Gamification, the secret to user engagement in mobile banking

Today’s banking sector is undergoing great transformations and user engagement is the new big challenge. In this article, we will explore the experience design behind new mobile banking services such as Revolut and how gamification can take user engagement in mobile banking to the next level.

Meet Matthew. Matthew is 26 years old, lives in London, and works as an editor for an online magazine. Matthew is a “digital native”: he grew up with mobile technologies. Because of that, he is used to high levels of personalisation and responsiveness in the services he uses. Gamified applications are part of his daily life. On top of that, Matthew is a “digital nomad”: he works from home and loves to travel around the world, both for work and leisure. He is looking for an efficient mobile banking service for international spending. 

But Matthew doesn’t like the digital and mobile offerings of traditional banks. Their apps are cumbersome, their services non intuitive and plain. Unfortunately for those banks, new and nimble challengers (digibanks, neobanks, fintechs etc.) are entering the mobile banking market at a record speed. These new companies, with user experience on their side, appear to have the advantage.

Indeed, we have now entered an “experience economy,” as coined by Joseph Pine II. The content of the service is now a baseline rather than a competitive factor. Guaranteeing user engagement in mobile banking is not only about the service. It’s about the experience around it, and how it resonates with the user. 

To appeal to users such as Matthew, traditional banks have to learn from their new competitors. They can create engaging mobile banking experiences through  gamification. They need to move fast  if they are to survive.


“Revolut is beating the banks at their own game”

The Guardian


In the European market, one of the most prominent competitors to traditional banks is the British Fintech company Revolut. Created in 2015, the mobile banking service has surpassed 4.5 million users and its net worth is valued at $1.7 billion. So, what are the secrets of Revolut’s success? How does a company create sustainable user engagement in mobile banking? To answer these questions, let’s analyse the user experience of Revolut through the lens of gamification, thanks to the Octalysis Framework.


An appealing promise

Matthew heard about Revolut from a colleague who uses it frequently during their travels. He loved what he heard from him. First of all, Revolut removes hidden fees for international payments and offers interbank currency rates to its users. Moreover, creating a Revolut account is completely effortless (Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment). It only takes 60 seconds, and all Matthew needs is a smartphone and his ID. Finally, Revolut’s Standard plan is completely free. It is thus a pretty non-committal way to try out the service (low Core Drive 8 Loss and Avoidance). Matthew decides to take it for a spin.


Getting on board

Within a few seconds, Matthew’s account is set-up. He can immediately start using his first “virtual card” for online purchases. He decides to also get a physical card, in a few clicks, for a one-time fee of 5£. After a few days, the card arrives at Matthew’s place. It comes in a very surprising and entertaining packaging (Core Drive 7 Unpredictability and Curiosity).

With his brand-new card in hand, Matthew personalises his PIN code at the closest ATM and makes his first purchase at a nearby coffee shop. *Ding*! Matthew just got a push notification “Paid 3,95£ at Roasted Bean”. This relates to the gamification concept of dynamic feedback and the first heuristic of Nielson: Visibility of system status. It makes users feel informed and in control of what is happening (which is particularly important when we’re talking money).


Keeping track

From the Revolut app, Matthew can keep track of his spending in real time and access a chart of his balance as well as a list of all his operations. These operations are automatically sorted by the app into categories of spending (entertainment, groceries…). In the “Analytics” section, Matthew can track and manage his monthly spending per category, merchant or country. He can also set budget limits for specific categories of spending (Core Drive 4 Ownership and Possession). Smooth and personalised dashboards are a must-have for user engagement in mobile banking services.


Revolut gamification for user engagement in mobile banking
Revolut’s Account and Analytics tabs

Streamlining everyday life

Because he travels in Europe a lot, Matthew decided to open an additional account in euros (within the same bank account). This allows him to exchange currencies in anticipation of his travels. Revolut lets him make the best deals by letting him set alerts for certain exchange rates. Even better, Matthew can set auto-exchanges: he just sets his target exchange rate and the amount of money to exchange. Revolut will automatically run the operation whenever the rates hit his target (Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment).

In addition to tracking his spending and planning his transfers, Matthew uses Revolut to help him save money for his next thrills. For any project he has in mind, he can set up a vault with a savings objective as well as a deadline. What’s the use of a savings account that delivers no interest rate? you ask. Well, the interesting feature here is not the vault itself but the “spare change” option that goes with it. When this option is activated, all of Matthew’s transactions are rounded-up and the spare change goes to his vault. This makes saving money effortless and painless (Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment).

Finally, Matthew can make a variety of changes to his plan in a simple click. He can change his security settings, freeze and unfreeze any of his cards, and activate Revolut’s pay-per-day device or travel insurance. All modifications are valid instantly, without the need to go through any lengthy process (Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment).


Making it social

Matthew can use Revolut to make and receive quick payments to and from other Revolut users. He can also split bills or create shared saving vaults with friends (Core Drive 5 Social Influence and Relatedness), making shared expenses much easier (Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment). These features create what we call a “Network Effect”: the more people use Revolut, the more valuable the service becomes to other users. This incentivises users to endorse Revolut in their social circles. 

Another way to encourage endorsement is through a gamification feature we call “Social Treasures”: Matthew doesn’t get direct rewards for inviting his friends to join Revolut. Instead, his friends are the ones who benefit: they get a physical card for free if they sign up through Matthew’s link. That way, when Matthew asks his friends to join Revolut, he is not asking them for a favour: he is offering them a gift!


Taking it to the next level

The example of Revolut shows  that user engagement in mobile banking is not only dependent on providing greater value than the competition. It relies on providing a smooth, intrinsically motivating user experience (see our article on How to get true Customer Loyalty: 

Revolut is doing a good job at making their users’ life easy and cost-efficient (Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment). The experience is smooth. The service is cheap and flexible. That’s much more than what most traditional banks can offer.

However, if they would incorporate true gamification, much more could be done to create an engaging and enjoyable mobile banking experience. They could start to provide a sense of non-linear progress throughout the user journey; lay out out grounds for strategizing; allow veteran users to access special features and powers; provide recommendations based on observed user behaviour; create story-telling around how Revolut enables digital nomads to live their lifestyle to the fullest… 

Of course, creating an engaging user experience is not that simple. It’s all about balance and fine-crafting an array of features around a set of Desired Actions. For this purpose, the Octalysis Group has developed the 5-step Octalysis Gamification Implementation Process. This process has been leading our clients to high ROIs in their digital engagement projects.


If you want to learn more about the Octalysis Group and how gamification can help you build strong user engagement in mobile banking, contact us.

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