15 Powerful Gamification Best Practices You Can Implement To Reduce Member Cancellations

gamification best practices

The average membership site subscriber cancels after 4-6 months.

How much revenue is that for your membership site?

Let's do some math:

If you're at the low-end pricing point (about $37/month), each customer is worth a maximum of $222. That's IF they stick around for a full 6 months.

If you're at a higher pricing point (like $97/month), the lifetime value of a single subscriber is a little over double that amount: $582 for a 6-month subscription.

But that's not profit.

Behind that dollar amount are all the costs of acquiring that customer: Facebook ads, marketing funnels, etc.

After subtracting those costs, how much profit are you actually left with?

Keeping members long term makes your upfront client acquisition investment more profitable.

Perhaps it IS unrealistic to hope that your clients will stick around as paying members “forever”… but what if you could double or triple their current stick rate?

How much more actual profit would that give your business?

You do the math.

The problem with trying to boost retention rates is…

Unfortunately, the first impulse towards boosting membership site customer retention rates is this:

Creating more content, more “stuff”, to try to get them to stick around longer.

Does it work?

Maybe.

But you're shifting your focus away from the customer and onto the “stuff”. A recipe for disaster.

So here's a better idea:

Put your focus back on the customer. Instead of trying to distract them with “more”, get smart about delivering the content you already have.

To do this, refocus on your membership site stats. Those are the numbers that are going to tell you the real story behind your cancellations. Then, wherever applicable, start improving the flow for your members. This might take a few different twists and turns, but for now, focus on pairing your stats with these gamification best practices.

First, Check Your Stats

Before we get into these gamification best practices, take a look at your membership stats to find out what's really going on in there.

Are your subscribers just not logging in? Are they starting courses but not finishing them? Do they “do everything right” but then disappear?

Identify the warning signs to hone in on what exactly is the weak link in your setup.

Some things to look for:

  • How often subscribers are actually logging into your website
  • How many pages they access at a time
  • Whether they're completing course objectives
  • If they're taking advantage of current interactive features in your membership site
  • If they're clicking through on your emails
This isn't a “trick” process. If you're really confused about why your membership subscribers aren't sticking around, ask them. Ask them to fill out a short questionnaire (no more than 2 or 3 targeted questions) when they request a cancellation, so you can get this information.

BTW, if you're not tracking your stats yet, get on it!

Google Analytics can give you a lot of insight, as can third-party tools like Mixpanel. If your membership/LMS plugin has built-in tracking metrics (shoutout to AccessAlly Pro!), you're in even better shape.

Second, Identify Your Goals

The main goal is to get your membership site subscribers to “stick around”… but that's pretty broad.

If you really want to reach that goal, break it down into smaller pieces.

Take the stats you pulled in the first step, and identify areas that need improvement, like:

  • If the stats say that 30% of users are logging in daily, your goal might be to increase that to 60%
  • If your membership subscribers aren't finishing your “Intro Course”, a new goal is to help them finish it.

Third, Choose Your Gamifcation Strategy

Once you’ve identified where your subscribers are beginning to lose interest, it’s time to find the best gamification methods to enhance your content.

Gamification takes a variety of forms and strategies, all based on primary game mechanics that have been in use for years to keep people engaged and interacting with the material in front of them.

Be smart about using these:

If there are any problem areas with your course content or membership model, address that first. Gamification can only enhance, it will not make up for courses that don't have enough value to deliver in the first place. For example: if your clients complain that the material doesn't give enough information, adding a quiz won’t make it better.

But onward – below you'll find 15 gamification techniques that can be integrated with your content. Each are tied to different struggles your membership subscribers might be experiencing.

Use them to come up with an effective strategy for your own membership site retention mission.

Orientation & Motivation Methods

As a general rule, the more progress a student makes in an online course, the more committed they become to completing it… and when they can't identify this progress, they're much more likely to give up somewhere along the way.

It's the psychological theory behind offering visual progress tracking to keep your students motivated and on track with your course content.

Determine which visual progress tracking method is right for your students based on the four options below:

1. Linear Progress With Percentage Bars

Do your course lessons build on each other in a consecutive, sequential manner? Then use a visual progress tracking tool like a percentage bar to help students see how far they've made it through your course material.

A practical example of how progress tracking helps motivate students

2. Non-Linear Progress With Badges and Certificates

For non-linear progress (like completing different courses in your membership library), badges and certificates tend to work well.

With badges, each significant piece of progress can be recognized and celebrated, so students can identify their advancements.

Khan Academy, one of the best gamification examples out there, has mastered the art of the badge, using it for motivation and competition.

3. At-A-Glance Dashboard To Celebrate Progress

Another non-linear method of gamification is the dashboard display… where students see their badges, awards, or even progress percentages displayed all in one place.

If this progress dashboard is the first thing to meet their eyes when they log into the membership site, they become more excited to “see the collection” and are more likely to return so they can add to it.

Fun fact:

Inbound marketing giant Hubspot has mastered this technique with their free Inbound Marketing Course. Not only is it a great lead magnet for them, but they also encourage users to proudly display the badge of completion on websites, LinkedIn accounts, etc.

That's free advertising to the max.

4. The Productivity Checklist

I am crazily addicted to checking little boxes to mark things complete. But I'm not the only one… and it's not just a “feel-good” thing, either.

Whether you're familiar with Atul Gawande's work or not, checklists are extremely powerful and can turn a mediocre process around.

gamification best practices

Trigger the Competitive Nature

Rewards can be so, so motivating.

If membership subscribers are dropping off the radar in the middle of a course, bring in some extra incentive to get them to keep going. Or, if they seem to stop in between courses, you can offer a reward upon course completion to get them excited about what else they can get from different courses.

The funny thing is that it doesn't have to be a high-ticket reward to be effective. I once drove 40 miles to pick up a free ice cream cone. Because, you know, free.

5. Leaderboards

Leaderboards are definitely a great way to bring out the competitive side of your clients. After all, who doesn't want to see their name displayed in honor? And if their competitors' name is on the board… your job just got a little easier.

Pro Tip: Although our naturally tendency is to make big leaderboard that can showcase a ton of people, Karl Kapp recommends keeping leaderboards small and elite for the ultimate, motivating challenge.

6. Offer Badges or Titles

This is a similar tactic to #2 on our list… and might even look identical in your membership site.

The difference is all in how you choose to present it to your subscribers. If you're using badges or titles for progress tracking, terminology used might be something like “Celebrate your achievements!”

If you're using badges or titles to foster a bit of competition and spirit, you might lean towards challenge-based copywriting like “Can you collect them all?” or “Achieve the highest rank.”

It's all in how you word it.

7. Credit System Points

Membership site credit systems are a genius invention… and in my opinion they're just not utilized enough.

First off, it delivers a concept of value that's not possible with other methods.

Second, when users understand that value concept, they'll start seeing all your material through the new lens of “how many credits does it cost.”

gamification best practices using a credit system

In our own members-area, the value of our credit system “hearts” are clearly spelled out.

8. Unlock Bonus Material

Credit systems and badges are great – but they tend to work best when they're predictable rewards. Your subscribers know that if they complete Course A, they will definitely receive 10 credits.

But you can also use Easter Eggs in your courses (with conditional content programming, something that's available with most decent membership plugins) to surprise users with bonus material and rewards.

Use this tactic in the middle of a particularly difficult lesson to help keep students motivated and excited to continue (instead of being burned out).

9. Contests

There's a reason why lotteries are so wildly popular… and it has to do with basic human psychology.

Running a contest inside your membership site is one way to tap into the unbridled enthusiasm for “a chance to win”… and keep subscribers intrigued about what they might win if they stick around.

Focus on Making it Personal

Personalized marketing is extremely popular these days… but the psychological reasons why it actually works varies a bit, depending on who you talk to. Some say that it's because people want to feel powerful and important… others might claim it's an offshoot of information overload.

My theory is this: people want to know that they matter. That they're being heard.

And when you can deliver a more personalized experience to your membership subscribers, they'll want to stick around longer. They'll realize that you are paying attention and maybe – just maybe – you care about helping them succeed.

10. Personality Quizzes

Personality quizzes can be extremely insightful when they're built with care and attention… and that's what you can deliver to your membership subscribers.

Gamification quizzes

While it does require a lot of time and thought to craft an insightful personality quiz, your subscribers will fall in love with the boost in confidence it gives them.

11. Be Present for Personal Conversations

If personalizations is about being heard, focus on keeping communication channels open between you and your membership subscribers.

This is a huge one for me.

I've signed up for two separate online membership programs in the past year, wooed by personalized emails and carefully crafted pitches. But once I signed up, that personalized chatty-ness dried up. I realized I was just another number, and the personalized attention was a sales ploy.

Needless to say, I cancelled.

So be different.

Whether you're active in the Facebook group or offer 1-1 conversation channels inside the membership site, a little active presence can go a long way.

12. Choose Your Story

Remember those old “choose your adventure” games? Remember how fun and exciting they were?

Simple gamification techniques like this can increase the sense of personalization and excitement for your membership subscribers.

Offer it as a way for learners to navigate at their own pace through your online courses, or simply recommend new content for them based on their previous decisions.

13. Share on Social Media

Humans are fundamentally social. It's why most of us (even if we're introverted!) tend to enjoy experiences more when we can share them with our friends.

Make your social sharing invitations more bold, more prominent – and even reward members who actively share the news about your membership site on social media.

Challenge Their Growth

I recently quit a membership program that I've wanted to join for years… simply because it wasn't challenging enough for me.

There were courses up the wa-zoo, packed with tons of neat content. But there was no “success” metric that I could find to help me understand if I was actually mastering the material.

So if your students aren't seeing the value of your program – raise the bar.

Raising the bar for your students means that you expect a lot out of them. People sign up for programs because they WANT to improve.

14. Pass/Fail Tests

Pass/Fail tests add a bit of pressure to your students, and serve as a reminder that scanning isn't good enough… you really do have to master the material to experience the promised benefits.

Use this type of gamification when it seems like students might be rushing through your material without really paying attention.

15. Unlock Content Based On Their Actions

Ultimately, you want to empower your membership subscribers and remind them that success is a 2-way-street.

Whether you use a quiz, checklist, or other tool, allow users to unlock each lesson or course based on their actions.

Action-based content release will help your subscribers feel that they're in control (reducing overwhelm), and it will serve as incentive for them to actively engage in your course content.

K, so that's the list, filled with more than enough ideas to get you started with new strategies to make your membership site a powerful machine.

Take time to really strategize how to make it work for your site and your clients.

Then – read on, because there's one last piece of the puzzle: the software side.

Use the Right Gamification Software

Ok, so you've identified the areas of your membership site that could benefit from the gamification of learning.

Now for the fun part: figuring out what software tools you need to make it happen.

A quick Google search will bring you a wealth of gamification companies, insightful articles for how to use this strategy, and maybe even some free gamification tools to try out.

Have fun and take your time.

The best option, of course, is to use an all-in-one membership-gamification duo like AccessAlly Pro. Because not all tech tools are made to work together, and some work together very badly.

But, as you narrow down your options, always remember that the ultimate goal is not to find the cheapest option. The goal is also not to find the plugin with the most bells and whistles.

The goal in choosing a gamification tool is to enhance your membership site experience so that your customers will stick around for the long haul.


Maria MyreMaria Myre is the word person at AccessAlly, where she explores new, intuitive ways to connect entrepreneurs with the tech tools and training that will best fit their business needs. When she’s not immersed in the tech world, Maria relaxes with her art and adventuring in the Great Outdoors on horseback.

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