🎮 8 SaaS Gamification Strategies

How to gamify your user experience in order to increase your retention

SaaS Strategists,

I grew up on games such as World of Warcraft, CS:GO, Dota, and God of War.

Those games always bring me back to the fun times I had playing them on my PC & PSP.

When I entered the world of SaaS, I saw too many boring strategies.

I remembered the dopamine spikes I had from playing those games and thought there must be a way of integrating similar strategies in the SaaS-es we build.

There is.

Today I will guide you through the 8 gamification strategies you can use inside your SaaS in order to increase your user retention.

Let’s dive into them 👇️ 

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🎮 8 SaaS Gamification Strategies For Maximizing User Retention On Your SaaS Platform

SaaS gamification can be a tricky topic to talk about.

Not many SaaS-es can pull it off.

My take is that being too formal with your business is not a good idea.

You close the door to many marketing & feature opportunities, you could have explored otherwise.

But there’s good news!

Even if you’re running a SaaS that’s serving very formal businesses & customers, you can still incorporate these strategies into your product.

1) Milestones & Progress bars

The average human’s attention span in 2023 is 8.25 seconds.

This means that you can’t bore your users with 40 field-long forms.

They will just quit the process entirely.

What you should do is think in milestones & progress bars.

What do I mean by this?

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Profile creation onboarding form. Credit: Jenny Tran on Dribbble.

Take a look at the above onboarding form.

It’s a simple multi-step form and its ultimate end goal is to get data from the user’s inputs.

Let’s say every step of the form has 4 files.

In this case, without disassembling this form into 5 steps we would have prompted the user with 20 fields right off the bat.

No one likes to see that amount of fields all at once.

Onboarding forms are similar to running a marathon.

You can’t run a full 20km marathon all at once.

You have to dissect the process into milestones.

“I’ll drink water after the first 5 km”

“I’ll eat a candy bar after the next 5”

Etc.

Get the point?

You don’t eat an elephant all at once.

You dissect your process into multiple smaller milestones.

Same with SaaS.

Let’s take a look at a few more examples that can give you the big idea behind this:

Onboarding progress elements. Credit: Paresh Khatri on Dribbble.

This strategy brings you a lot of value, simply because you MOTIVATE your users to spend more time on your platform by showing them:

a) The big goal
b) Steps to get there

The same can be applied to payment forms, signup forms, creation forms, you name it…

But overall, you’ll see this strategy mainly in sign-up & onboarding forms for software that requires a lot of info right off the bat.

3rd example of the onboarding form. Credit: Abo on Dribbble.

2) Onboarding buddy / mascot

Onboarding processes can be boring.

Bring a bit of joy into them by introducing an onboarding buddy.

For example, Trello has a dog mascot that shows you around their platform, which makes the learning curve and overall learning & onboarding process much more fun.

Also, instead of the classic notification UI’s, he notifies you when a new feature has been released, which maximizes the engagement rate for that specific feature to actually be used & tried out.

Trello’s dog mascot announcing new features

If your SaaS allows you to create a mascot, you should definitely do so.

It can boost your engagement rates and bond your users with your platform much faster.

It also opens up new options to explore innovative strategies for feature implementation.

Trello executed this perfectly.

3) Referrals

In one of my past issues I already talked about the strategy that Dropbox utilized which brought them a massive increase in user sign-ups.

It’s really simple.

Motivate the users to share your platform with their friends and reward them for it.

For example, they implemented a feature that if you refer your friend and he joins Dropbox, you both get an additional 16GB of free storage.

Dropbox referral campaign

They experienced a stunning 3900% growth in 15 months only with this strategy.

The possibilities are endless with this, some of the additional strategies being also:

  • Refer a friend and unlock a free premium subscription for 2 months

  • Refer a friend and you both get X amount of platform credits

  • Refer 10 friends and get VIP merch

Here are some additional examples from well-known companies:

Notion referral program

Zoom referral program

Airtable referral program

4) Leveling

Just like in games, you can create levels for your users.

As discussed, you should always motivate your users to keep using your platform, by giving them something in return.

For example, Booking does this well with their “Genius” leveling. 👇️ 

Booking leveling program

Booking motivates you to book additional trips through their platform in order to earn discounts, priority support, free breakfasts, etc.

This is also a combination of leveling and time-based challenges which I will talk about in a minute.

In order to implement leveling in your SaaS you have to combine 2 things:

  1. The reward you will give out to your users

  2. The ROI

Ask yourself:

“What can I offer to my users in order to gain as much ROI as possible?”.

A good example would be a referral program - your platform gets more eyes, and your users get more benefits.

Then you want to introduce a competitive spirit:

  • Reach Level 2 and get exclusive merch

  • Reach Level 3 and gain a 30% discount on your next monthly subscription

  • Reach Level 4 and get a premium for 3 months

Bonus points if you can tie the titles to your levels just like Booking did with their Genius program.

5) Leaderboard

As mentioned above, you want to find a way to introduce a competitive spirit into your SaaS.

KEEP IN MIND - that only a few software products can do so.

There’s no point in introducing a leaderboard system in your team communication software for example

See which person sent out the most messages this month

This just doesn’t make sense.

What does make sense could be the following:

  • Top sales performance - who got the most leads interested this month

  • Feature ship leaderboard - Who shipped the most features

  • Top performing campaigns - What marketing campaigns were the biggest success this month

Again, think about YOU and YOUR SaaS.

What applies to someone else, may not work for you.

Example from wip.co - a platform for online build in public communities, showcasing a shipping streak - who showed up and shipped a new feature every day:

wip.co streaks

Another good example from Salesforce, showcasing the user leaderboard:

Salesforce leaderboard

6) Virtual currency

If someone gave you a cash-printing machine, chances are, you would take it.

When you’re running your own SaaS, you can choose how to distribute rewards, and what they should represent.

Many businesses create their own virtual currency that corresponds to the FIAT currency in the real world.

Example:

Amazon allows you to buy a gift card, you can virtually send out to your friends.

It costs them nothing, apart from the UI hours executed by their designer to create the card in the first place.

They created value out of thin air.

You can do the same by updating a few numbers in your database.

Your virtual currency can correspond to the FIAT currency 1:1 and you can simply give out virtual dollars in exchange for real dollars people pay you.

Although most SaaS-es operate on a subscription-tier business model, this is something you can utilize in order to upsell your current pricing plan.

Example:

UpLead is a B2B prospecting tool for sales professionals that allows them to create email lists of potential prospects they would like to contact.

They operate on simple tier-based pricing, like the majority of SaaS companies.

However, if you’re on their Essentials pricing plan, you get 2040 credits annually.

1 credit = 1 lead.

Want more leads, but don’t want to switch pricing plans?

Simply purchase the credits!

UpLead’s pricing plan

This pricing strategy allows your prospects to enjoy flexibility.

They don’t have to worry and calculate which prospects they can fit in this month due to credits.

They can simply purchase additional credits without being charged for a higher pricing tier upfront.

If you’re planning to utilize this strategy, see what your product is and try to boil it down to 1 single entity.

In this case, it’s a prospect or a lead.

In your case, it might be an additional person on your team.

Whatever it is, see if you can bring your users flexibility & peace of mind by gamifying their currency purchase process.

Just by implementing this 1 strategy, you can stand out from your competitors and gain their users.

Trust me.

I’ve seen it.

7) Time-based challenges

Fear of missing out (FOMO) has a really large impact on humans.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve encountered FOMO in real life, you can’t tell me otherwise.

“Just 5 tickets left for this price!”

“Only 2 seats left!”

“3 more hours until the offer is gone”

We’re going to focus on the last one.

By introducing a time-based challenge into your product you can:

a) increase your revenue
b) give your users unexpected value
c) retain your users on your platform

Time-based challenges create a sense of urgency that you will miss out on a specific offer if you don’t opt in by a specific time or date.

Very important!

Time-based challenges & offers can be introduced to your potential customers outside your current customer pool & thus drive more conversions.

Here are a few examples you can introduce:

Marketing sector

“Schedule 10 posts until the end of the week & get our free e-book on how to write headline hooks that drive engagement”

Sales sector

“Create 2 email campaigns until the end of the month & get 10% off your next monthly subscription”

Goal: Motivate the user to continue using your product in order to get something in return.

Your goal doesn’t always have to be an upsell.

Retention beats Upsells.

Retention brings you an increase in Life Time Value (LTV)

Which is ultimately what matters most.

8) Achievements

Dopamine.

It’s the drug of the new technological era.

When playing a certain video game, your ultimate goal is to finish or beat it.

Along the way you want to get good at it so you can feel good about yourself that your efforts didn’t go down the drain.

You can introduce the same concepts in SaaS and provide achievements for specific tasks or milestones.

Example:

Upwork and Fiverr are freelancing platforms.

But how do you separate bad freelancers from good ones and ultimately from the best of the best?

By introducing achievements & trophies.

Fiverr’s leveling / badge system

Fiverr introduced level badges.

It separates freelancers that have been on the platform for some time & completed a lot of projects, clients are satisfied with.

Similar to the leveling feature I mentioned earlier, these badges bring status.

Status is what separates us from the rest.

When a potential buyer has to choose between a freelancer with or without a badge, who do you think they will first take a look at?

The one with the status badge of course.

However, you don’t have to reward your users based on performance.

You can reward them based on the time spent on your platform.

Take a look at the Upwork example:

Upwork’s anniversary email

Upwork sends an annual summary email to every freelancer showcasing their gratitude for their work and showing them their statistics such as the number of clients & projects completed.

All these little things can help you retain your users longer because they will chase the next reward, achievement, or trophy.

Take care of your users and they will take care of you.

I hope that these 8 gamification strategies can give you the motivation or initial ideas in which direction you can implement them in your SaaS business.

If you should leave this email with one key takeaway, it should be the following:

Interactivity sells.

🔝 Top Tweets

Here are the 2 top tweets from this week:

🔥 SaaS Fire

SaaS products so good they'll light up your week:

Hyper allows you to sell your Discord server memberships.

Scribe helps you create how-to’s on your website or web apps.

💡Idea of the Week

Here’s the SaaS idea of the week:

The Intelligent Requirements Management Tool is a SaaS platform designed to streamline the process of requirements gathering and management for software development projects. The tool uses AI technology to intelligently analyze and categorize user requirements, prioritize and assign tasks to developers, and provide insights into project progress and timeline projections. The platform also features a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for team members to collaborate and communicate on requirements-related tasks.

Pros

  • Automatic requirement parsing into project management tools

  • Uses AI to intelligently analyze and categorize requirements, prioritizing and assigning tasks to developers

Cons

  • Requires initial setup and configuration to tailor the tool to a team's specific needs

  • AI technology may not always accurately categorize requirements, requiring manual intervention by team members

How did you like this week's issue of SaaS Strats?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

This feedback means a lot to me.

It gives me direct insight into what topics I should focus more on.

I would like to gather your thoughts on this issue, so I support you to answer the poll above 👆️ 

I hope you enjoyed today’s issue of SaaS Strats and that you will start utilizing at least 1 gamification strategy in your business.

Let me know the results.

Maybe I’ll include them in future issues of SaaS Strats.

Until next Thursday,

Ognjen Gatalo

Chief SaaS Strategist ☁️ 

P.S. If you know a friend that needs to see these gamification strategies, forward them this email.

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