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Lightbox Loves: It's a Wrap

Whatever your app of choice, using social media comes with a few inevitabilities. There’s the inescapable, year-round stream of holiday photos to make your mind wander from your workplace. There’s the bi-annual bickering about whether it’s football or soccer. And then, every December, most timelines receive an influx of neatly designed lists.

At its core, Spotify Wrapped is a simple concept: users receive a personalised look back at their most played songs and artists from the past year (in reality, January to October, bad news for Slade and Wizzard) alongside a playlist of their top music in that period. Throw in a sprinkling of podcast insights and a generated ‘listener personality’, and it’s a wrap.

Since launching in 2016, Spotify Wrapped has captivated millions of users and revolutionised how companies utilise data. Search interest in the event has grown in all but one of the past five years (Google Trends), leading competitors to launch their own offerings, with Apple’s Replay and YouTube’s Recap looking strikingly similar to Wrapped this year.

This popularity was driven by under-34s, who make up more than half of Spotify customers. the7stars’ AtoGenZ panel found that one-third of 16-34s have posted about their Wrapped (or an alternative) on social media this month. Since 2019, when Spotify first delivered Wrapped in a story-like format, its shareability has grown, with UK social mentions up 20% year-on-year (Brandwatch). And other formats, including the recently launched InstaFest, have offered users the chance to share their listening habits in creative and engaging formats, all of which effectively translates into thousands of hours of free ad time for Spotify, delivered directly by the people with the most impactful voice: its audience.

Spotify Wrapped’s consistent growth is part of a wider trend towards gamifying user experiences. From Duolingo to Caffè Nero, brands have added app elements that go beyond functionality. Such features tap into users’ emotional needs and drive them to return to view their progress. While each of these examples rely heavily on the harvesting of customer data, there is a fine line between what users will view as fun and what may be seen as intrusive. Sainsbury’s Year in Review – which invited Nectar shoppers to look back on their purchase habits – was broadly well received, but some criticised it as “creepy” and highlighted possible distress. Before any investment in immersive app experiences, brands must consider the sensitivity of their products and be explicit about the choices users have with their data.

Despite these drawbacks, gamified user experiences are here to stay, and the days of single-use apps appear few. For at least another few days, Spotify Wrapped will remain king of the Instagram story – but with opportunities for innovation across all categories, it may not be long before another brand takes the reigns.