How are consumer habits formed and why are some products really addictive? Nir Eyal has been studying consumer psychology and behavioral economics for over 5 years. From years of research, the "hook method" or trigger method was born, which helps companies create products that will hook the customer for a long time. How are these triggers created?
Trigger - an executive mechanism of behavior, a spark that starts its engine. There are external and internal triggers. Habit-forming products begin to influence users through external triggers such as an email, a website link, or an iPhone app icon. When a user encounters a series of hooks and clings to them, they begin to form associations with external triggers that become attached to their actions and emotions. Then the consumer acts automatically, that is, the new habit becomes part of his daily behavior. An external trigger is some kind of information that attracts the user's attention and prompts him to perform the required action. An internal trigger is a specific association embedded in the consumer's brain and prompting him to take action. Interestingly, negative emotions are often used as internal triggers.
The hook model consists of four stages - trigger (we described the principle of occurrence above), action, variable reward, and investment.
Followed by a trigger действиеwhose purpose is to get a reward. A simple action is to click on a photo or post on a social network. That is, the product should make users want to do something, an action.
Variable rewards Is one of the most powerful mechanisms for companies to hook consumers. It is known that when the brain expects a reward, the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine increases sharply, as a result of which the activity of the areas responsible for judgment and reasoning is suppressed in a person, and the areas responsible for desire are activated. While slot machines and lotteries are considered classic examples of this, variable rewards are used in many addictive products.
Investment stage increases the chances that the consumer will go through this cycle again in the future. An investment is when a user invests something in a product: time, effort, social capital, or money. This stage is not necessary in order to force the user to fork out, investments include inviting friends, setting preferences, learning new functions.
Habit as a Strategy
Sometimes activities that are less frequent than flossing or surfing the internet will still lead to habit. For this to be possible, the result must be of great value to the user - and this is either pleasure or discomfort reduction.
Take Amazon as an example - this online store is clearly striving to become the largest in the world, yet so confident in its ability to form user habits that it sells ad space on its website to direct competitors. Amazon visitors often see an ad for a product they nearly bought and find out that it is being sold elsewhere for a lower price. Users can literally get there in one wedge. For some, this is the path leading to disaster, but for Amazon it is a shrewd business strategy.
The store not only gets paid for advertising competitors, but also uses dollars to form a habit in the buyer's brain, the Internet giant seeks to become a universal solution to an often arising problem - the desire to find the product you need.
By making it easier for visitors to find the best price offer, Amazon, even without making a sale, gains loyalty and builds self-confidence. By allowing visitors to compare their prices and the value of goods from third-party sellers, Amazon gains tremendous value in their eyes.
Habits do not arise, they are developed
Habits need a foundation on which to develop. Triggers become such a basis or stimulus for behavior change. They can take the form of common signals such as an alarm clock and less explicit, unconscious signals that can, however, effectively influence our behavior. Trigger is an executive mechanism of action!
External triggers. Effective ways to attract attention to the product include positive press reviews, popular viral videos, and successful placement of the application on the App Store. Companies can convince themselves that growth in downloads or a jump in sales means long-term success, but usually the fame caused by free triggers is short-lived. For such triggers to constantly attract new consumers, companies must keep their products in the spotlight all the time.
When one person talks to another about a product, it can be a highly effective external stimulus to action. Often, it is the recommendations of friends or relatives - in the form of an email invitation, a like on a social network, or simple kind advice - that become a key component of technology diffusion. For relationship triggers to work properly, you need to build a community of interested users who will enthusiastically educate others about the benefits of your product.
Embedded triggers are another option for putting the user on the hook. They constantly catch his eye, although it is the consumer who decides whether to let them into his life. The embedded triggers ensure that the customer is constantly referring to the product until a habit is formed. for example, an icon on a mobile phone screen, an e-mail newsletter or a new collection notification appears only if the user wants it.
Internal triggers. They occur only if the product becomes closely related to the thoughts, feelings, or previous experiences of people. Unlike external triggers, which use sensory stimuli such as an alarm clock or a giant enter button, internal triggers cannot be seen, heard, or touched. They will appear in the brain automatically. Emotions, especially negative ones, are powerful internal triggers that strongly influence our behavior. Boredom, loneliness, disappointment, confusion, and indecision often provoke feelings of discomfort or irritation and lead to unconscious actions designed to suppress negative feelings. This discomfort may not be pronounced. Probably, she does not even realize her fear, but the point is in it. Our life is filled with minor stresses, and we, as a rule, do not think about our usual reactions to them.
Positive emotions also act as internal triggers. In the end, using any products, we strive to solve some problems.
Our goal as a seller is to solve the consumer's problem, help get rid of pain, relieve itching. If users find a product that relieves their pain, they will develop strong positive associations over time. After prolonged use, connections arise between the products and the user in need of his assistance. Gradually, such connections turn into a habit.
How technology can provide frequent psychological relief can be seen in a study from Missouri Universities of Science and Technology. Throughout the school year, scientists measured the frequency with which young people entered the worldwide web, and what exactly they did there. And at the end, they compared the data obtained with information about students who came to the camp with complaints of depression. It turned out that participants in the experiment with symptoms of depression, as a rule, actively use e-mail ... The study showed that people suffering from depression often use the Internet. Why is this so? One hypothesis is that they experience negative emotions more often than others, and seek the help of technology to improve their mood. When bored, many people turn to intriguing news headlines. One click is enough and Google will ease this feeling of uncertainty. And email is always a ready-made solution for our daily multiplying problems.
As soon as the idea is established in my head that this product is a solution to the problem, the brain itself will return to it, not needing external triggers.
It takes weeks and months of frequent use for internal triggers to generate the desired signals. The ultimate goal of addictive product developers is to relieve the user of pain by making them feel like the source of relief is the product. A company must define a specific source of anxiety or pain in terms of emotion, not product properties.
What would a consumer want to achieve using your product? Where and when will he apply it? What emotions affect its use and become a trigger for appropriate actions?
The primary role in the development of a product or service is played by a clear description of consumers - their desires, emotions, the context in which the product is used. Another way is to ask yourself why? until you get to the emotion underlying desire.
Why No. 1. Why will Julia want to use email?
Answer. To send and receive messages.
Why No. 2. Why would she want to do this?
Answer. Because she needs to quickly exchange information.
Why No. 3. Why would she want to do this?
Answer. To know what is happening in the life of her colleagues, friends and relatives.
Why No. 4. Why does she want to know this?
Answer. To understand if they need her?
Why No. 5. Why does it bother her?
Answer. She is afraid of loneliness.
Now we have something! Fear is a powerful internal trigger. We are able to design a product to help Julia ease this fear. Only a complete understanding of the client's needs will help formulate the requirements for the product.
N. Eyal, R. Hoover. “The buyer is on the hook. A guide to creating habit-forming products. - Mann, Ivanov and Ferber, Moscow, 2014.
The book tells how to improve their products to make them indispensable. You will learn the basic principles underlying the multiplying addictive things that we use daily, which means you can create new generation products.
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