“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits” – Mark Twain #MondayMorningWakeUpCall
Businesses that create customer habits gain a significant competitive advantage. Habit-forming products change user behavior and create unprompted user engagement. The aim is to influence customers to use your product on their own, again and again, without relying on overt call to action such as ads or promotions. Case to point – Facebook, Instagram, Slack, Google, Amazon and a whole slew of new and emerging high tech companies
Here are 10 truths about habit-forming products mined from Nir Eyal’s Hooked for entrepreneurs building products to reform other people’s habits –
- A habit is when not doing an action causes a bit of pain (a kind of itch, a feeling that manifests within the mind and causes discomfort until it is satisfied). The habit-forming products we use are simply there to provide some sort of relief. Using a technology or product to scratch the itch provides faster satisfaction than ignoring it. Once we come to depend on a tool, nothing else will do.
- User habits are a competitive advantage. Products that change customer routines are less susceptible to attacks from other companies
- Products with higher user engagement also have the potential to grow faster than their rivals
- New behaviors have a short half-life, as our minds tend to revert to our old ways of thinking and doing
- John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, claims that for new entrants to stand a chance, they can’t just be better, they must be nine times better. Why such a high bar? Because old habits die hard and new products or services need to offer dramatic improvements to shake users out of old routines.
- For new behaviors to really take hold, they must occur often. Frequent engagement with a product-especially over a short period of time-increases the likelihood of forming new routines
- How frequent is frequent enough?
- The answer is likely specific to each business and behavior… although higher the frequency, better it is
- A 2010 study found that some habits can be formed in a matter of weeks while others can take more than five months. The researchers also found that the complexity of the behavior and how important the habit was to the person greatly affected how quickly the routine was formed.
- Sometimes a behavior does not occur as frequently as flossing or Googling, but it still becomes a habit. For an infrequent action to become a habit, the user must perceive a high degree of utility, either from gaining pleasure or avoiding pain, the 2 key motivators in all species
- A company can begin to determine its product’s habit-forming potential by plotting two factors: frequency (how often the behavior occurs) and perceived utility (how useful and rewarding the behavior is in the user’s mind over alternative solutions)
- If either of these factors fall short and the behavior lies below the threshold, it is less likely that the desired behavior will become a habit
- Habit forming products often start as nice-to-haves, but once the habit is formed, they become must-haves
Habits keep users loyal. Gourville writes that products that require a high degree of behavior change are doomed to fail even if the benefits of using the new products are clear and substantial.
But all hope is not lost for entrepreneurs building products that have direct or dotted line relationships with habits!
The Hook Model created by Nir Eyal describes an experience designed to connect to the user’s problem to a solution frequently enough to form a habit. A summary on the model coming soon.