Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

Hooked - Habit Forming ProductsHow do you get consumers hooked on your product?

Creating consumer habits drives higher customer lifetime value, allows for flexibility for companies to increase prices, and supercharges growth.

Nir Eyal, writer for TechCrunch, Forbes, Psychology Today, recently authored the book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

Hook is an experience design to connect the user’s problem to your solution with enough frequency to form a habit.

Many of Silicon Valley’s most successful and innovative companies like Facebook have Hook embedded into their products, and the emerging wave of tech superstars, like Meerkat, keep this model in mind during their product development.

Here is a recap of his 4 Part Framework straight from the source. How can you use his framework in your own product development?

  1. Trigger: How does the loop initiate? In the beginning this may be through external triggers (such as an email, notification, icon badge, etc) but through successive loops the user eventually creates internal triggers where a particular thought or emotion will send them back to your product. Usually a person will seek a solution to a negative emotion (pain point) like fatigue, loss, powerlessness, boredom.
    • What is your customer’s internal trigger? What is their itch?
  2. Action: Once the user is aware they need to use your product (through the trigger), what is the simplest action they can perform to get some kind of reward? For example, a Facebook “Like”.
    • BJ Fogg’s equation B= motivation + ability + trigger
    • The 6 factors to increase motivation: Seek Pleasure, Hope, Acceptance, Reduce Fear, Pain, Rejection
    • The 6 factors to increase ability: Time, Money, Physical Effort, Brain Cycles, Social Deviance, Non-routine
  3. Variable reward: How are they rewarded for this behavior? This could be social validation (e.g. “my friends approve!”), collection of material resources (e.g. add a photo to a collection) or personal gratification (e.g. inbox zero). The “variable” part is important – rewards should not always be predictable, encouraging users to repeat the cycle.
    • The unknown is fascinating
    • 3 Types of Reward: Tribe (Social rewards), Hunt (Search for sources), Self (Self-achievement, mastery)
  1. Investment: Finally, the user needs to put something back in to increase the chance of repeating the loop. This could be content (e.g. a book in your Kindle), user entered data (e.g. profile information or linked accounts), reputation (e.g. something to gain a 5 star seller review), or a learned skill (e.g. I’m now really good at this software program). The investment also sets up the trigger to for the next cycle of the loop.

Eyal also cautions the reader in their product development, emphasizing the difference between habit and addiction.  Habit is an impulse behavior done with little or no conscious thought. Addiction is something you want to stop doing but can’t.

As psychology becomes increasingly important in the tech world, we’ve seen many psychologists and those with behavioral economics backgrounds being tapped by Silicon Valley companies to gain deeper insights into the human mind.

However, sometimes businesses exploit the human psyche with tactics to take advantage of how we naturally think and respond as humans. Employing such manipulative tactics will only work so far, as those companies will find that eventually users will grow tired and migrate to more friendly, ethical competitors.

In our efforts to build products that people love and can’t put down, how can we create honestly and kindly, in a way that encourages behaviors that benefit the user?

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