Product Design Methodology|How to Design User Incentive System


What is the user incentive system?

In product operation, for the purpose of maintaining the overall healthy development of user scale and activeness, and mobilizing user enthusiasm and continuous activity as the goal, design a set of planable, executable, scalable, and reusable products from the product and operational level. A collection of hierarchical means.

Well, this is my own definition, which may be inaccurate, but anyway, look at it first, because the next discussion will focus on it.

Why establish an incentive system

If we search for “incentive” in Baidu, the definition of “incentive” in Baidu Baike is:

Encouragement refers to the psychological process of continuously stimulating people’s motivation and inner power, keeping their mental process in an exciting state, and encouraging people to take action toward the desired goal.

So the question is, why should people’s mental processes remain in a state and prompt them to take action for the desired goal?

In the field of human resource management, motivation is for employees to create more value, and more value is for the healthy development of the enterprise.

American management scholars Berelson and Steiner believe: “All the conditions, hopes, desires, and motivations that the heart must strive for constitute an incentive for people. It is an inner state of human activity.”

Therefore, year-end awards are incentives, performance reaching standards or even exceeding expectations is incentives, and even the recognition of bosses, colleagues, and family members are incentives.

At the level of Internet products, the incentive for users is to allow users to stay more stable, but also to make positive contributions to the product, so that the product develops better and more steadily, and may even rise to users. The stability of the structure and the healthy level of the entire user ecology, of course, the latter is too far away and cannot be achieved by one person or department, so we will not expand it yet.

Therefore, if you are a product manager of an Internet company or an operator of an Internet product, you must not get around the “user incentive” issue.

Reading this, some readers may say that I am a product manager and I am an operation, but I never seem to have done user incentives?

If you would say that, you have not yet understood what motivation is.

You are an operator, you design an activity, the activity conditions that users need to meet are the user behaviors you expect, and the reason why users are more proactive in doing the behaviors you need, is it because you set up a behavior that they want Want prizes?

You are a product, and you have designed a product, but the natural traffic is not enough to see, or the user may not know what to do when the user comes, will you consider using some methods to import traffic, and will you do user guidance to guide users to complete Expected experience, during the whole process, will you continue to encourage users?

If your answer is yes, then congratulations, you still did actions related to “motivation”.

Which products need it

Let me briefly list a few points:

1. Products that have a growth system in themselves.

Such a product itself has a growth system. If you do not have a matching incentive system, then the process will be problematic, and a complete product cannot be formed.

2. Products that need to break through the bottleneck of existing users.

You have developed to a certain level of users (ten thousand, one hundred thousand), you need to quickly break through the bottleneck, let the user scale quickly expand, while ensuring the health of the user ecology and the stability of the user structure, without an incentive system, problems may occur , Such as unable to pull users into, or unable to maintain structural stability.

3. Need to pull active products.

The user level may be higher than that described in the second point, but the overall user activity is low, and incentives are needed to drive activity. Gold coin and product check-in are all this logic.

4. Need assistance to complete products that cross the gap.

In your product, there are some functions that are core, but users lack motivation to experience; in your business, there are some behaviors that are core, but users lack motivation to do it. Give users a goal and let them use behavior. Span.

5. Community type products.

Products that require users to perform a large number of behaviors and products that require users to provide UGC require incentives.

So, in fact, any product can have a user incentive system, hahaha.

When to establish the system

The term “system” is very big. In the early stage of the product, there is no need to establish a system at all. You only need to use individual function points, or even operation points, to conduct incentive tests.

While testing, understand the data while forming a plan. Finally, you will slowly obtain a complete structure, and then start to talk about incentive productization and form a system.

Of course, when we talk about the “incentive system”, in many people’s eyes, it is the level + points. This concept is wrong. Next, I will tell you why.

How many ways to motivate

“Encouragement” is a research point in management, psychology, behavior, and sociology, and there are many theories about “incentive”.

The most commonly mentioned is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. This pyramid actually belongs to the category of content-based incentive theory, and the pyramid belongs to the category of content-based incentive theory, as well as Fredrick Herzberg’s two-factor theory ( Not all needs are met to motivate people’s enthusiasm. Only when those needs known as motivating factors are met, can people’s enthusiasm be brought into full play.), David C. McClelland’s theory of achievement needs (focusing on senior management) Theory of Management).

The content-based motivational theory says “whatever people need, give them what they need, so as to motivate them to achieve their goals.”

In addition to this type, there are other types, such as:

  • The process-based motivation theory mainly includes Froome’s “expectation theory”, House’s “motivation power theory”, Locke’s “target motivation theory” and Adams’s “fairness theory”, etc. If the content-based research is the motivation level , Then the process-based study is the process from motivation to action.
  • Behavioral consequences theory mainly includes Skinner’s “reinforcement theory” and Hyde’s “attribution theory”. It studies the subsequent incentives after behavior occurs.
  • Comprehensive incentive theory. Not to mention this, it’s a hodgepodge.

So, what do you want to say after talking about so many inexplicable theories?

In fact, just one sentence (don’t blame Brother Liang for acting hard, you know, you can only look awesome when you make up the number of words):

Incentive systems are diverse. You can derive from goals or motivations, but no matter where you derive from, the ultimate goal is to motivate behavior.

OK, then, what are the common incentive systems?


Level is a very common incentive method. There are monster upgrades in the game. QQ, Taobao, Alipay, and Thunder all have levels. Early BBS has levels. Levels are usually linked to the rights and powers of users.

Do you remember the on-hook upgrade of QQ? Have you competed with your friends for your level, did you want the moon when there is no moon, and the sun when there is no sun?

The level in BBS is more important, because a high level means that you can see more content, and even get the right to download attachments, and so on.


When it comes to levels, points must be mentioned.

Points and grades can be separated, and of course they can be combined. Under normal circumstances, if points are an incentive measure rather than a loyalty program, the division of points and grades will be more obvious.

There are many products with points. Baidu knows that points are available in various BBSs and communities. Points can be exchanged for gifts, virtual items, and many things can be done. This depends on how the designer designs.


Medals are sometimes tasteless, and sometimes they are sharp tools. Foursquare used to rely on medals to promote user activity and sign-in.

But in China, the medal is usually weakened. How many people know and experience the medal of QQ? What about Weibo?

It is still a BBS, and there are still medals. The medals are more often an identity, and identity is an identity used to divide the cognition between users. The role of this identity depends on how honorable the identity is in the product.

The reason why the medal is sometimes tasteless is that the acquisition of the medal is not so obvious to the user’s psychological stimulation, especially for products with grades, the medal is often not as direct and attractive as the grade.


When playing some games, ranking is an important stimulus, especially when ranking will bring additional benefits.

In a company, the job number is the ranking. When you joined the company, if it is ranked in the top ten in a large company, it usually means a higher level and better income.

In the product, there are many kinds of rankings. You can play it any way you want. The key is, what is behind the ranking, which inspires people’s vanity, or is linked to benefits, product managers need to plan and measure well.


“Your boot time is 1 second this time, beating 99% of users across the country.” If you are familiar with this sentence, I believe you are a loyal user of 360.

Competition and ranking are very similar. What motivates is the comparison mentality of people. Ranking is explicit, while competition is implicit. Everyone wants to win. Then who can win is set by the rules.

360 uses boot time and games use rankings. What do you use to stimulate competition?


The achievement system is a packaged system.

There are many ways to play achievements.

If you don’t know about achievements, I think you can really play “World of Warcraft” or some games with achievement designs in the App Store.

Achievement is sometimes combined with medals and sometimes combined with competition. It can be either explicit or implicit.

You can either find a way to show it to others, or just make yourself cool.

Points to note

Don’t think that the incentive system looks like you are in touch every day, just think it is easy to do.

It is better to pour cold water on a few points of attention:

1. Be simple, not complicated.

Sometimes product managers and operators will fall into their own traps because they consider risk control too comprehensively, because the expression of the copywriting is not grounded, which will lead to misunderstanding and incomprehension of users, an incentive point, a function point, or even a product Similarly, if you can’t say clearly in one sentence, there may be a problem.

2. Be flexible and not rigid.

The incentive system should be an extensible system. The upper limit should not be considered at the beginning of the design. The lower limit should be considered at the product design level. When doing product design, communicate more with data and development students and try to be a flexible one. The structure can be expanded and removed at will in the later stage.

3. To be effective, not to pile up.

More incentives are not the better. For users with different life cycles and behaviors, the effect of incentives should be pursued, rather than the diversification of incentive measures. At first glance, this point conflicts with the above point, but it does not. The flexible emphasis is on pluggability, while the effective emphasis is on effect. In addition, one effective incentive measure is required, and no ten invalid incentive measures are required.

4. It is a question mark, not a full stop.

The user’s use viscosity of the product is determined by the product’s ability to meet demand. Please keep this sentence in mind. If your product is in place to control and solve the pain points, users will not be able to do without you. The existence of the incentive system must be questioned.

5. Abide by the original intention.

Any incentive should not be just a means to pursue KPIs.

Please remember this sentence.

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