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How reward based apps can increase reach and user loyalty by empowering GEN Z

How reward based apps can increase reach and user loyalty by empowering GEN Z
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Gen Z is confronting unprecedented social and economic scenarios and reward based apps are best placed to help them in this journey.

From climate disasters and the advent of generative AI to major geopolitical shifts and rising inflation, Gen Z is coming to age in a time where planning for the future, or even just imagining it, requires more resilience and adaptability than ever before. In this context, reward based apps can support young users by providing tools that generate passive income or help tackle global problems with tangible, everyday actions. By offering opportunities for exchanging messages, playing and interacting with others, reward based apps can also become platforms for creating community and a sense of security and shared values within a shifting world.

With people’s expectations towards the ethics and competences of businesses ranking higher than their reliance on governments, brands are now in a unique position to make a positive difference and attract consumers by offering products and services that fill the gaps left by institutions. For example, reward based apps can focus their unique proposition on helping users support the causes they care about and they can also commit to ensuring real-world value when it comes to the prizes they offer.

Working with category leaders in the reward app space, Kurve conducted qualitative research to explore Gen Z’s perceptions around reward apps in the US market. We interviewed product users and owners and conducted extensive desk research to identify user habits and map out emerging behavioural trends within this young generation.

Sweatcoin logo

Make It Count:
Best Ways to Reward Gen Z


Our goal was to help brands understand how to retain users, increase loyalty and improve their offer and value proposition.

We found that in the midst of the cost of living crisis, Gen Zers are already creating new ways to earn and save money and that reward based apps often represent a viable option to facilitate these efforts.


Key insights


Gen Z looks for reward based apps that help earn and save money.

Apps should focus their value proposition on the reward and offer prizes that guarantee the largest possible range of spending choices.


Gen Z knows how to spot a fake: authenticity and transparency are vital.

Gen Z knows how to spot a fake: 59% of Gen Zers will stop buying from brands they don’t trust. Authenticity and transparency are vital when presenting and promoting a product.


Gen Z keeps returning to apps that are easy and straightforward to use.

Reward based apps should fit within Gen Z’s lifestyle and provide easy opportunities to save money and time. Sweatcoin rewards users just for walking and in 2022 it established itself as the fastest-growing fitness app in history.


Gen Z doesn’t want to be treated as a passive consumer.

Involving young users in shaping your product or allowing them to influence other brands by providing  feedback will spark their interest. This is a great opportunity for survey-based reward apps.


Gen Z wants to be engaged through motivation, competition and community.

Apps that gamify goal setting and reward daily activities are the most successful.


Gen Z prefers learning about new products through short form UGC and influencer marketing.

Leveraging the power of TikTok will reach this target demographic while reducing cost per install and achieving exponential growth.

Retaining users and improving the offer

Retaining users and improving the offer

Make It Worth It: Freedom & Real World Value

A fluctuating economy has turned Gen Zers into savvier, more thoughtful spenders. Recent TikTok trends such as the #100envelopechallenge, which gamifies money saving, and the rise of #deinfluencing, a movement that encourages people to buy less, are great indicators of what Gen Zers are looking for when it comes to their finances.

Our research has found that Gen Z enjoys reward based apps that offer an easy way to generate some extra income or an effective method to increase their savings. One respondent defined reward-based apps as the ‘new side hustle’.

The key for reward apps to appeal to Gen Z is a value proposition that focuses on the reward. The most appreciated prize is money, in the form of direct payments, cash back, discounts or gift cards that can be spent on a vast range of products and used ‘in the real world’.

App design

Young app users are looking to spend their extra cash not only on small indulgences, for example snacks or streaming platform subscriptions, but also on essential items such as groceries, kitchen appliances and even student loan repayments. The majority of respondents stressed that they want to be able to use rewards for something that they ‘already need’ or that they ‘were going to purchase anyways’. Offering prizes that allow freedom of spending can directly improve an app’s growth and retention.

Keep It Real: Authenticity & Transparency

Our research validated ongoing behavioural trends that have seen brands being called out on their performative marketing, think about greenwashing and rainbow washing. Gen Z knows how to spot a fake: honesty and transparency are vital when presenting and promoting a product.

Some of the signs that our respondents deemed as red flags for lack of authenticity included apps with ‘too many ads’ and prizes that seem to benefit more an app’s partnering businesses rather than the user (for example discount rewards that can only be spent with selected brands).

For Gen Zers, an app’s user interface and design are also aspects that can make it or break it: features that don’t work seamlessly or an overall look and feel that is not curated enough can lower brand appeal and even be a reason for questioning its credibility as ‘legit’ and ‘not scammy’.

App design

Privacy was also mentioned amongst our respondents’ concerns: the more transparency an app can offer in terms of how data is being used, the higher level of trust it will generate.

Make It Easy: 
Clarity & Time Saving

When it comes to app loyalty, our respondents mentioned ease and straightforwardness as the biggest motivators to keep returning to the app.

While they clearly expressed that ‘cash is king’, they also indicated that apps that allow them to save time and earn rewards for activities that are already part of their lifestyle, such as walking or shopping with their favourite brands, are also popular.

Design by Unbanx

Fitness app Sweatcoin rewards users just for walking and in 2022 it established itself as the fastest-growing fitness app in history.


Pass the Mic: Self-Expression & Collaboration

Our research has re-confirmed that Gen Z is vocal and unafraid to express their views and demands. Gen Zers don’t want to be treated as passive consumers, they want to have the chance to veto or help shape products and services. While ‘set it and forget it’ apps that automatically work in the background were among the favourites, survey based platforms that require more effort and creativity followed suit. Those who enjoy using them listed the opportunity of influencing the development of a product or idea among the main reasons that keep them hooked.

Reward apps

Involving Gen Z in developing your product or allowing them to influence other brands by providing  feedback will spark their interest. This is a great opportunity for survey-based reward apps. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that when apps require some active participation, they are perceived as ‘legitimate work’ for which Gen Z is expecting to gain ‘legitimate and fair rewards’.

The Creator Generation: 
Gen Z Communicates Visually

75% of Gen Z uses a video & photo editing tool at least once a month. Reward based apps can engage with young users by offering photo editing, mood-boarding or short video making opportunities.


Keep It Interesting: 
Motivation, Competition & Community

Our research indicated that Gen Zers want to be engaged by reward apps through competition and motivation.

Respondents expressed that they enjoy accumulating rewards or points and watching them grow. This provides a sense of accomplishment and expectation that compels them to continue using the app. 

Design by Zack MacTavish

Reward apps are also seen as a source of extra motivation when it comes to completing daily chores such as shopping for groceries, keeping healthy or working out. Gen Zers look to make these activities exciting by challenging themselves, competing with friends or creating community around shared goals.


Reaching a Gen Z Audience

So what’s the best channel to reach a Gen Z audience and effectively communicate the perks and benefits of your app?

Through the experience of working with clients in the reward app space, Kurve has found that leveraging TikTok and user generated content is the secret ingredient to unlock growth. 57% of Gen Zers prefer to learn about new products by watching short-form videos and 43% discover them through influencer marketing.

Keep It Moving: Videos Are Gen Z’s Preferred Way to Connect, Learn & Shop

These were the most popular social media among our respondents:

Preferred ways to connect
TikTok screen

TikTok can help your business reach your target demographic by creating viral loops and achieve exponential growth while reducing cost per installation.

Engaging creators that share your brand values can also help you connect with Gen Z by letting them express their honest opinions on your app and generate a buzz within their communities.

Strategic App Growth Experts

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