Triggering action for variable rewards
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Why do some products grab our attention while many others fail to do so? What turns us into habitual users? What can mobile app developers do to improve their prospects of hooking users? This post addresses these questions by drawing on insights from the Hook Model described in Nir Eyal’s book Hooked.
The Hook Model suggests there are four steps that people cycle through to establish a product use habit:
Trigger which prompts the user to take an action.
Action is taken in expectation of a reward.
Variable Reward is secured for the action undertaken.
Investment has been made into the Hook model which sets up a Trigger (for the next cycle).
The Hook is designed to connect a user’s problem to your solution. Each pass through the Hook helps shape users preferences and attitudes. With sufficient repetition a usage habit is formed.
There are two types: External Triggers and Internal Triggers. An External Trigger is a prompt in the user’s environment and what to do next is within the trigger itself. Examples include a YouTube icon (play button), an website shopping cart (buy now) and an email (open envelope). Once the user has gone through the Hook cycle at least once then an Internal Trigger, based on psychological prompts, establishes itself and grows stronger. What to do next is now informed through an association, including emotions, places, people, situations and routines.
The second step through the Hook cycle is the Action which was prompted by the Trigger. Users have limited Cognitive Resources which gets drained to a lesser or greater degree by how simple or complex they find an activity. Hence, developers should consider what is the simplest action the user could undertake in anticipation of a reward. Examples include: Scrolling (Facebook), Search (Google) and Play (YouTube).
The next step in the Hook cycle is a Variable Reward which is the result of the activity undertaken. Rewards should not follow a predictable pattern, but include a degree of randomness which drives curiosity and engagement. The reward should be fulfilling, yet leave the user wanting more.
Rewards appeal to different aspects of our nature:
Tribal: We are social animals and seek recognition from and co-operation with our tribes.
Hunter: We wish to acquire information and material resources.
Self: We value self-achievement, including mastery and competence in a field.
By this final step, users have made an Investment in the Hook cycle. The Investment for future benefits takes various forms, including: effort made, data provided, time spent, payments made and social capital (personal reputation).
The likelihood of the next use is increased by:
Loading the next trigger. A Facebook message posted is an invitation for an external trigger to be returned. LinkedIn follows, comments and likes are other examples.
Storing value in the product which improves its utility with use. We value things when we put work into them, including content (e.g. photos), data and followers.
Hooked summary by Productivity Game
How to Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal
This post explored ways to develop products that trigger action and sustain on-going user engagement. Next Sunday’s post will explore the value of ideas and their execution.
Until next Sunday, consider which products you use regularly and why.