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How the Best Apps Are Using UX Gamification to Drive Engagement

How the Best Apps Are Using UX Gamification to Drive Engagement

Take a look at how some of the most popular and successful apps use gamification to drive engagement and keep users hooked.

July 14, 2021 by Marilyn Wilkinson

ux gamification

Building an app users love takes more than a great product. You need amazing user experience, too. And that’s where UX gamification comes in.

UX gamification is an effective way to level up your user experience by introducing playful, game-like elements to your app.

In our article about gamification best practices, we covered the psychology behind gamification. It releases dopamine in the brain, which keeps users engaged. It’s simple yet powerful, which is why we are starting to see more retail gamification and e-commerce gamification as brands engage with customers in a playful way to boost sales and loyalty.

Rewards, quests, cartoon characters, and digital badges can be a fun and effective way to motivate users to complete a task, purchase a product and keep using your app.

Need inspiration for your gamification strategy? Take a look at how some of the most popular and successful apps use gamification to drive engagement and keep users hooked.



    Not everyone enjoyed their foreign language lessons in school, but Duolingo is one of the most popular apps out there, with over 500 million total users and around 40 million monthly active users. What makes the language learning app so popular?

    Duolingo uses a variety of clever UX gamification techniques to keep users engaged and interested as they learn a foreign language, track their progress and practice their skills.

    Why It Works

    Learning a foreign language is hard, so Duolingo is careful to keep users motivated by making it as fun as possible.

    Users pick an intensity level ranging from “casual” (five minutes per day) to “insane” (20 minutes) and learn their chosen language with fun exercises. The user progresses through humorously-titled levels like “Scholar” and “Sharpshooter,” unlock rewards for their achievements, and reach a “streak” when they keep practicing for three days in a row.

    This fulfills our psychological need for positive reinforcement and makes us feel good, which keeps us coming back for more.

    gamification in mobile apps

    Piggy Goals: Money Saving

    We all know we should save money, but spending it is more fun, right? The Piggy Goals app aims to change that by incentivizing people to meet their financial goals.

    Users can set up a piggy bank to save cash and create daily, weekly or monthly goals. The app tracks your progress and sends push notifications to remind you about your money-saving objectives.

    Why It Works

    Users can visualize their progress with graphs and animations, which gives them a sense of achievement. Once they realize how well they are doing, they will want to stay on track and keep making progress toward their financial goals.

    This is basic psychology — if we are proud of ourselves and feel we are doing well, we want to keep doing well. Brands can tap into this by giving their customers a status tied to their loyalty, rewarding regular purchases, and reminding customers to stick around.

    mobile app gamification design

    Wish – Shopping Made Fun

    With over 500 million users, the app Wish aims to make shopping more “smart, fun and rewarding.” Wish is a great example of gamification in e-commerce. It shows how retail brands can use UX gamification to increase sales and customer lifetime value.

    Why It Works

    Wish generously rewards shoppers for nearly every action they take in the app. Users earn ten points for making or reviewing a purchase, which they can redeem in exchange for coupons and discounts on their next purchase.

    Wish also relies heavily on the concept of scarcity to encourage users to make a decision quickly – in other words, grab it before it’s gone.

    One great example is the shopping spree feature. If a user chooses to go on a shopping spree, they get a certain percentage off everything – but only for 15 minutes. Similarly, the blitz buy feature offers users the chance to spin the wheel once a day to access their personalized bonus.

    E-commerce brands take note — Wish’s retail gamification strategy is highly effective at keeping users engaged and converting.

    engagement gamification ux


    Don’t we all wish we could be more productive? This productivity app helps you do just that. TaskHero enables users to turn their boring to-do list into a fun adventure game.

    Why It Works

    New users receive a warm welcome to the fantasy world of Tasklandia, where it is their duty to protect the realm from monsters and other threats. Users select what is important to them — such as school, work, hobbies, and fitness — and create a list of to-dos.

    Each task completed attacks the foe. But beware! Any overdue tasks will make the monster attack you. Users can check the overall progress on their “quests” with an overview of the monsters defeated, habits created and achievements claimed.

    The app uses association — thinking of an unpleasant task as a monster — to encourage us to take timely action and plays on our sense of adventure.

    UX Gamification App

    Skip the Dishes

    Skip The Dishes Restaurant Services Inc. is a Canadian online restaurant ordering and food delivery app generating C$312 million per year in revenue. There are a lot of food delivery apps out there, but this one has a particularly solid UX gamification strategy.

    Why It Works

    Like most food delivery apps, Skip the Dishes’ users can browse the menus of various restaurants, order their meal using the app, and track the progress of the delivery. What makes this app special, though, is the clever use of gamification.

    Customers collect points with every order and level up when they have enough points. Gold status customers earn 10 points per dollar spent, and on-screen messages tell customers how many points they need to unlock gold status.

    App User Experience Gamification examples

    UX Gamification Separates Good UX From Great UX

    Competition is fierce due to the abundance of great apps out there — especially in segments such as banking, e-commerce or food delivery. Making the user experience fun and rewarding loyalty is a powerful way to stand out from the competition, boost customer retention and increase customer lifetime value.

    You might not be in a position to rework your entire product into an adventure game (or perhaps you are?!). But even incorporating some subtle gamification elements, like points and rewards, can make a big difference in how users engage with your app.

    Keen to level up your UX? Check out our list of gamification best practices or sign up for a free UX analysis of your mobile app.

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    Marilyn Wilkinson

    Marilyn Wilkinson

    Marilyn Wilkinson is a digital marketing strategist and copywriter who works with a number of B2B tech and SaaS brands, including UXCam. She is passionate about awesome user experience, great content, hiking through the mountains and drinking too much coffee.

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