The Earth Rangers App
The Earth Rangers App engages the next generation of conservationists in taking action for what they love, how they live, and where they play: The Earth Rangers App
The Earth Rangers mobile app was produced by the kids’ conservation organization, Earth Rangers, a charity dedicated to educating children and their families about biodiversity, while inspiring them to adopt sustainable behaviours, and empowering them to become directly involved in protecting animals and their habitats.
While the Earth Rangers organization had been consistently successful in signing up thousands of members annually, it recognized that many of them didn’t stay engaged for long. In no small part, because their web platform was difficult to navigate on mobile devices, especially phones. With web traffic from phones and tablets increasing significantly year over year, it was clear to the organization that if it was to succeed, the membership program needed to get mobile-friendly.
The goal with the app was to deepen engagement with Earth Rangers members by improving the functionality of the platform, adding new features, offering more compelling virtual rewards, and improving communications, all while meeting kids where they are – on mobile devices – leveraging technology to reinforce learning progress and enable real-world experiences.
Preceded by months of research, including online and in-person consultation with the Earth Rangers membership base, the development of the Earth Rangers App began in early 2019. Research methods included an online survey as well as in-person interviews with members and their parents.
An understanding that parents want a safe and enclosed environment for their kids to engage with Earth Rangers informed the app’s development from the outset. The app’s features and functionality were developed based on established gamification theory and child behavioural psychology to better engage children. Moving from being just one more site on the open web to a self-contained app also made the program more appealing to parents concerned that their children might be vulnerable online.
Version 1 of the app launched in English on January 9th, 2020 with features including a points-based levelling system that allowed members to choose how they engaged with the program. Referral codes allowed users to unlock bonus rewards while helping the marketing team identify the source of new member sign-ups. This kind of information helped ensure the platform felt immediately relevant to children, as content could be specially designed for specific provinces and individual postal codes.
Once on the platform, fun missions provided members with activities they could complete in the real world; A moderated commenting platform added a sense of social engagement and leaderboards showed players where they ranked and provided a personal goal to work towards.
Animal “adoptions,” which supported on-the-ground conservation efforts was an option and a Conservation Council allowed members to vote on future conservation projects.
However, the migration was not without its challenges.
While a mobile app was definitely needed if Earth Rangers was to remain relevant, encouraging the existing membership base to switch platforms was a huge challenge. Indeed, thousands of members were lost when the app launched and the old web version was no longer available. A number of communications tactics were employed to increase migration but ultimately the team switched its focus more to signing up new members than retaining previous ones.
Download size was also a major issue when the app first launched. The download was taking too long and potential young members were abandoning it before completion. Once installed the app took up too much storage space on devices, forcing users to decide between it and the many other forms of entertainment vying for their attention. An emergency update to the app just a few weeks after launch addressed the issue.
In November 2020, the French version of the app was launched with all up-to-date English app features. From then on, all new features were released simultaneously in English and French. This ensured nobody had to wait to enjoy and learn from new activities like Daily Trivia, which offered members three environmental trivia questions per day and a prize wheel spin for answering all three correctly.
Currently, the Earth Rangers team is developing an entirely new section of the app, Community Climate Challenges, for launch in November 2021. This will incorporate tactics from crowdfunding platforms to engage kids in taking collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The app has been a resounding success in increasing the length of engagement for members, which has risen from thirty-four days in 2019 to fifty-five days in 2020, a 62% increase. Indeed, the app has improved engagement metrics across the board and attracted the highest numbers of new members ever signed up, trends that have continued in 2021.
In a short space of time, the Earth Rangers app experienced significant success in the crowded field of children’s apps, and may well have the kind of positive impact of which few apps can boast.
An immersive digital experience, the Earth Rangers app is unique among children’s environmental programming, with a community of over 50,000 active users who are given the tools to guide their own experience and take real-world environmental action, providing a fun and safe way to work towards a cause that matters to them.