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Duolingo's gamified success: A language learning triumph

Duolingo's language app soars with gamification, driving high user retention and rapid growth to 19M daily active users by 2023, leaving competitors behind. Read the blog to discover how you can borrow Duolingo’s money making secrets to help your app revenue grow as well.

Duolingo's gamified success: A language learning triumph

Duolingo's triumph in the language learning app arena can be attributed to its adept gamification strategy, fostering high user retention and rapid growth. Boasting 19M users in August 2023, the app's ascendancy has outpaced rivals, as outlined by Sensor Tower's "Duolingo: Monetizing Through Product Stickiness" report. Through features like the "streak" and social progress tracking, the app engenders consistent engagement. An evolution in early 2022, marked by gamification additions and interface enhancements, propelled power user representation from 20% to over 30%, significantly curbing churn to 37% from 47% in 2020. App Overlap analysis highlights Duolingo's distinct user loyalty, where its users are deeply committed while other language app users are more likely to engage with Duolingo. Duolingo's innovative retention strategy has placed it well beyond its competition, exemplifying how an app can rejuvenate and achieve remarkable success even after a decade on the scene.

Key Takeaways:

  • Duolingo's success is driven by gamification features like the "streak" feature, which incentivizes daily app usage, resulting in a rise in power users and reduced churn rates.

  • Duolingo sets itself apart by having users who are committed to the app and less likely to use other language learning apps, while users of other apps are more likely to also use Duolingo.

  • Despite being a decade-old app, Duolingo's recent growth and success are highlighted by its ability to reinvent itself, evident in changes made in 2022 and beyond that significantly reduced user churn and improved engagement.

Duolingo’s success in the language learning app sphere has been a triumph of high retention and a rapidly growing user base, driven by the careful addition and tuning of gamification features. With 19M daily active users as of August 2023, the app’s stratospheric rise has left its competitors behind, as revealed in the new Duolingo: Monetizing Through Product Stickiness report from Sensor Tower.  

With the app’s “streak” feature, users are incentivized to open the app every day and study, and combined with regularly updated leaderboards and the ability to see friends’ progress in studying their own languages, this has driven the app to new heights of user retention. Looking at “power users”, defined as those who open the app more than 15 days a month, we see a sudden rise in early 2022 as the app began to implement a number of gamification mechanics, including an overhaul of the interface and broad structure of the learning tracks. Prior to this change, power users made up around 20% of all users. Following it, however, the power user share jumps to over 30%. As this occurred, the share of users that churned, defined as those who opened the app on a given month, then failed to do so the following month, declined considerably, from around 47% in mid 2020 to around 37% in early 2023. For an app that released in November of 2012, this is a remarkable achievement.


Using Sensor Tower’s App Overlap, we see that, unlike other language learning apps, users of Duolingo are unusually committed to the app. Duolingo users are very unlikely to use other language apps, however, users of other language apps are highly likely to also use Duolingo. For example, in Q1 2023, the average user of the Babbel app was more than 15% more likely than the average app user to also Duolingo. Users of Duolingo, however, use a wide variety of apps, but are no more likely to use the other language apps than any mobile app user selected at random. 

Duolingo has separated from the pack in recent years as it has embraced new approaches to retaining users. The growth trajectory that the app has achieved is nothing short of remarkable and serves as an example of how an app, even 10 years into its life, can reinvent itself and achieve stratospheric levels of success. 

If you're interested in exploring how Duolingo's strategic strategy can enhance your advertising strategies, schedule a personalized demo with our experts to gain a comprehensive understanding of how Sensor Tower's Market Intelligence can provide valuable insights for you.

For a deeper dive into the data and analysis presented in this post, read the full report.

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Marco Scacchi

Written by: Marco Scacchi, Mobile Insights Analyst, EMEA

Date: August 2023