ux/ui essentials

17 SaaS Gamification Techniques to Boost User Engagement

20 min read
17 SaaS Gamification Techniques to Boost User Engagement Cieden

By 2030, the gamification market is expected to grow by 27.99% and reach a whopping $123.87 billion. Yet, why has gamification become a common trend in SaaS UX/UI design and areas like education, sales and marketing, and business? Game-like activities trigger our reward brain circuit and create an engaging experience. How do you introduce such elements to SaaS apps? I’m glad you asked.

In this article, we will explore some of the most powerful SaaS gamification techniques to help you grow your product, as well as retain and engage your users.

17 SaaS Gamification Techniques to Boost User Engagement Cieden

What is gamification?

In case you need your memory jogged, let us briefly go over what gamification is. In a nutshell, gamification is introducing game-like elements, such as points, badges, and leaderboards, to a non-game environment. Giving stars to students in primary school, having a piggy bank to save for something, and the local coffee shop’s “get 8 cups, get 1 for free” program are all examples of gamification you face in real life. It’s quite ubiquitous if you think about it.

Gamification is still in its early stages in the SaaS industry and tech in general. However, digital products can borrow principles and best practices from other industries. 

Why do you need gamification in the first place?

Simply put, gamification keeps your users engaged and encouraged to stick with your app longer. In business terms, it helps with retention and engagement. Additionally, you create an extra incentive for users to complete tasks even if the impact isn’t immediate.

SaaS gamification goes beyond simple fun and taps and works as a powerful motivational force:

  • Reward and recognition. Earning points, badges, or climbing leaderboards triggers the release of dopamine, the brain’s “feel-good” chemical, creating a positive association with your product.
  • Sense of progress. Visible progress bars, level systems, and achievement milestones fuel our desire for achievement, keeping users coming back for more.
  • Competition and social connection. Healthy competition with friends or teammates adds a layer of excitement and encourages users to push their limits.

Leveraging these principles, gamification boosts user engagement and retention, which in turn can have a direct or indirect positive impact on sales, particularly in B2C.
17 SaaS Gamification Techniques to Boost User Engagement Cieden

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What SaaS apps will benefit from adding gamification elements?

Not all types of SaaS products will benefit from gamification elements equally. Let’s explore where they can truly make a difference:

Learning platforms

For platforms that offer training, courses, or professional development, gamification can make learning more engaging and fun. By introducing elements like badges, points, leaderboards, or progress tracking, users are more likely to complete courses and retain information.

CRM and sales tools

Sales teams often thrive on competition and achievement. Gamification can motivate sales representatives by tracking and rewarding activities like closing deals, reaching sales targets, or completing customer follow-ups. Using it in your SaaS UX/UI design will not only boost productivity but also foster healthy competition.

Project management and collaboration tools

These tools can benefit from gamification by encouraging team collaboration, task completion, and timely project delivery. Rewarding teams for hitting milestones or completing projects ahead of schedule can improve productivity and team spirit.

Customer support and engagement platforms

Gamification can encourage customer support representatives to improve their service by rewarding quick resolution times, positive customer feedback, or a high number of resolved tickets. Plus, it can increase employee satisfaction.

Health and wellness platforms

By adding challenges, rewards, and progress tracking, these apps can motivate users to achieve their health and fitness goals, leading to sustained healthy habits and improved physical well-being.

17 SaaS Gamification Techniques to Boost User Engagement Cieden

17 SaaS gamification techniques and examples to follow

Looking to incorporate gamification into your SaaS product but not sure where to begin? Let’s learn from companies that use gamification in their B2B SaaS products. I'll also share insights from my journey at Cieden and experience in implementing gamification across business, EdTech, and healthcare solutions.

1. Progress bars – Trello

Remember that nagging feeling of unfinished tasks? Progress bars tap into that, using the Zeigarnik effect that makes us recall interrupted or incomplete actions more readily. Trello, the popular project management tool, masters this technique, turning progress visualization into a motivator.

Each card on a Trello board can have a progress bar attached, showing the completion percentage of tasks within the card. The platform also offers board-level progress bars, summarizing the overall progress across all cards on the board.

Example of a progress bar on Trello.

How can you use this technique?

You can encourage task completion and increase engagement with your SaaS product in the following cases:

  • Onboarding process;
  • Long questionnaires;
  • Data import tools;
  • Multi-step task completion;
  • Goal tracking dashboards.

2. Achievement badges – Salesforce

Badges are B2B gamification examples that give users a feeling of accomplishment, push them to level up their skills, and make your whole community work together like a team. Salesforce’s Trailblazer Community uses a badge system.

This leading CRM platform offers badges for each completed training module or project. It encourages users to gain general knowledge in specific areas and develop their practical skills. Plus, it helps them move up in the ranks.

Achievement badge example by Salesforce.

How can you use this technique?

Use achievement badges to recognize and encourage specific actions within your SaaS product. In Salesforce’s case, badges reward knowledge acquisition and active participation. To make the most of this gamification strategy, consider the following:

  • Define a clear description and purpose of each badge, following desired user behaviors;
  • Award badges with feedback and real-time notifications;
  • Recognize top badge recipients publicly.

3. Points system – Gleam.io

Point systems drive user engagement by rewarding them for doing specific actions. Gleam.io, a suite of marketing apps for eCommerce businesses, nails this gamification SaaS technique with their contest entries. There are several ways to collect points required to enter contests, like visiting their app on Facebook, viewing a post, logging in via Facebook, etc. Such an entry system is a win-win situation for the users and the business.

Points system example by Gleam.io.

How can you use this technique?

Whenever there’s a need to nudge users toward a certain behavior, you should consider encouraging them through a point system. Here’s what you can do:

  • Specify actions users can take to earn points;
  • Set different point values following the desired impact of each action;
  • Offer various redemption options for earned points (discounts or exclusive content).

4. Leaderboards – Monday

Another great way to use gamification for business is by encouraging competition. Let’s take Monday, a project management system, as an example. The platform uses leaderboards to boost the engagement of its partner community members. They earn points for providing helpful answers in product-related discussions.

Monday Community leaderboard.

How can you use this technique?

You can leverage leaderboards to encourage users to use your product consistently. To do so, consider this:

  • Track features you want your users to explore, tasks they should complete, or milestones they should achieve;
  • Segment leaderboards for beginners, advanced users, or teams for fairness;
  • Introduce short-term leaderboards with specific goals and end dates to create a sense of urgency;
  • Consider offering tangible rewards like premium features or early access to new updates.

5. Milestones – Upwork

Upwork, one of the world’s largest freelance platforms, allows employers and freelancers to create milestones, i.e., levels. Splitting work into multiple parts is highly reminiscent of level progression in games. The latter becomes very similar to an epic journey with the final destination looming on the horizon, which encourages users to “keep playing.”

Upwork – Milestone unlock example.

How can you use this technique?

Whenever there’s room for creativity in task completion, you should encourage it. If you set a goal for your users, help them define their own path to achieving it. If the users determine the goal, make sure they have the tools to create “levels” and their own path. Other tips to follow are:

  • Use progress bars and checklists in SaaS design to visualize progress;
  • Offer incentives like bonus points and badges for completing milestones;
  • Clearly communicate deadlines, expectations, and reward structures related to milestones.

6. Boosters – Our concept

We’ve likely all experienced the “game over” screen at least once in our life. No one likes to lose their progress, be it a video game or a professional career. Nor do people like to progress slower than they could. That’s why concepts such as “revival,” “health potions,” and “power-ups” are so ubiquitous in gaming. Video games, however, are not the only things to which you can apply the “boost concept.”

Let’s take a look at the example below. The application below helps users edit their videos and then share the download link. The latter is not something that happens immediately. As such, you could either wait OR complete an action, i.e., share the video on Twitter, that will speed up the loader. Another win-win.

Our Concept – Boosters.

How can you use this technique?

If a user experiences a preventable delay or interruption, you could help them satisfy their impatience by asking them for a favor in return. Be mindful of the ethical aspect of this technique though. Feeling scammed is a more powerful emotion than impatience.

7. Status points and exchangeable points – LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great gamification example of how you can drive user engagement and build a strong community. They do this through a skill social proof system that relies on points and rewards.

This system works like this:

  • Users earn points for various activities like completing their profile, supporting connections, and sharing industry insights;
  • More points translate to a more complete profile and higher visibility.

This way, LinkedIn creates a mutually beneficial cycle. Users gain social proof to get more connections and opportunities, while LinkedIn gets more usage and overall value.

Profile Status levels in LinkedIn.

How can you use this technique?

In a given product, if there’s room for creating a resource you can accumulate, you should consider doing it. That way, after having invested time and effort into obtaining a certain resource, users will be more likely to commit to your product for the long term. To win your users’ dedication, consider this:

  • Choose resources that reflect your product’s goals and user motivations;
  • Make sure users understand how to earn resources;
  • Implement different levels or ranks based on resource accumulation.

Balance is key in this case. Don’t create a system that encourages point-chasing over genuine engagement.

8. Group quests – Kahoot

An interesting example of implementing the social relatedness gamification technique is Kahoot, a quiz app. One of the product’s many features is creating group quests, which turns Kahoot into a platform for connecting with people who have similar interests. Users will then associate the product with interacting with like-minded people, which is a great thing to be known for.

Kahoot – Group Quests example.

How can you use this technique?

Consider adding a social or group element into a task or activity whenever it makes sense in your UX design for SaaS. That way, you can create additional value for the users by connecting them with like-minded individuals.

9. Brag buttons – Duolingo

Unlike asking users to post a boring PR story, a language learning app, Duolingo, recognizes and praises users for their achievements. The latter is something that people are actually likely to share. When users complete a lesson or earn a streak,  they can easily show their accomplishments on social media with a single click.

Brag Buttons by Duolingo.

You might have also noticed that the posts that get the most attention on social media are success stories.

How can you use this technique?

If your product measures and tracks your users’ progress, then communicating achievements in a shareable way might be a great way for your product to encourage word-of-mouth promotion. Offer flexible sharing options, covering social media, your platform, or email.

10. Tout flags – LinkedIn 

Another cool way LinkedIn allows people to display their social influence (competence in this case) is by displaying their certifications.

An example of Licenses and Certifications section on a LinkedIn profile.

How can you use this technique?

If it makes sense product-wise to assign achievements to your users’ profiles, consider doing it. That way, you can encourage people to keep collecting credentials so that they can “compete” with other users.

11. Onboarding quests – Lingualeo

Lingualeo is one of the companies using gamification to make onboarding more interesting and interactive. Their SaaS app is an equivalent of Duolingo but for other demographics.

This service implemented gamification in many ways, but I like how they combined onboarding, a quest system, and their narrative. First of all, the product encourages users to explore different parts of the platform, and it also provides the user with an easy way to get XP, which allows them to gain new levels, triggering a whole other chain of other gamification services.

Combination of onboarding, a quest system, and narrative in Lingualeo.

How can you use this technique?

You could have a series of onboarding quests with the possibility of gaining a badge, a new level, or a platform currency. Another powerful way to leverage this technique is by rewarding users with extra trial days or premium functionality. The latter is a surefire way to encourage users to spend time, scan the platform, and try the premium features.

12. Free launch – Mailchimp

Free launch is a no-brainer technique to use because, out of the numerous types of gamification strategies, it works best to convert guests into users. Providing part of the functionality for free requires users to put effort and time into exploring or using the system, so they are much more willing to purchase the product, eventually.

For example, Mailchimp, an email marketing platform, offers more than just basic email sending. Users can create email campaigns, leverage pre-built email templates, track basic analytics, and even use multichannel marketing tools — everything for free. But, once faced with limitations, the users wonder: Why not try out advanced features?

Mailchimp offers a free trial, however, there are paid plans with extras.

How can you use this technique?

You can offer a compelling free experience demonstrating your product’s core functionalities and value. Then, you can give users a glimpse of advanced tools, sparking their desire for more. A final touch is presenting the upgrade path, making transitioning to premium features as seamless as possible.

13. Magnetic caps – Grammarly

Grammarly might be one of the best examples of using our impatience. When writing a document, especially an important one, we’re likely to be in a hurry. On top of needing to finish the piece of text fast, you also need to make sure it’s well-written.

Grammarly will help you correct the surface-level mistakes, but then will graciously notify you that you’ve made a whole bunch of other mistakes. Well… you could just maybe guess what these mistakes are, but there’s an easier solution. You need a subscription.

Magic caps in Grammarly.

How can you use this technique?

If your product has a variety of use cases that are likely to take place in an urgent environment, you can consider giving a part of the functionality for free, while keeping the rest for the moment the user needs it most. 

P.S. Please make sure to take into account the ethical perspective of employing such tactics.

14. Scarcity and exclusivity – HubSpot Academy

HubSpot Academy skillfully uses scarcity and exclusivity in its certification system, motivating users to invest in continuous learning and stand out within the platform. Here’s how they do it:

  • Earning badges isn’t about simply showing up. Users must actively engage and complete specific courses;
  • Badges act as visible markers of expertise, differentiating those who prioritize learning.
HubSpot Academy – Scarcity & Exclusivity.

How can you use this technique?

If you collect data on how many users complete a task or achieve a goal, consider using it to encourage them to join a certain group. It’s either a group of the majority who managed to obtain an achievement or the exclusive circle of the “elite users.” Either way, you can make it work through careful phrasing.

15. Mystery boxes – LinkedIn

“Someone viewed your profile.” This is the message you’ve likely seen on LinkedIn. At first glance, this message is utterly useless. However, it’s actually a smart move. What this message does is evoke curiosity. Who was it after all? Is someone considering headhunting you? Is it a jealous ex stalking you? Is your employer spying on you? There goes something to keep you awake at night.

Need your curiosity satisfied? It’s as simple as getting a LinkedIn premium subscription.

LinkedIn encourages users to go Premium to learn more about their profile viewers.

How can you use this technique?

Eliciting curiosity is a powerful tool. Whenever there’s some information that is not essential to the experience, but that’s likely to be interesting, consider using it as a hook.

16. FOMO – Most eCommerce platforms

Take a look at the screenshot below. Did you notice these messages that imply that the product is about to be unavailable? These messages only have one goal, and one goal only — to create a sense of urgency. It’s needless to say that a lot of times these messages aren’t true and are only there to coax you out of your money. E-commerce isn’t the only industry that does that a lot, real estate is infamous for this exact dark pattern as well.

E-commerce platforms create a sense of urgency.

How can you use this technique?

To enhance user engagement and boost your SaaS sales, consider incorporating a touch of urgency in your platform. Use time-sensitive offers, exclusive access windows, or limited-time promotions to motivate users to take desired actions promptly.

17. Irreversible actions – HubSpot

This tactic goes hand-in-hand with multiple usability heuristics: error prevention and flexibility of system use. However, one way you can discourage people from abandoning your app is by referring to what they’re going to lose access to, just like HubSpot does.

Irreversible actions example by HubSpot.

How can you use this technique?

Make sure you’re informing users of what they will lose, as a consequence of their actions, whenever you’re dealing with unpleasant parts of the user journey. Ideally, you need a very compelling message that refers to something of value to the user.

How to gamify SaaS products

10-step strategy to implement SaaS gamification techniques.

Having explored the best SaaS gamification strategies, you might be wondering how to implement those in your product. Don’t worry, check out a 10-step roadmap:

  • Set objectives. Think about what you want to achieve with gamification. Then, define specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals.
  • Know your audience. Who are your users? What motivates them? What are their pain points? Create user personas to tailor gamification UX to their needs and preferences.
  • Choose suitable gamification techniques. From points and badges to leaderboards and boosters, countless mechanics exist. Select elements that complement your objectives and fit your platform.
  • Design the user journey. How will your users discover game elements? How will progress be tracked and rewarded? Map out the user’s gamified journey through your platform.
  • Implement gamification. Introduce the chosen gamification elements into your product’s structure. Handle usability testing to resolve potential issues.
  • Offer incentives. Provide your users with valuable and relevant rewards, like exclusive features, discounts, or recognition within the community.
  • Use data analytics. Track user engagement with gamified elements. Analyze data to see what’s working and what needs adjustment.
  • Promote social interaction. Encourage users to interact, collaborate, and compete with each other.
  • Iterate and improve. Gamification as a service is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. Continuously enhance your techniques based on data and user feedback.
  • Measure success. Track key metrics like user engagement, feature adoption, and churn rate. Measure the impact of gamification on your product.

However, gamification isn’t a simple task. It requires careful planning, user-centric design, and continuous optimization to tackle low engagement, poor SaaS UX, or high churn. But when done right, you can turn your product into an engaging solution.

As someone keen on creating gamified experiences — particularly in business, EdTech, healthcare, and sports apps where user engagement is vital — Cieden understands the challenges SaaS platforms face. And we’d love to explore how our expertise in gamification can help you tackle those issues. Just contact us to discuss your challenges and opportunities to grow.

Further resources on gamification

Below, you can find the list of materials that I found extremely helpful for our gamification research. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, look no further than the eight links below:


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17 SaaS Gamification Techniques to Boost User Engagement Cieden
17 SaaS Gamification Techniques to Boost User Engagement Cieden

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