Resilience has always been a key characteristic of the fitness industry. It’s an ecosystem that is constantly evolving and trying to create newer ways to excite, engage, and keep people coming back for more. Fitness in general is a fairly fickle concept especially for customers today, who are constantly grappling with maintaining some semblance of a work-life balance.

However, as the years have gone by and with the dawn of the new challenges brought on by 2020’s pandemic-dynamic, it would seem that the fitness space has yet again pivoted and thrived. With an increase in time spent during the lockdown on weight-loss and fitness apps the industry now stands in a new era of virtual experiences, with offerings for the young and old by the plenty.

From Zoom to YouTube, tracking apps to app-enabled work-out sessions, the industry has truly taken advantage of every digital avenue possible. Elevating the entire experience with everything from social interactions, celebrity trainers, or customised sessions, each platform is doing everything it can to keep current customers and incentivise potential ones. Among these many innovations, the one that is most increasingly being used in more and more creative ways is ‘gamification’.

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What is gamification?

To most, the word gamification, especially in a digital context, may make you imagine games like Sims, PubG or even Candy Crush — but in reality, it is so much more. While games entertain, gamification incites motivation and amplifies engagement. Today, nearly 50 per cent of apps across sectors are using some variation of this incredibly effective technique.

Gamification plays on two of the most pertinent motivators in human psychology — success and satisfaction. And for the fitness industry motivation is by far the most important aspect to get any user hooked and invested in their health and fitness. In fact, it’s even more important in the virtual fitness experience since the user has to rely on their own drive to stay committed to the fitness path they’re on.

So, in practice, how does gamification really enhance the virtual workout experience?

Consistency and patience are critical to training your mind and body. However, as is human tendency and given the vapid ‘now’ culture, these two simple yet powerful traits aren’t as easy to practice anymore. This is especially true in the fitness space. With quick-fix diet trends and the ‘Abs in two weeks’ scenarios, customer expectations from any fitness product lie in instant transformations. However, gamification breaks this journey into small fun buckets.

It is believed that it takes 21 days for a habit to form. These 21 days might seem like a stretch when you look at it as a whole but if you break this into fun parts, where you do three different activities spread over seven days with a goal you need to hit on every seventh day, suddenly the whole activity becomes a lot more palatable.

Rewarding the user

Now, let’s take things a step further. What if you infuse this activity with the added advantage of being rewarded either with in-house currency or redeemable gifts, for every mini goal achieved — don’t you think that it would just further incentivise the user to stay true to their journey?

For a second, think about the emotions you go through while playing a game you love — intrigue, joy, excitement, are a few that come to mind. So, when you take an activity that requires a long-term investment with a goal that can be a little daunting, and add an element that triggers those feelings, it enables a more positive user experience. From leaderboards, progress-based rewards to even the gamified version of a simple activity like walking, gamification has drastically elevated the whole experience.

In the realm of virtual experiences, the goal is to be able to get your user from point A to point B with as much ease and engagement as possible. Ensuring that, the intimidating long-term goal, which the user is expecting to achieve overnight, is broken down into smaller wins. This inevitably gives them a sense of accomplishment and success, all the while keeping them engaged to your platform and edging them closer to their ultimate goal.

The writer is CEO and Co-founder, StepSetGo