3 influencing tactics for app designers
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“Only 2 left.” “Get one free.” “Most popular choice.” These are examples of how we are influenced and persuaded to say yes. This post considers three psychological tactics we can apply and, when the shoe is on the other foot, defend against. While these tactics can be applied generally in our lives, I will provide examples relating to mobile app development.
This post draws upon the book Influence by Robert Cialdini.
Reciprocation is the act of returning a favour. Often there is an unspoken expectation that generosity will be repaid, in some shape or form. The rule of reciprocation is one of the most powerful social norms and is universal across cultures. It can override our own self-interest and we may continue to reciprocate even when it is not in our best interest to do so. This rule is often used in sales and marketing as businesses try to create a sense of obligation in their customers by giving them free gifts, samples or discounts. Studies have shown that participants who were given a small gift were more likely to comply with a request relative to those not offered anything. Businesses and other organisations can use reciprocity to build trust and rapport with customers and employees. Conversely, awareness of deliberate attempts to induce reciprocation can render them ineffective.
As covered in my App monetisation post, most mobile apps are free to use and they operate under the Freemium business model. Successful apps of this type offer significant value to users for free (a gift) which can trigger the reciprocation rule (in-app purchases).
Commitment and consistency
We are more likely to act in a certain way if we have committed to doing so in the past. Once a commitment is made we will often feel a need to be consistent with that commitment and will act in accordance with it. This principle can be used to influence behaviour by getting us to make a small commitment first which will then make it more likely that we will follow through on larger commitments.
As users invest time and effort in apps they establish an emotional commitment to them. The way these investments set up triggers for future app use are explored in my Hooking users post.
We are more likely to do something if we see that other people are doing it. This is because we generally want to fit in and be like others around us. People are more likely to conform to the norms of a group they are in, even if those norms are something they would not typically do. Also, people are more likely to help others if they see that other people are helping too.
Recently, I started buying audiobooks, including Influence. One of the main reasons I did this is because people I respect were doing the same.
Seven Principles of Influence by Robert Cialdini
Decoded book by Phil Barden
Why trust is so important TEDx Talk by Dan Ariely
This post explored how three psychological tactics can be used to influence others. In a similar vein, next Sunday’s post will examine ways to help achieve personal power.
Until next Sunday, think about favours you have received recently and what obligation you feel to reciprocate.