I Read It So You Don’t Have To: The third of a series where I share my notes from readings in business, leadership, careers and self-help.

“As companies combine their increased connectivity to consumers, with the ability to collect, mine, and process consumer data at faster speeds, we are faced with a future where everything becomes potentially more habit forming”. — Nir Eyal

There are 3 criteria for a Hook Cycle:

  1. The product reaches their ultimate goal of unprompted user engagement.
  2. The product brings back users repeatedly.
  3. The product does not depend on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.

Users who continuously find value in a product are more likely to tell their friends about it. Hooked users are brand evangelists.

Why Habits Are Important:

“A habit is when not doing an action causes a bit of pain”.- Nir Eyal

  • User habits are a competitive advantage, “products that change customer routines are less susceptible to attacks from other companies”.
  • Fostering consumer habits drives higher Customer Life Time Value.

Habit design has rules that define and explain why certain products change lives. It’s rare habit-forming businesses have a wildly successful innovation.

How to determine a product’s habit-forming potential:

  1. Frequency- how often the behavior occurs.
  2. Perceived utility- how useful and rewarding the behavior is in the user’s mind vs. alternative solutions.

Question to think about: “What habits does your business model require?”

Hook Model

1. Triggers- spark plug in the engine (eg. email, an app icon)

External Triggers communicates the next action a user should take; it’s explicit.

  • Paid triggers- habit-forming companies do not rely on paid triggers for long. Companies use paid triggers to acquire new users and leverage other triggers to bring them back.
  • Earned triggers- requires investment in the form of time spent on public and media relationships.
  • Relationship triggers- creates viral hyper-growth but must build an engaged user base for sustained growth.
  • Owned triggers- consistently shows up in daily life and it is up to the user to opt-in to allowing the triggers.

Internal Triggers are when a product becomes tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a preexisting routine. It manifests automatically in your mind.

Emotion Cued Behaviors

  • Boredom > seek excitement (eg. reading dramatic news headlines)
  • Stressed > seek serenity (eg. scrolling through Pinterest)
  • Lonely > seek instant social connections (eg. Facebook)

How do you gain a deeper understanding of how users feel? (Hint: Surveys don’t cut it.)

  • Learn the drivers behind successful habit-forming products.
  • People’s declared preferences are different from their revealed preferences.
  • Develop user narratives, usability studies and empathy maps.
  • Try asking the question “Why?” as many times as it takes to get an emotion.

The internet is “a giant machine designed to give people what they want… We often think the Internet enables you to do new things…But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done”.- Evan Williams

2. Action- a behavior done in anticipation of a reward.

Doing must be easier than thinking.

Fogg Behavior Model- a given behavior will occur when a (1) motivation, (2) an ability, and (3) a trigger are present at the same time and in sufficient degrees. If any component is missing, an action will not occur from a user.

Motivation- 3 basic levers of human behavior to increase/decrease a person’s motivation.

Ability- any product that significantly reduces the steps to complete a task will enjoy a high adoption rate.

Influencers of a task’s difficulty: Time, Money, Physical Effort, & Brain Cycles

3. Reward- create a craving and reward users by solving a problem. To hold our attention, products must have an ongoing degree of novelty

3 Reward Types

  • The tribe- social rewards; make us feel accepted, attractive, important and included.
  • The hunt- the need to acquire physical objects (eg. cash and information).
  • The self- driven to conquer obstacles even if just for the satisfaction of doing so, to gain a sense of competency.

“Companies that successfully change behaviors present users with an implicit choice between their old way of doing things and a new, more convenient way to fulfill existing needs”. — Nir Eyal

4. Invest- the user needs to put something of value into the system. It increases the odds the user will make another pass through the Hook Cycle.

The Escalation of Commitment- the more users invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it.

  • Eg. *IKEA IS A GENIUS*- by having customers assemble their merchandise, they adopt an irrational love of the furniture they built.

Storing Value- collection of memories and experiences together become more valuable over time and makes the service harder to leave as the investment in the site grows. (Eg. Facebook and sharing updates)

Learning- investing time and effort into learning to use a product is a form of investment. The service becomes easier and users are less likely to switch to a competing product.

5 Fundamental Questions

  1. What do users really want? What pain is your product relieving? (internal trigger)
  2. What brings users to your service? (external trigger)
  3. What is the simplest action users take in anticipation of reward, and how can you simplify your product to make this action easier? (action)
  4. Are users fulfilled by the reward yet left wanting more? (variable reward)
  5. What work do users invest in your product? (investment)

Morality of Manipulation- to hook or not to hook?

Want to read Hooked yourself? Buy it here.

(P.S. You should! You will never think about a product the same again)

Consumer Product Manager at HomeAdvisor. Former startup founder, management consultant, and int’l development fellow. Lived, worked and studied on 4 continents.

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