Do you like to play video games?
What about sports?
Or even board games like Monopoly or chess?
You’ve likely played at least one of these games in your life. But why are games so embedded into our psychology? And why are they commonplace in nearly every aspect of life?
Science says it’s all about how our neurochemistry reacts to our environment. For instance, competition leads to feel-good chemicals like dopamine. As you may or may not know, dopamine is what’s known as our motivation chemical. It’s what motivates you to eat breakfast every day, go to the gym, or work hard.
That’s why all humans respond well to games. We all want to feel the pleasure of winning and the rewards that come with it.
Gamifying your health app achieves the same results as a top-tier video game when it comes to health apps. In addition, there’s more engagement, enjoyment, and a higher likelihood of continuing to use that app.
The bottom line: If you want to increase engagement, retention, and improve your general user experience, then consider gamifying your app after this article.
Looking for the how and not the why? You can read more about adding gamification elements to your health app in this article from Digital Authority Partners.
What’s the Goal of your Health App?
Before you think about building a health app or gamifying your current health app, you’ll need to set some goals. It’s essential to be specific in your goals. Rather than saying you want to increase monthly downloads, try choosing a number or percent to reach for the upcoming months.
Let’s look at an app that does gamification better than any other app. It’s not a health app; however, the techniques Duolingo uses to engage, retain, and teach users are transferable to your business.
First, Duolingo prompts you to add contacts so you can learn with familiar people. Anyone trying to understand something will learn better in collaboration. Additionally, Duolingo starts your daily streak right away. Creating a daily streak incentivizes users to open the app daily and compete against their family or friends.
Next, Duolingo targets dopamine receptors. Remember that this chemical is responsible for our motivation to complete tasks. With fun, active animations when you finish assignments, Duolingo users feel a sense of pleasure each time they open the app. This pleasure makes app retention and engagement skyrocket.
Lastly, Duolingo uses a weekly competition called a leaderboard to motivate users to learn more. Each week, users are either promoted or demoted in their leagues. This competition makes learning a new language easier and more fun. Can you see how making a health app fun and engaging will affect your retention, engagement, and overall goals?
Let’s think about applying these tactics to your health app.
- Would you add a daily streak?
- Would you go over the top on animations, rewards, and points systems?
- Would you want leaderboards that promote competition?
- Would you include daily notifications as reminders?
Benefits of Gamifying your Health App
At this point, it should be a no-brainer—gamify your health app. But, for those of you who aren’t convinced quite yet, let’s jump into the raw benefits of gamifying your current app.
Word-of-mouth marketing: If your health app provides a ton of value to its users, you can bet they’ll share your app with their friends and family. We don’t hear a lot about word-of-mouth marketing anymore, but it’s still one of the best forms of marketing (64% agree that it is best).
Gamification results in higher app retention: Is your current retention rate below six percent after 30 days? If you said yes, it’s likely you’re not incentivizing users enough to keep your app downloaded. There are a few reasons for this, but it’s likely because you’re not providing enough value. For instance, you could add more content to remedy this issue.
Increased engagement: Like retention, engagement measures how long users use your app daily. By gamifying your health app, you encourage users to open your app daily. Additionally, gamifying promotes your content because more people will engage.
Motivate your users: Gamification acts as the avenue to motivate your community. It allows you to tap into something that’s inside all of us—our propensity for playing games. Everyone works harder when something is at stake.
How Gamification Applies Psychology?
We’ve discussed how games are great motivators because of the chemicals they release in the brain. But what are the underlying psychological principles that make games prevalent in every aspect of life?
If you’ve ever done a monotonous task for an extended time, then you might have experimented with gamifying it.
In 2020, researchers tested an experiment on the effect of gamification in its relation to monotonous, daily tasks at Kristiania University in Norway. There were three sets of tasks and two groups. Both groups received their tasks through an application. One of the groups, group B, used a gamified system, while group A did not.
The study found that gamification resulted in higher quality work, higher levels of consistency, and a higher tendency to deliver before deadlines. You can read the complete study here.
There are countless other studies out there that show similar results. But, again, what is the psychology behind gamification? There are three parts to gamification: the task, the reward, and the reminders.
Most people will complete the first task if it’s beneficial. However, as time progresses, data shows that consistency drops. That’s where the reward comes in. By inviting someone to do a task and rewarding them, you begin to form what’s called a “habit loop.”
Habit loops are central to everything we do—from eating to brushing our teeth. And this habit loop is what’s central to gamification. It’s what leads to consistency and engagement.
Finally, the loop restarts and continues when the reminder is sent to the user the following day.
The psychology behind gamification is intriguing because of how effective it is, and learning about it can only help. So now you know why gamification works and how to apply it to health apps.
It’s time to start the game.