How gamification makes your app onboarding better (and how it works)

Is there a more crucial stage in your customer journey than the onboarding process? Without a doubt, bad onboarding design can doom your app’s future. Depending on the sector, as many as 83% of those who download a mobile app will have uninstalled it within 24 hours. But it doesn’t have to be that way! By using gamification examples like progress bars and personalization, you can make onboarding fun and exciting for users. As will become clear below, this is the key to unlocking user retention.

In this article, we’ll cover the challenges in onboarding, why current app onboardings need major improvement, and how apps can solve those issues with gamification!

  • The challenge: How to prevent drop off & increase retention through onboarding
  • How apps are doing it wrong
  • The gamification examples that improve onboarding
  • 3 of the best onboarding examples out there
  • Recap

The challenge: How to prevent drop off & increase retention through onboarding

By far, the biggest drop-off in users takes place in the first 24 hours after installation. Although, it is important to note that this churn doesn’t affect all apps equally. Indeed, the best apps on the market retain the most users upon onboarding.

So what do the top apps do right? To begin, an onboarding process should introduce your app to new users. Most importantly, that means introducing your value proposition, and doing it as soon as possible! To retain customers at this early stage, you must remind users why they downloaded your app and why keeping it will benefit them, and above all, do it as streamlined as possible.

How to grow user retention with gamification elements!

Indeed, some sectors have no choice when it comes to their onboarding length. Just to name a few, banking, dating, and mobility apps commonly have necessary onboarding checks they must carry out, such as age verification or proof of a driver’s license. But most apps generally do three basic things during onboarding:

  1. Ask the user to accept the terms and conditions. Crucially, this shouldn’t feel like you are signing your privacy away! Recent studies show that privacy protection is the biggest security concern for consumers today.
  2. Include demographic questions, like asking for name, gender, and age. To be sure, it improves your marketing if you know who’s using your app.
  3. Perform security checks. Passwords and authentication methods like SMS verification ensure users feel safe on your app.

The trick is making this process fun and personable, rather than a chore.

How apps are doing it wrong

The worst thing you can do is make your onboarding a slog. This could be caused by an unintuitive interface, like having a lack of autofill options to speed things up.

Sometimes the problem is straight-up unfriendly design. At one point, we’ve all had to scroll endlessly through a dropdown menu to find our year of birth. It should be obvious, but don’t make your users feel old! Besides, how many people born in 1902 will be downloading your app? Keep questions to a minimum and make inputting answers simple. Longer onboardings frustrate users and make them more likely to churn. In fact, retention rates can increase by up to 50% with effective onboarding.

Of course, onboarding too quickly has its own problems as well. Without any data about your new user, you have no chance of personalizing the application to their preferences. Take wellness app Headspace, whose short and sweet onboarding process asks new users their level of experience of meditation. This is important to know so that when users do make it to the home screen, the first things they see are relevant to them.

So striking the right balance between too much and too little is difficult. But gamification examples can help you achieve the right onboarding design for your app.

The gamification examples that improve onboarding

Gamification means using game-like features in a non-game context. These features give your app development toolkit a boost by tapping into a powerful source of motivation which we all have. Based on behavioral science, gamification plays on mechanics that are rooted deep in human psychology.

What is gamification & how does it work? Learn all the basics right here!

These gamification examples can improve the onboarding process:

Badges can reward the effort of new users and provide the task with meaning

Try rewarding your new users with a badge. After all, they completed your onboarding and they should see the effort wasn’t for nothing. This is a form of feedback called positive reinforcement and it motivates users to continue! To support that, research shows that ‘status feedback’ positively influences user retention. Of course, badges are just one way of rewarding new users, you can give them points or even vouchers.

Giving users personalized avatars will boost user retention

Let your users set up their own profile pictures. Research is clear that avatars boost a user’s sense of ownership over the app. This is essential for long-term user retention! To back that up, a 2021 study showed that avatars satisfy the psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and social relatedness, in turn influencing ‘reuse intention’.

Progress bars makes onboarding flow naturally

Progress bars fill up depending on how far along a task the user is. In tracking the user’s progress, this gamification example provides a visually clear and stimulating way to give feedback. Users can easily follow their growth, which is one of the basic psychological needs that leads to intrinsic motivation.

3 of the best onboarding examples out there

Let’s see how the best apps are making onboarding a user retention success:

Ixigo shows that contextual notifications lead to higher engagement

With 12 million monthly active users, Ixigo was one of the most downloaded travel apps around the world in early 2021. Immediately upon installation, the app takes great effort to make every customer interaction personal and contextual. Shortly after signing up, users get an email from Ixigo. The message’s first line features the user’s name — a must-have personalization tool that convinces the user your email isn’t just any old clutter.

What works amazingly though, is how Ixigo rewards users for signing up by sending a redeemable voucher! This is a clear call to action that shows off the brand’s value proposition and gives users a reason to start using the app. The results are clear — while the average open rate of emails across all industries is just 21%, Ixigo’s first email sees an impressive 54% open rate.

Want great results like these with less hassle? Discover our app gamification software!

LinkedIn uses a progress bar to boost completion rates

Progress bars are so simple but so powerful. Aside from the benefits named above, they have been found to reduce the ‘cognitive load’ of onboarding. In other words, it makes things easier for the user by providing information in steps, as well as rewarding users as they complete them.

To make the progress bar even more motivating, LinkedIn combines the progress bar with subtle reminders of a user’s incomplete tasks. For example, asking what university they attended. This plays on a psychological phenomenon called the ‘Zeigarnik effect’. Essentially, incomplete tasks are more memorable than completed ones.

Kendra Cherry — “When you start working on something but do not finish it, thoughts of the unfinished work continue to pop into your mind even when you’ve moved on to other things”.

By using the progress bar and additional questions to emphasize missing details, LinkedIn boosted profile completion by 55%!

Shine’s clear gamification strategy results in higher user retention

According to a study about finance apps by Experian, just 15% of people finish digital onboarding and end up opening a bank account. On the other hand, with a gamified onboarding process, French fintech Shine boasts a rate of 80%. How so?

  • Progress bars let users know how long is left until they’re ready.
  • One screen, one action — they keep it simple.
  • A big call-to-action button that just looks so clickable.
  • Digital confetti to celebrate free, unlimited accounts.
  • Most importantly, the process is short!

While typical wisdom finds that each step of the onboarding process will churn 20% of users, Shine found a way around it! By implementing a range of gamification examples, Shine’s eight-step onboarding loses the same as most apps lose with every step. That shows just how quick, easy, and fun onboarding can be with gamification!

Recap

The onboarding process is a crucial stage in your app journey. Bad onboarding pushes users away — to illustrate, 83% of those who download a mobile app will uninstall it in just 24 hours. But with gamification, that can be so much better!

The challenge: onboarding and how to increase app retention

Onboarding should introduce your app’s value proposition as soon as possible. In short, you have to show customers why they downloaded your app and why keeping it will benefit them — and do it as streamlined as you can.

Of course, some sectors have no choice when it comes to their onboarding length because they may need to institute checks like age verification. But most apps generally do three things during onboarding:

  1. Ask the user to accept the terms and conditions. Crucially, this shouldn’t feel like you are signing your privacy away! Recent studies show that privacy protection is the biggest security concern.
  2. Include demographic questions, like asking for name, gender, and age. To be sure, it improves your marketing if you know who’s using your app.
  3. Perform security checks. Passwords and authentication methods like SMS verification ensure users feel safe on your app.

The trick is making this process fun and engaging, rather than a chore.

How apps are doing it wrong

The worst thing you can do is make your onboarding a slog. This could be caused by an unintuitive interface, like a lack of easy autofill options. Consumer research shows that longer onboardings frustrate users and make them more likely to churn.

On the other hand, onboarding too quickly has its own problems. Without any user data, you cannot personalize the app to their preferences. To be sure, you want the user’s home screen to be immediately relevant to them.

So striking the right balance between too much and too little is difficult. But gamification examples can help you achieve the right onboarding design for your app.

The gamification examples that improve onboarding

Gamification is based on behavioral science and plays on mechanics that are rooted deep in human psychology. These gamification examples can improve onboarding:

  • Badges can reward the effort of new users and provide the task with meaning. Research shows that ‘status feedback’ positively influences user retention.
  • Giving users personalized avatars will boost user retention. A 2021 study showed that avatars satisfy the psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and social relatedness, in turn influencing ‘reuse intention’.
  • Progress bars make onboarding flow naturally. Progress bars track a user’s progress. They are a visually clear way to provide feedback and fulfill the basic psychological needs of growth.

3 of the best onboarding examples out there

Ixigo shows that contextual notifications lead to higher engagement

Travel app Ixigo has retained 12 million monthly active users by making onboarding personal and contextual. Shortly after signing up, users get an email addressed personally to them from Ixigo. In it, Ixigo rewards users for signing up with a redeemable voucher! This is a clear call to action that shows off the brand’s value.

The results are clear — while the average open rate of emails across all industries is just 21%, Ixigo’s first email sees an impressive 54% open rate.

LinkedIn uses a progress bar to boost completion rates

Progress bars have been found to reduce the ‘cognitive load’ of onboarding. In other words, it makes things easier for the user by providing information in steps.

To make the progress bar even more motivating, LinkedIn combines the progress bar by subtly reminding users of incomplete tasks, for example by asking what university they attended. This plays on a psychological phenomenon called the ‘Zeigarnik effect. Essentially, incomplete tasks are more memorable than completed tasks.

Kendra Cherry — “When you start working on something but do not finish it, thoughts of the unfinished work continue to pop into your mind even when you’ve moved on to other things”.

By using the progress bar and additional questions to emphasize missing details, LinkedIn boosted profile completion by 55%!

Shine’s clear gamification strategy results in higher user retention

Across finance apps, just 15% of people finish digital onboarding and open a bank account. On the other hand, with a gamified onboarding, French fintech Shine boasts a rate of 80%. How so? Easy -

  • Progress bars let users know how long is left until they’re ready.
  • One screen, one action — they keep it simple.
  • A big call-to-action button that just looks so clickable.
  • Digital confetti to celebrate free, unlimited accounts.
  • Most importantly, the process is short!

While typical wisdom finds that each step of the onboarding process loses 20% of users, Shine found a way around it! By implementing a range of gamification examples, Shine’s eight-step onboarding loses the same as most apps lose with every step. That shows just how quick, easy, and fun onboarding can be with gamification!

Not sure how to begin? Kickstart your process with an expert-led workshop & go home with a roadmap tailored to your app goals!

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Scalable Gamification Software⚡️Fuel your app growth with gamified in-app experiences

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