Creating products that would keep users interested for the longest time is probably the most difficult task entrepreneurs have to face, and unfortunately, it is not just a one time task. It is a concern that will always be there in the product’s lifetime, because ultimately, that probably determines the success of the product.
So the big question is, “How shall I get my users hooked?”
We all look at fortune 500 tech companies and think , “Wow!, how in the world do the manage to stay on top for years on end, what is their secret to global domination?” After research here and there, I realized it may be as simple as creating products that become habits, but then again, probably not so simple. What does that mean you may wonder.
Think about any social media app. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. In a day, how often are any of these apps opened? First thing in the morning after turning off your alarm, when stuck in traffic, while waiting in line, while in a boring class or meeting, literally any time and all the time, and the thing is, we don’t need a notification to remind us to check Twitter or open Instagram. This process of scrolling through endless feeds in our timelines has become so ingrained in our daily lives that if it was taken away, we would feel like something is missing.
The Hook Model.
Nir Eyal’s hook model describes what is needed to create a product forms a habit.
I’ll use my all time favorite app to explain how each step works.
The first step is what prompts the user to take action and it comes in two types. External and Internal triggers. An external trigger tells the user what to do next by placing the information within their environment. For instance, the huge login or signup forms on pinterest. This information is extremely clear on what I should do to either create an account or login to an already existing one. Or the pinterest app icon that’s on my phone screen.
Internal triggers however, work a little bit differently. We can’t see, touch or hear them. They instruct users on what to do based on conditioned memory and they sometimes take the form of negative emotions like boredom, lonliness, frustration, indecisiveness etc. I always go to pinterest probably whenever I need an outfit idea, or hairstyle idea, or a recipe, or when I am just bored. I aimlessly scroll though the infinite amount of feed that’s available on my timeline. These internal triggers are what forms habits and influence our daily routines. Figuring this out is probably the golden goose to a successful product.
Behavior in anticipation of a reward. A trigger determines the action. However, one must make sure that the action is extremely easy to perform. Action is determined by three motivators;
- Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
- Seeking hope and avoiding fear.
- Seeking social acceptance while avoiding social rejection.
and it is influenced by time, money, brain cycles, physical effort, social deviance and non-routineness. I do not have to check pinterest at a specific time of day, and all there is to it is just sliding my finger on my screen either up or down, right or left. And for as long as I keep scrolling, new pins appear on my timeline without having to lose time. This is a typical example of gaining reward from very little effort, mentally and physically. Its simplicity increases the intended behavior.
This comes in three forms, the tribe, the self and the hunt.
Rewards of the tribe are the rewards that make us feel accepted, important or needed. Usually triggered by FOMO (fear of missing out). With every pin, or post on social media, the user would highly anticipate some form of social validation, a like, a re-pin, a comment, exposure as a good player in the gaming community, etc and these rewards cause the need for more, hence constant pinning or tweeting or gaming.
Rewards of the hunt is the search for information while rewards of the self is the search of mastery, competence and completion. Like being a pro at a video game.
The investment stage comes with anticipation of rewards in the future. Following a recipes page on pinterest, or following someone on social media. This stage is determined by the variable rewards. I’d follow someone with the anticipation of seeing or knowing what new thing they would post next, and I assume that’s the same with everyone else. When someone’s pictures and videos are stored on a site over time, he/ she becomes personally invested with it and finds it difficult to leave. Or collection of weapons and points in a game.
Another example of how investment affects how often a product is used is The IKEA effect: when labor leads to love. Investment then loads the next trigger and the whole cycle begins again.
What to aim for.
An entrepreneur should aim to build a product that users want to use. Not one that he/ she wants the users to use.
Habit forming products have a great advantage over competitors because once a user becomes hooked and invested in one thing, it would be difficult to convince them to try something else, because not only is that trying to change what they have used for a really long time, it is also trying to make them break a habit.
Good habits or bad habits?
It actually may be easy to get users hooked, but it is also very easy to abuse this power. Use of some products may lead to bad habits then end up having a negative impact on their users like, unhealthy need for users’ validation, addictions, etc. . Ask yourself would I use what I am creating? Is it genuinely benefiting the life of a user? Am I just exploiting my users? Do I believe it can improve’s people’s lives?
Profits and revenue may be the key drive to businesses, but also having users trust and is a core in the success of a product.
Harness your creative side and get to building.