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How Addictive is Your Product? [Insights from Nir Eyal's Hooked]

Ramona Sukhraj

Head of Editorial Content, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K

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How Addictive is Your Product? [Insights from Nir Eyal's Hooked] Blog Feature

Published on September 28th, 2015

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nir-eyal2-compressorWe live in an age of digital addiction.

Everyone’s glued to their phones, tablets, apps, but for the most part, not many of us know or understand why.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, written by Nir Eyal, takes a fascinating look into just that. It takes a deep dive into the psychology of consumer behavior and habit formation and asks, “why are we really hooked to certain products?”

Nir Eyal's Hooked breaks this down into an actionable science that can be learned and replicated for your own business.

Forming Internal Triggers

It’s no coincidence that some of the most profitable businesses in the world have found a way to tap into the internal triggers of consumers, so they feel a natural urge to make the purchase, instead of forced.

For the purpose of this book, Eyal defines habits as: “automatic behaviors triggered by situational cues -- things we do with little or no conscious thought.”

According to him, the convergence of access, data, and speed is making the world a more habit-forming place, and who can argue with him?

Thanks to social media and Google, we expect instant gratification from everything we do.

When we have a question, all we have to do is type it into Google or YouTube and we have a detailed answer in seconds. The same goes for being bored, all we have to do is log on to Facebook, Twitter, or Buzzfeed and we are bombarded with people and things to entertain us.

That urge you get to check Twitter or Instagram is what Eyal describes as an internal trigger and the more we reward those triggers, the more often we experience those triggers.

This sounds harmless (and to a large degree it is), but scientific research has found that Facebook addiction activates the same areas of the brain as drug addiction.

Companies understand this and they know that tapping into our internal triggers provides a powerful influence on our purchasing behavior.

The Hook Model

According to Eyal, the Hook Model outlines an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to a solution frequently enough to form a habit. You may recognize the illustrated model below. It is the “habit loop” from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

hooked-the-hook-model

As you can see, The Hook Model is a simple four-step formula that explains the process of habit formation. Let’s take a more detailed look at each step.

Step #1: Trigger Behavior

The trigger is what causes the behavior to happen. It can be internal or external.

An example of an external trigger would be a notification from your Facebook app. You weren’t even thinking about Facebook, but as soon as you get a notification, you have an urge to login.

Step #2: Perform Action

The action you perform is the actual behavior done in anticipation of the reward.

The two ways to increase the likeliness of a person taking action are:

  1. Making the action easy to perform
  2. Providing motivation to perform that action

Continuing with the same example above, the action in this loop is logging into Facebook. It’s quite simple, you just click on the app and (unless you’ve previously logged out) you’re good to go.

Step #3: Variable Reward for Action

Feedback loops are all around us, but predictable ones don’t create desire -- so it’s more effective to offer variable rewards. The inconsistency and unknown result is what makes us come back for more.

We know there’s a chance that the reward could be good or bad, but the possibility of a positive outcome is what keeps us interested.

Facebook offers variable rewards by updating your newsfeed every time you reopen the app.

Some of the things you see you won’t like, some you’ll find funny, some will make you angry, etc.

Even the notification is a variable reward.

Is it a friend request? Did someone tag me in a photo? Maybe it’s just another annoying Candy Crush invite…

The outcome could be great or dismal, but the only way to find out is to log in.

Step #4: Commitment to Product (Investment)

Investment happens once we put something of value into the product or service.

For example, time, money, data, effort, or perhaps social capital (i.e. adding friends, photos, etc.)

This investment is an action that implies an improvement in the service for the next go-around and increases the odds that the user will make another pass through the Hook cycle in the future.

This is why when you sign-up for Facebook (or any other social media platform) they want you to immediately start finding friends and building your profile.

They’ll show you reminders that your profile isn’t complete or that you haven’t used the friend finder tool. The more time and energy you invest, the more likely you’ll be back. Face it, Facebook wouldn’t be much fun to use if you didn’t have other people to connect with.

Getting into the Habit Zone 

No time to read Eyal's entire book? No problem! In our full summary of Hooked, we'll show you exactly how to use Nir Eyal's findings to get your business into "The Habit Zone" and to create a product your buyer persona's can't get enough of.  

To get started, click "keep reading" below.