A Rewarding Experience

Looking at why we come back.


Throughout the development of our product, we knew that no matter how great the features were, no matter how beautiful it was, no matter how smart the algorithms were, we still had to have a reason to open the app more than once. Marketing, media, and social channels may drive you to install and try the app, but what is going to keep you coming back?

The fundamental basis of this premise is: does it solve a problem? Anyone who has had a great idea can struggle with ensuring its relevancy through a real-world problem. In this baseline, better is usually not enough. Your product needs to address the root of the problem head-on. No Band-Aids.

However, your product won’t be the only one solving that problem for very long. The moment the need is fulfilled, another option will present itself. Almost every consumer-based industry deals with this. Why use one airline over another? Why shop at one store instead of another? Why buy that car rather than this one? Why use this app instead of that other app?

While there are countless aspects that drive any one of those decisions (cost, brand, social validation, quality, etc.), I want to take a look at one in particular: rewards.

Basically, I just want to review the various methods I’ve seen being used to drive loyalty to a product. For the purposes of this breakdown, let’s generalize the reward programs into two types: 1. Externally Beneficial and 2. Internally Beneficial.

Externally Beneficial can be summed up as “if I do X here, I can get Y there.” A perfect example of this is credit cards with rewards attached to them. If I spend money on this card in one place, I can redeem the points gathered in another place. As long as I keep using this card, I can keep gathering the points.

Internally Beneficial can refer to systems that reward your behaviour inside its own ecosystem: “if I do X here, then I get Y here.” Most video-game reward systems are based on this. If I kill enough enemies in Call of Duty, I will get the next level/rank inside Call of Duty. Other than bragging rights, it has no tangible external benefit.

A great example of a product that combines these two is the Nest thermostat. Each month I’m shown how many “leaves” I’ve earned through my warming/cooling behaviour but at the same time, I’m actually saving real money on energy bills.

So, sticking with virtual internally beneficial rewards, and hoping to gain inspiration for their applicability to our product, here is a small set of examples of possible implementations (more may be added over time).


Back to video-games again, both Xbox and Playstation have system-wide achievements or trophies that are gained by completing a set of criteria set by the individual game. The phrase “Achievement Unlocked” has almost become synonymous with progression or successful completion.

Playstation 4
Xbox One

Moving towards a connection between physical behaviour and virtual rewards, Nike+ (and its competitors) provide plenty of feedback to entice you to continue with an activity.

Nike+ Move
Jawbone UP

A large part of the Foursquare experience is tied to the concept of earning badges. This system has become fairly common and is usually the basis for “gamification” inside an app. Foursquare also incorporates real-world benefits to usage.

Foursquare
Foursquare on Windows 8

The Jawbone UP Coffee app takes a very focused look at your consumption of caffeine and provides simple pieces of feedback on its effects. The reward here is gained knowledge about your own habits, some tidbits about caffeine, and even the playful animation of the bottle filling up.

Jawbone UP Coffee

Again, this is only a snippet of the many ways that products try to engage you to come back for more. Whether it be insights, coupons, badges, points, or levels, something is trying to hook you and ensure you continuously benefit every time you open the app.

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