How YuLife uses game mechanics to drive 3 times the average benefits engagement rates

Here's how we've driven industry-leading engagement levels, by making our app more like a game.

Yugi the Giraffe - 20 April 2022

You might think of video games as just for kids. But the same psychological techniques that have helped the gaming industry make more money than TV, movies and music combined are now used across a huge range of companies and public sector organisations.

Today, game mechanics are being used everywhere, from money management to education, to boost engagement with both consumers and employees. And the results are typically positive.

For instance, a survey by TalentLMS found that game elements at work make 87% of employees feel more socially connected, and 78% said a company would be more desirable if it used game elements in the recruiting process.

At YuLife, we've built game elements into the heart of our app, right from the start – and the results have been pretty spectacular.

On average, only 20% of employees engage with health and wellbeing benefits, according to HR Magazine. But 72% of employees download the YuLife app, 43% have used it at least once in the last month, and 17.4% log on up to five times a day.

So how have we managed to drive more than three times the average engagement rates? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but game mechanics have certainly played a key part.

Feelgood factor

The principle behind this is a simple, but very powerful one, as Josh Hart, CTO and co-founder of YuLife explains. "When I was younger, I used to play computer games at home every day," he remembers. "I used to be so excited to go and input to a keyboard and view a screen." But then, when he got older, that all changed.

"Whether I was renting a house, filling in a timesheet, or paying council tax, I effectively did the same thing every day: I went to a computer, and I pressed keys," he recalls. "But for some reason, when I was a child, it felt so good. And as a grown-up, it doesn't feel so good."

Josh feels strongly that shouldn't be the case. So he's made it his mission to make the reverse a reality, through the YuLife app.

The app gives YuLife members access to their health and wellbeing benefits in the palm of their hand: at home or at work. The main focus is on achievable tasks, such as regular walking and meditation exercises – with the understanding that these activities improve mental and physical health.

That's because YuLife believes that prevention is better than cure, and that living a full life in the here-and-now helps to de-risk us all. The game design helps people build towards success at their own pace; it's always encouraging, but never judging.

Here is how the game mechanics look and work in the YuLife app:

Levels, streaks and quests

You start out aiming to complete one mental or physical health challenge a day. Then, as you progress, game mechanics come into play to encourage continued engagement; for example, embarking on streaks and quests to keep you motivated and progressing forward.

Rewards

Another game mechanic employed for added motivation is rewards: for completing challenges, and for every mile you walk, or cycle, or minute you spend meditating, you earn YuCoin. This can be exchanged for vouchers to spend with big brands, or donated to charities or environmental projects.

Competition

You can compare your achievements with other employees on the shared leaderboard, and you can challenge each other to duels too.

Importantly, all this is purely opt-in for those who want to get involved. By default, your activity data is completely private and can only appear on a leaderboard if you enable it. So the emphasis is not on compulsion but fun and friendliness, to help build a spirit of cooperation within the organisation.

Why the YuLife app works

The YuLife app is currently rated 'Excellent' by 88% of people on Trustpilot. A typical review reads: "The Yulife app is amazing. Everyone in my team is loving the competitive element of building up our steps, and feeling very healthy at the same time."

The game elements of the app – awarding points, progressing through levels and winning rewards – are clearly popular. However, it's important to note that just making something more like a game doesn't necessarily mean people will want to engage with it. Especially when, as with the YuLife app, participation is entirely voluntary.

So how have we encouraged people to download it in the first place, let alone use it on a regular basis? In short, by focusing on ability and motivation.

The first of these, ability, is crucial. No experience, however game-like, is going to be fun if it's too difficult. So YuLife starts you off with achievable challenges. Few people will be scared off by a short walk, or a few minutes of meditation.

The motivation to keep doing so comes in many forms. Firstly, we all know exercise and mindfulness are good for us, so the app is to some extent pushing against an open door. And by engaging with the app, employees are taking part in small lifestyle changes that can lead to big improvements in health and wellbeing.

Secondly, force of habit is a powerful motivator. The app is structured carefully to build up daily habits, and integrate good mental and physical health into people's routines over time. Thirdly, those who opt in to leaderboards and duels are spurred on by a healthy sense of competition and the drive to engage in social activities. And fourthly, there's the lure of tangible rewards in the form of YuCoin – exchangeable with organisations from Amazon to Earthly, for a treat for yourself or the feel-good thrill of making the world a better place.

The YuLife app is reaching industry-leading engagement with employee benefits by giving employees an easily achievable way to improve their health and wellness. It uses game-like elements to make the experience fun. And it motivates them to use it regularly; by drawing on their competitive urges, their need for social interaction and underlying desire to feel good in body and mind.

Yugi the Giraffe

Yugi is our YuLife mascot. Like all giraffes they've got a big heart – in fact the biggest heart of all land animals.