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4 ways to increase student app usage through gamification

7/20/2021 6:00:00 AM

Higher Ed leaders want to make their colleges and universities contactless to keep everyone on campus as safe as possible. Adopting a mobile-first strategy is a critical step toward allowing students, staff, and visitors to complete payments and access facilities via their mobile devices without touching any surfaces. Many Higher Ed decision makers are concerned about pivoting to contactless technologies because they fear students might not embrace a school-sponsored mobile app. But a recent study reveals that smartphone apps are important to students and play a major part in their lives, and many learners already interact with school-sponsored apps. 

Most students use apps frequently to interact with their college or university with the vast majority accessing their school app at least a few times per week or more. That’s according to a 2020 survey1 on students’ relationship with the mobile world conducted by TouchNet.  Among survey respondents, more than 50 percent of students use their app every day, while 42 percent access their app two to three times per week. 

“We believe this is the first student survey focusing on payment and credentialing technologies,” says TouchNet President Adam McDonald. “The survey was a great success and provided insight for today and into the future. Moving forward we’re committed to conducting  it annually and  presenting the results at our annual COMTEC conference, which will allow us and our customers to track evolving Higher Ed trends.” 

Entertainment among top reasons for app usage 

While the likelihood of students using school apps is already high, colleges and universities can increase the number and frequency of students who connect with their apps even more by incorporating entertainment elements. Doing so will compel students to open these apps not just when they need them, but also when they have downtime. 

More than 80 percent of students download apps that entertain them. Meanwhile, more than three out of four students pull out their phone and open an app the instant they feel bored. Gamifying experiences will help make school apps more attractive and increase usage. In fact, many students claimed they would be more likely to use financial-payment apps that offer a reward or point system or ways to get discounts or money back.

Continue reading for some ideas to make mobile experiences more interactive

1. Encourage student feedback

Some apps give students the opportunity to not only make transactions at various retailers on campus, but also rate locations they recently visited or ordered from. Seeing their reviews in real-time conveys to students their institution is actively working to deliver the best experience possible and to better meet their needs. Comment fields help schools directly address feedback and improve the student experience.

2. Interact with student reviews

When students submit reviews, campus retailers and staff are encouraged to review and respond. This is an effective way to communicate changes the institution is making or has made in response to feedback. Personalized responses not only increase overall satisfaction but could encourage students to interact more often with the app. Higher ed institutions can gauge the effectiveness of their messaging strategies and gather actionable data by allowing and actively managing student reviews and messaging features within apps. 

3. Award badges for unique interactions

Some apps feature loyalty programs that provide a gamified experience, which can increase app engagement. Some allow users to level up or gain badges based on certain actions, such as ordering or leaving feedback a certain number of times.

4. Reward students with redeemable points

Similarly, loyalty systems can award points to students based on certain actions or activities. After reaching certain thresholds, students who acquire a certain amount of points could, for example, receive a free beverage or a free order of fries. Alternatively, campuses can give away gift cards, headphones, and even bikes. 

“Students grew up with mobile technology and want to interact with the general world and with others through their mobile devices,” says McDonald. “They have an underlying expectation of doing business anytime, anywhere on any app or device, and that now includes using mobile technology to meet their needs on campus. With the impact of COVID-19, we’ve seen and will continue to see an acceleration of contactless interactions in day-to-day life.”

Be on the lookout for the 2021 Connecting the Dots survey this Fall. 

Download the 2020 Connecting the Dots Student Survey

1More than 300 students from across the U.S. participated in the study, most of whom are enrolled in large, four-year colleges and live off campus. Participating students also attended smaller and two-year institutions, including community colleges.