weapon for different scenarios and to the user’s preferences. However, these attachments are earned slowly over time as the user uses each weapon more and more. Some of the best and most frequently used attachments are earned last, requiring the most amount of time and effort to acquire. Furthermore, not all weapons are available to use when the user first plays the game; they are required to complete very specific challenges to ‘unlock’ them. The net result is that if you want the freedom to access and use any weapon and attachment configuration of your choice, you must first prove your worth by taking the time to complete the associated challenges.

Moreover, MW offers users the ability to apply a camouflage to their weapons – with designs ranging from mundane and bland to exciting and colourful. Each camo is associated with a certain type of challenge requiring that the weapon be used in all manner of different specific situations. Some challenges are very straight forward to complete, yet require progressively more time to unlock. Other challenges are much more challenging to complete! The best, most visually engaging camos are the hardest to unlock and require a considerable amount of dedication to acquire. It’s very easy to spot a seasoned player in a game of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare!

The developers of MW have even gone so far as to add a special Golden camo which is earned for unlocking all of the others; this is a true accolade to earn. But it doesn’t stop there; at the time of writing there are three additional camos earned for going above and beyond that, including one for unlocking the gold camo for ALL weapons – a massive feat!

Yes, that is my golden crossbow which I’m showing off to you. One of the hardest weapons to use in the game, this exemplifies every aspect of this gamification technique from increased retention to perceived value. Screenshot: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on PC, captured using NVIDIA GeForce Experience

Furthermore, every day, users are given a fresh set of “Daily Challenges” to complete, often with some form of digital in-game reward. This keeps the game interesting and gets players checking back every day to see what’s up for grabs. There is always something new to entice players, reinforcing a habit of checking the challenges regularly.

These examples show how such a gamification technique can be constantly evolved as users complete more challenges.

The possibilities are pretty endless, especially if they are focussed on achievements; humans innately want to be bigger and better than their counterparts!

Rewarding time and effort

So to recap: the game presents a challenge in earning weapons, attachments and camos. The user must spend time slowly acquiring these as they play. Camos allow players to show off their skill with their favourite weapons and represent the effort which has been put in to earn them.

This simple process carries out two main jobs:

(1) it directly drives the levels of usage which the owner desires by demanding time and effort from the user. (2) It builds perceived value in what the user is earning through dedication and skill.

Neither of these statements would be true if everything was available to use (“unlocked”) from the beginning. The effort required, and the ‘glory’ of earning a golden camo results in users coming back to play more frequently, perhaps using free time which they would not otherwise have occupied with playing the game (something I know I am guilty of!).

Infinity Ward and Activision (the principle developers and publishers of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare respectively) use this method to drive the engagement statistics which they require to make the game a success. If they did not use this approach, users would only play when they are naturally inclined to do so through stimuli external to the game itself, such as a friend suggesting to play or finding some free time on a weekend.

However, MW ensures that the glory of earning a highly prized camo is always on the minds of its users, relying less on natural prompts to play and instead generating its own. The lure of a shiny golden weapon is too hard to resist to fans of the game… this results in more frequent prompts to play whenever a free moment arises, tapping into the human instinct to want to reap the rewards of their hard earned efforts.

The concept works particularly well because it presents a clear value proposition to users: “Put in the effort, and we will reward you”. Looking at this from the business point of view, this translates to “Use our product as frequently as we would like, and we’ll add more value to your experience”.

It’s fascinating that the reward doesn’t even need to be physical. In this instance, the user receives a digital reward, something to allow them to show-off to their friends and rivals in-game, and give them a more ‘complete’ experience… and being digital, it doesn’t cost much (if anything) to reward them. Digital rewards can be duplicated to match the requirement (almost) completely free.

A selection of camo options available to customise weapons in Call of Duty Modern Warfare. Screenshot: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on PC, captured using NVIDIA GeForce Experience

Application in digital products for sports

We can take the fundamental elements of this technique and apply them to almost any digital product. Consider a football club. They want to sell more tickets, increase purchases at their club shop, encourage fans to eat and drink at the concession stands and get fans more engaged with the club.

Through their digital platforms, the club can release a series of challenges and rewards to celebrate fans who go the extra mile. This could be surfaced on their app or website for users to keep track of their progress.

“Challenges” could include:

  • Visit the home ground once this season
  • Buy a ticket for you and one other person
  • Check the full time scores via the app for every match during the season
  • Make a purchase at the club shop this season
  • Purchase a drink at the bar on 3 separate occasions this season
  • Read the club history page on the club website
    …and more.

You’ll notice that these example challenges involve different areas; ticket sales to food and drink to digital platform usage, and each clearly address a business objective. Challenges are a great way to join the dots between different business areas and assets which the fans consider integral to their experience as a supporter. This can further help fans of all manner of backgrounds and circumstances be part of (and feel closer to) the club by carefully designing challenges which all fans can participate in and benefit from.

As part of the value exchange, via the chosen digital platform the club can give fans a fun personalised graphic which they can share to their social media or chat messages to show how far they’ve progressed. In combination with the rewarding of digital “achievement” badges, this gives fans social recognition for their achievement and feels a sense of appreciation from the club for their commitment.

The club could also give away rewards such as discounts on merchandise, a free drink at the bar or recognition via club social channels, all helping to communicate the value exchange and drive the targeted engagement. Rewards would need to be proportional to the effort required and budget available.

Additionally, a form of loyalty scheme can be used to reward users according to the number of challenges they’ve completed. The more challenges completed, the better the benefits from the scheme, with distinct tiers differentiating users according to the effort they have put in.

As you can see, this is a fun, rewarding way for fans to engage more with the club, while the club benefits from increased engagement in the particular areas targeted as per their business objectives.

It’s up to the club how to reward fans, be that digitally or physically. Provided that the user is given something to show for their effort, the value exchange remains intact.

The majority of us are naturally drawn to completing tasks – we never want to leave things half completed and we want to tick boxes – driven by the satisfaction of completing a task. The reward (no matter how small) exploits that piece of human nature and gives us an extra incentive;

“If I just play a bit more, I’ll unlock this item”.

“If I spend an hour extra cycling today, I’ll get to the top of the leaderboard”. “Only two more holidays and we’ll be gold members”.

All of this gives the user additional reason to consider doing something. In their mind it builds a case for (rather than a case against) using the digital product. In this way it becomes a prompt – something which the user takes into account when making decisions, such as whether to bother picking up their phone to open an app, or which holiday package provider to go with.

Increased revenue and new inventory to sell

Application of this technique aims to ultimately lead to increased revenue. By incentivising fans to use the club app and website more often and with greater engagement, the increased usage traffic allows you to serve sponsor adverts to fans more frequently, leading to greater sponsorship revenue and a higher demand for your premium digital advertising spots.

The concept as a whole generates new inventory to sell and opens up great new opportunities for brands to build a closer, more meaningful relationship with fans.

Brands can ‘own’ the rights to sponsor everything from the name + branding of the challenges, to providing the prizes and featuring on the shareable personalised graphics.

We often put our hopes and ambitions at the forefront of our thinking on a daily basis, never quite able to escape thinking about them every now and then. Helping users to complete personal achievements through digital products keeps the product in-mind and relevant, helping to ensure users regularly spend time interacting with it, rather than forgetting about it.

Additional case studies

This same concept is used in a plethora of different products. Avios reward passengers for frequent flying, giving them access to progressively better and better rewards with a clear progression system and visual prestige of being a gold member. Strava encourages greater use of their app by setting exercise challenges which users can opt-in to in order to earn badges. The Trainline also rewards fans with badges for choosing to book their tickets through them rather than competitors

All are examples of the gamification of physical “real life” processes applied to a digital world, intended to drive more frequent, longer term engagement from their customers.

Next week:

This week we’ve covered how to achieve audience retention; next week we’ll be diving into how we can drive regular daily engagement. We’ll take a look at DuoLingo, a leading language learning app which encourages its users to complete lessons everyday, following its gamified approach to education. We’ll see how similar principles can be used to increase engagement levels among fans on match days.

BLOG: Blog Series, Part 1 – Delivering Great Digital Experiences with Gamification

Gamification allows us to drive greater usage and retain a larger audience by targeting specific interactions. This blog series explores the fundamentals of gamification techniques at use in some of the most successful digital products.

Introduction

Gamification is something of a buzzword at the moment; Occasionally I hear the phrase being dropped into a conversation but rarely is the meaning behind it fully understood or appreciated. It’s one of those things that most people operating in the digital space can’t quite put their finger on, and as such, it can be perceived as a “nice-to-have”.

However, as we’ll be exploring over the next few weeks, it is very rare to see a highly successful digital product or service which does not, in some way, rely on the principles and benefits delivered by well-founded gamification strategy. In fact, by the time you have reached the end of this blog series, I challenge you to take a look at some of the digital products you use most frequently and consider “does this product make use of gamification elements?” – I think that for the majority of cases the answer will be “Yes”.

What is gamification?

In essence, gamification is about making products or services more ‘sticky’ through a variety of techniques which encourage increased frequency and duration of engagement, as traditionally used in the video games industry. In practice, this translates to designing features which consist of fun, challenging, sometimes competitive elements which add game-like qualities to portions of the product, often with some form of reward for the user.

In recent years, gamification has been a fundamental element in the most successful digital products on the market by using the same techniques used to maintain engagement in video games.

Let’s look at an example:

A non-gamified app or digital service will typically rely on external stimuli to trigger usage. A great example would be a train timetable app. If you’re planning a journey, you may consider using the app, but you’re almost certainly not going to check the timetable app when you have no interest in catching a train.

In contrast, an app or digital service which takes advantage of gamification techniques does not need to rely so heavily on such external stimuli alone for people to open the app and use it. Instead the gamification itself serves to build a positive habit of repeated usage among its users; they will be more inclined to habitually open and use the app in any given scenario, whether or not they are prompted to do so. In addition gamification further serves to make the experience of using the product more enjoyable.

The result is that the app receives considerably more frequent engagement, for a greater duration per engagement. This in turn helps to build up greater value in the app as perceived by the user, and as such makes the app harder to uninstall. This concept is explained very well by Nir Eyal in “Hooked – How to build habit-building products”, a book which I would highly recommend on the subject.

Gamification allows us to transform an app or digital product from something which is only used when there is a need, like sourcing useful information, into a product that becomes part of the users everyday activity. It enables a positive exchange of value between the user and the app publisher, driving more usage. The desire for information might be one of the main reasons to initially engage with the app (an ‘entry point’), but thereafter we can give the product more than just the ability to deliver information and nothing else.

Let’s go back to our example; in the case of the train timetable app, once the user has found out the information they need they are typically likely to shut the app down and not open it again until they are next hopping on public transport. Naturally, this would be our standard user journey and usage pattern – perhaps once per week or a couple of times per month.

Gamification seeks to expand on the functionality of the app and the perceived benefit(s) to the user, to give them greater reason to open the app up outside of their typical usage pattern, and elevated satisfaction in doing so.

So how does this principle translate to other industries? The good news is that this concept can be applied to almost any product or service. Take Google Maps for example. ‘On paper’ it seems like a relatively ordinary informational product, but did you know that Google utilises a slew of gamification techniques to ensure that their maps are kept up to date and accurate? We’ll cover this in more detail later in the series…

How about Audible, one of the leading platforms for digital audiobooks. Did you know that they keep listeners engaged by rewarding them with digital badges for finishing books, listening for multiple days straight or listening when you probably should be asleep?

Or perhaps you have used Strava, the digital fitness app which keeps track of your personal exercise statistics and allows you to share and compare them with friends and professional athletes?

Ensuring Ethical Implementation

The topic of gamification is broad, supported by a plethora of techniques for use in specific applications. When used correctly, it has proven to be a highly effective tool. However, we should also keep in mind the ethics of using such a powerful means of driving usage and avoid targeting them towards driving unethical outcomes such as unhealthy usage of products.

An example of this can be seen in the use of gamification and similar strategies in “loot crates” – a recent phenomenon which has been likened to gambling seen in some video games. This practice has been quite rightly restricted recently. Remember, ethical gamification is a value exchange – it gives our users something of value every time they engage. Again, I suggest you check out Nir Eyal’s book “Hooked” as he goes into some detail about the ethics of similar techniques. When implementing gamification, we have to ensure that the balance of the value exchange remains positive for both parties and does not tip into obsessive usage and negative responses and experiences.

Gamification should always help to make digital products more enjoyable and more rewarding to use, reinforcing a positive sentiment towards products and the brand, giving the user a greater digital experience.

Applying Gamification To Your Digital Sports Product

Gamification can take many different forms and is determined heavily by the outcomes you want to achieve. It ultimately informs the features which one might look to include in a digital product.

Gamification in a sports context builds upon the passion and emotion of fans – give them something to be proud of or a goal to work towards. Perhaps a reward to be proud of and a way to share their achievement and enjoyment. It can also take the form of a unique experience that will trigger a “wow” moment.

Of course, whether you’re a sports team, league, federation, broadcaster or another entity, your business objectives will likely be at the top of your list of considerations when looking at digital product features. Introducing gamification allows us to take a simple business objective such as “Collect XX customer email addresses per month”, and turn it into a great feature which achieves it’s data capture objective more effectively than traditional means by making the process more engaging, and more enjoyable for the fan. Don’t just collect their details through a basic registration – make more of it, and reward the fan.

Gamification outside the digital space

Gamification is a way of thinking which can be adapted and applied to pretty much any context inside AND outside the digital space. Maybe you are a club looking to drive more ticket sales, or perhaps you’re a rights holder or broadcaster aiming to increase market share by targeting viewership of your articles and video content.

You will often see many secondary benefits of using gamification techniques too, such as increased traffic and engagement with other sections of your product through increasing usage generally. A user might be there to engage with the gamification features you’ve introduced, but whilst there might just engage with a video, news article or head through to the online ticket booth or merchandise store.

In turn, increased digital usage leads to the increased value of your digital assets, creating more attractive sponsorship opportunity and increased ROI whilst helping fans feel closer to the club with more regular, more rewarding engagements.

The Blog Series

So there’s your introduction to gamification! Throughout this series, I aim to show you the benefits that a good gamification strategy can have on meeting your business objectives, whilst giving fans a better experience.

We will be posting a new blog article every week; we’ll be looking in detail at some of the gamification techniques used across different industries with case studies across a range of different genres. We’ll also be taking a closer look at how the principles discussed can be applied to other digital products, particularly in the context of a digital sports product.

We’ll look at some specific case studies of apps and digital products which you may have interacted with, ranging from fitness and self-improvement apps such as Strava and Duolingo to eSports and video games like Call of Duty and Rocket League. You’ll see how gamification has been applied to these products and the behaviours they drive in their users.

By the end of this series, we hope that you’ll have much more of an understanding about what gamification is in practice, and realise that gamification is not just a buzzword, but an integral component in delivering great the fan experiences through successful digital products.

Next Week…

Next week we’ll be kicking off the series with an exploration into one of the biggest video game series around – Call of Duty. I’ll be explaining how the game retains users on the platform and encourages them to engage with specific features by setting personal objectives for the user to achieve.

Stay tuned!

NEWS: Success Story – The RFL, InCrowd & Rewards4 blend engagement and loyalty

The RFL and InCrowd have worked together with Rewards4 to expand the highly successful Rewards4Rugby League loyalty programme, utilising fan data-driven push notifications to increase engagement.

Overview

Over the last 3 years, InCrowd has worked closely with The RFL and their partners to produce Our League, a world-class membership platform that boasts over 145,000 active members to date. During planning for the 2020 season a priority was placed on an enhanced integration with loyalty scheme provider Rewards4. For the launch of the platform back in 2017, Rewards4Rugby League, InCrowd and The RFL built a scheme that rewarded predictor performance. The predictor is a season-long engagement feature in which fans votes for match outcomes and try to climb the leaderboard to win money can’t buy prizes. Points won during the season counted towards discounts off a variety of rugby league tickets including The Coral Challenge Cup Final, and the Betfred Super League Grand Final. Since the start of the 2018 Betfred Super League season, nearly 27,000 predictor players have won a combined total of £70,000 worth of Rewards4Rugby League points, from this single touchpoint.

Given the unprecedented level of engagement with Our League’s predictor along with polls and player of the match voting, all parties were keen to build on these the strong foundations and further enhance the Rewards4Rugby League experience for Our League members.

The Solution

In time for the 2020 season, InCrowd, The RFL and Rewards4 collaborated to introduce an advanced push notification integration that would drive further engagement with the Rewards4Rugby League platform, through tailored and automated notifications in relations to points accrued by the fan. With this new development in place, predictor, polls and player of the match participants receive an automatic push notification informing them that they have earned points. This push notification’s call to action is relevant to the individual user’s Rewards4Rugby League account status. If they are already registered, the push prompts them to directly access their account. If new to the Rewards4 programme, the push encourages them to create an account at that moment. 

Integrating this smart push notification system increases the benefits of the loyalty scheme beyond those who perform well on the predictor, to Rugby League fans who take part in any of the fan activations within Our League. The programme now delivers four ways in which Our League members can accrue points:

  • Achieving streaks of correct predictions
  • Participating in the predictor, polls or player of the match voting

How it works

Results

The launch of the Rewards4Rugby League push notification integration has surpassed all expectations, with Our League members responding positively to seeing tangible benefits from their enhanced engagement with the Our League platform. 

Over the course of the 2019 season (February to October), Rewards4Rugby League members participated in 14.4% of the polls, player of the match and predictor questions available.

During the period of February to mid-March 2020 (pre Covid-19), participation from the same users rose to 32.9%, a 128% increase.

Nichola Spencer, Membership Manager, RFL: “For The Rugby Football League the further integration with Rewards4 and InCrowd has been a real win for our Members. We are able to offer members an extra financial incentive which encourages further engagement fans can spend on Rugby League ticketing and retail with no additional costs for The RFL. The integration is now a seamless experience for users and we look forward to adding more engagement touchpoints for them in the future.”

The numbers:

  • 85,000+ interactions with Our Leagues polls, predictor and player of the match vote.
  • 15,177 users have linked their Our League and Rewards4Rugby League accounts since the launch of the programme in 2018, an average of 419 accounts a month.
  • 2,305 accounts were linked in February 2020 as a result of the push notification integration.
  • 9,500 unique members have collected points as a result of Our League engagements.
  • 6,900 of these were existing Rewards4Rugby League members
  • 2,600 were new members
  • 1.7 million cumulative points have been collected.
  • 9, the average Rewards4Rugby League related engagements per member, where points have been collected

Tom Cowgill,  Director Rewards4: “It’s clear from these early results that if you make it simple and seamless for a fan to collect points for engaging with your app and those points actually have a value to the fan then, a) you have happy fans and b) they engage more with the content in your app.  Our integration with InCrowd enables OurLeague members to collect points within the app for voting on man of the match, entering a predictor or a poll.  This has clearly resonated with fans and the feedback has been wholly positive (as is evidenced by the Trustpilot review from Lee).  We are looking forward to working with the RFL and InCrowd to introduce more points collection touchpoints within the app and seeing even higher levels of engagement once the season recommences in August 2020.”

Benefits

  • Fans receive clear, monetary benefits for engaging with the sport that they love. These can be redeemed against ticket purchases such as the Coral Challenge Cup Final.
  • The RFL benefits from both greater engagement and satisfaction from rugby league fans, and increased revenue from discounted purchases by the fans using the programme.

Lee left a five star review on Trust Pilot: “An excellent concept. I earn points for picking man of match for instance by effectively a few clicks. Those points turn into pence which add up to pounds and recently turned the pounds to a voucher which was spent easily. A very good and easy way to earn money for that jersey you want or tickets to see your team.”

Darren Parsons, InCrowd: “We were confident this addition would be well received by the rugby league fanbase that are already highly engaged with the Our League platform, but the numbers seen straight from launch were even more positive than expected. As a result of a few strategies consulted on by InCrowd and actioned by the RFL, there has been a marked increase in engagement across a wide variety of Our League features which is great to see. We’ll continue to monitor this closely and explore how we can develop the offering to fans further.”