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How to gamify your product

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 off if you’re able to do it well.

As Gallop laid 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 that utilizes gamification intelligently can see a 1 in 4 increase in retention compared to a company that does not integrate gamification into their product experience. And as we all know, the less likely your users are to churn, the better your chances of long term success.

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Some industries make more sense when it comes to building in reward-like systems; social apps, learning experiences and fitness platforms are more stereotypical examples of places to find gamification. Incident management, as we’ve known it, is a difficult and byzantine process. So the challenge that stands in front of us is to reinvent the way that product managers interact with the process of identifying & solving issues, in ways that we’ve seen more typical B2C companies execute on in the past and present. But first, some definitions:

What is gamification?

Gamification is the process of using game design elements, such as points, badges, and leaderboards, in non-game contexts to motivate and engage users. Gamification is used in various fields, including education, marketing, and business, to encourage desired behaviors, increase user engagement, and improve user experience. By incorporating game mechanics into non-game contexts, gamification aims to make tasks more enjoyable and motivating for users - this is especially salient in experiences that are otherwise difficult or unenjoyable.

What are gamification metrics?

Gamification metrics are the key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure the effectiveness and success of gamification strategies. These metrics include user engagement metrics such as participation rates, completion rates, and time spent on the platform, as well as business metrics such as revenue, user retention, and customer satisfaction. Gamification metrics are used to track progress, identify areas for improvement, and optimize gamification strategies to achieve desired outcomes.

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 insight, 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


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 significantly better in helping users meet their goals in the long run.

How Duolingo uses social pressure
How Duolingo uses social pressure

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 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.

The power of Snapchat streaks
The power of Snapchat streaks

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



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. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Uber is the perfect case study to show how and why gamification took over the gig economy.

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 headphones 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 the 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 do feel slightly used…

But, it’s easy to see why gamification took over the gig economy with Uber as an example.


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 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.

FitBit's gamification system
FitBit's gamification system


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.


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.


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.

Starbuck's classic loyalty rewards gamification system
Starbuck's classic loyalty rewards gamification system

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 +

Asana and 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.

Gamifying project management with Asana &
Gamifying project management with Asana &

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 will likely continue to find creative ways to soften this gamification concept, such as’s new sparkly success notifications after you change a task to “done”. Even hackathon participants are building internal applications around this concept.


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.

How Waze uses gamification
How Waze uses gamification

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?

The best books on gamification

Looking to learn more about gamification and how you can apply it to your product? Here’s a few of the best books on gamification that our team has read to learn more:

  1. In Brian Burke's book "Gamify", he explains that gamification is about motivating players to achieve their goals, which can align with an organization's goals, leading to success. Burke also discusses how gamification can be tied to corporate culture.
  2. In Daniel Pink's book "Drive", he explains that gamification is not about driving people with monetary rewards or competition. Instead, people are motivated by a sense of autonomy or mastery, which is intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation and rewards can actually impair an employee's performance.
  3. Jane McGonigal's book "Reality Is Broken" explains why games are good for us, making us more creative, resilient, and better able to handle change. However, too much gaming can be bad. McGonigal cautions that gamification can only be a success if it touches deep motivations within us.
  4. "For The Win" by Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter discusses how businesses can be transformed through engagement and motivation by addressing issues like a game designer. They also provide real-life examples of various corporations from different industries using game thinking and a useful guide for implementing gamification.
  5. "The Small Big" by Steve Martin, Noah Goldstein, and Robert Cialdini discusses how small insights can have a big impact. The book includes the story of an experiment by Professor Adam Grant from the Wharton School of Business, where reminding staff of the greater overall goal, or outcome, of their actions led to increased productivity. In this context, communicating the core of the company can make workers perform better, and gamification is often the perfect tool to achieve this.


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/, while others are functional cornerstones of the product experience (Waze).

We challenge you to fire up PlayerZero and find the ways that we integrate some of the strategies above to make a more well-rounded product, removing users from the typical monotony of incident management and into a world where they can be empowered to take full control of incidents before they cause users to churn.

Jump in and get started with PlayerZero now!

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