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How to make products habit-forming

From Nir Eyal’s talk at PARC 4/10/14
 
 
How to Create Habit-Forming Products
 

First determine is the product an aspirin (pain-killer) or a vitamin? In other words, does it address burning need and have quantifiable market or is it a vitamin? i.e. is it  nice to have. Habit-forming products go from being a vitamin to becoming a pain-killer. We can think of habit-forming products as causing a physical response to a psychological stimulus. There is a difference between a habit and an addiction:

  • Habit: Behavior done with little or no conscious thought
  • Addiction: Persistent compulsive dependence on an activity
Two things are required to form a habit:
  • Frequency (must be used daily or more often)
  • Attitude Change (changing people’s perceptions of a key behavior)
 
Habits are good for business, because:
  • They generate higher Customer LifeTime Value (CLTV)
  • Provide greater pricing flexibility
  • Supercharge growth
  • Enable not just virality but create a Short Viral Cycle Time (SVCT)
  • Increase defensibility (most habit-forming products are inherently sticky.)
 
If your business model requires unprompted user engagement, you require a Design Pattern to generate a desired habit amongst your users which can then be used to form better product hypotheses. The Lean StartUp model has three phases of product design, which can be used to identify desired habits in the target audience. These are: Build, Measure, Learn. Since the hardest of these is the a measurement phase we can useExperience Design during this phase in order to create a “Hook” for a desired behavior.
 
What is A Hook? A Hook is composed of four components that reinforce each other over subsequent iterations. These are:
 
 
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Trigger: Triggers build a habit like the successive layers of a pearl. Triggers may be either external or internal. External triggers have the information within the trigger as to the next action. Internal triggers have the information to perform the next action though an association with the users mind (emotion.) Negative emotions are powerful triggers for the next action (e.g. boredom, loneliness, etc.) Find a user’s internal trigger to make a product habit-forming.
 
Action: The simplest behavior done in anticipation of a reward. (E.g. searching, scrolling, playing, etc.) 
 
Variable Rewards: When we desire something (or someone) our nucleus accumbens (n.a.) gets stimulated (Olde & Miller). The desire for greater pleasure is the “itch” we seek to “scratch”. Variable or unknown rewards stimulate the n.a. Rewards can be rewards of the tribe (come from other people and are variable.) rewards of the hunt are searches for e.g. gambling, variable information,  (scrolling feeds); rewards of the self (search for self-achievement). Searches are typically for mastery, competency,  consistency and completion. The reward must match the user’s internal trigger. Build variable rewards that scratch the user’s itch, but leave them wanting more. 
 
Investment: Stimulating the user to make small amounts of work in anticipation of future rewards is a strong motivator to continue the habit. (Another “turn” in the hook.) Investments are a form of stored value: improving the user’s interaction with the product with each successive use.
 
 
The Fogg Behavioral Model describes the adoption of a new Behavior (B) in terms of three variables that are required in order to adopt it: Motivation (m), Ability (a) and Trigger (t):
 
B = m + a + t
 
m = motivation: the energy for action. Six major motivators for humans are: pleasure, pain, hope, fear, acceptance, rejection. 
 
a = ability: the capacity do perform a particular action. Six factors typically govern action: time, money, physical effort, cognitive load, social deviance,  non-routine
 
t = trigger: External triggers have the information within the trigger as to the next action. Internal triggers have the information to perform the next action though an association in the users mind (usually a strong emotion that is associated with that trigger.) Negative emotions are powerful triggers for the next action (e.g. boredom, loneliness.) Find a user’s internal trigger to make a product habit-forming.
 
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