Book Review: Hooked - Nir Eyal

Felix TellmannFT

Felix Tellmann / 2021-02-21

8 min read

  • What user behaviour do I want to make into a habit?
  • What problem do i want to solve for my customers (what itch)?
  • How frequent can I get users to engage?
  • Who is the User?
  • What is the user doing _right before_ the intended habit?
  • What external trigger couldI setup for the habit?
  • What internal trigger do I want to associate the behaviour with?
  • Consider how I can make use of heuristics to make a habit forming action more likely.
  • How can I add variable rewards, in form of rewards of the Tribe, Hunt, and Self into a product?
  • Get: Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen Anderson

Automatic behaviours triggered by situational cues: things we do with little or no conscious thought. Forming habits for products is imperative for its survival.

Habits form when the brain takes a shortcut and stops actively deliberating over what to do next. The brain quickly learns to codify behaviours that provide a solution to whatever situation it encounters

Why habits are good for businesses (and their products)?: Increasing customer Lifetime value (repeat purchases) Providing Pricing Flexibility (increasing prices because users are hooked) Supercharging Growth (Users become brand evangelists - 2R) Sharpening the competitive Edge (Perceived cost of change of platform > 9x Better)

The Habit Zone: A company can determine its product’s habit-forming potential by plotting two factors: frequency (how often the behaviour occurs) and perceived utility ( how useful and rewarding the behaviour is in the users mind over alternative solutions).

Vitamins vs. Painkillers (pain, = the itch to scratch) Painkillers solve an obvious need, relieving a specific pain, and often have quantifiable markets. Vitamins, by contrast, do not necessarily solve an obvious pain point. Instead, they appeal to users’ emotional rather than functional needs. Habits are often both. They seem as first as nice-to-have vitamins, but once the habit is established, they provide an ongoing pain remedy.

4 phase process companies use to form habits Trigger -> Action -> Variable Reward -> Investment

  • External (e-mail, website link, app icon on a phone, coke at the end of the aisle in a store)
    • Contains information about what to do next Types of external triggers: Paid (Google Ads, Print Ads, etc.)
    • Earned (PR, viral posts, other people doing stuff for you)
    • Relationship (word of mouth, people sharing your stuff, requires engaged user base)
    • Owned (email newsletter, app icon, website)
    • While paid, earned, and relationship triggers drive new user acquisition, owned triggers prompt repeat engagement until a habit is formed.
  • Internal: (feeling the urge to connect, hunger, the need to go to the bathroom)
    • Manifested automatically in your mind. The information about what to do next is encoded as a learned association in the users' memory (done it once, and repeated with positive outcome). Emotions: Particularly negative ones, are powerful internal triggers and greatly influence our daily routines. Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation. Positive emotions can also server as internal triggers, and may even be triggered themselves by a need to satisfy something that is bothering us.
    • Building for triggers The ultimate goal of habit-forming product is to solve the user’s pain by creating an association so that the user identifies the company’s product or service as the source of relief. Find a clear description of users, their desires, emotions, and the context with which they use the product. -> 5 WHY method

B.J Fogg posits that there are three ingredients required to initiate any and all behaviours: (1) the user must have sufficient motivation; (2) the user must have the ability to complete the desired action; and (3) a trigger must be present to activate the behaviour.

  • Psychology of motivation:
    • Core motivations: to seek pleasure and void pain; seek hope and avoid fear; and to seek social acceptance and avoid rejection. The two sides of each core motivators can be seen as levers with two sides to increase or decrease the likelihood of someone's taking a particular action.
  • Ease of performing:
    • Any technology or product that significantly reduces the steps to complete a task wil enjoy high adoption rates by the people it assists.
    • Elements of simplicity:
      • Time: how long it takes to complete an action
      • Money: the cost of taking an action
      • Physical effort: the labour involved in taking the action
      • Brain cycles: The level of mental effort and focus required to take an action
      • Social deviance: How accepted the behaviour is by others
      • Non-routine: How much the action matches or disrupts our existing routines.

There are many counterintuitive and surprising ways companies can boost users' motivation or increase their ability by understanding heuristics the mental shortcuts we take to make decisions and form options.

  • The Scarcity Effect: We value things that are scarce higher that things that are abundant.
  • The Framing Effect: Context shapes our perception. The mind takes shortcuts informed by our surroundings to make quick and sometimes erroneous judgments. (think of expensive wine vs cheap wine)
  • The Anchoring Effect: Anchoring pieces of information when making a decision. (think of a 2 for 1 special for T-Shirts for $29.50, while other T-shirts might cost less than $15 each)
  • The Endowed Progress Effect: A phenomenon that increases motivation as people believe they are nearing a goal. (think discount card with 3 / 10 points already marked off, before you even start; LinkedIn account setup)

The step in which you reward your users by solving a problem, reinforcing their motivation for the action taken in the previous phase.

  • Rewards of the Tribe, The Hunt, and the Self:
    • Tribe: Rewards that make us feel accepted, attractive, important and included. (think Facebook Likes, social media, things we do to get recognized by others)
    • Hunt: Being rewarded for achieving our goals (endorphin driven) or what our brain & body things our goals are (think 9gag scrolling, occasional reward of fun/novelty; finding something after having searched for it)
    • Self: Rewards we seek for a more personal form of gratification. Achieving our self-actualization goals. (think learning, video games, clean email mailbox)
  • Variability (novelty)
    • Experiences with finite variability become less engaging because they eventually become predictable.
    • Variability can be based on new products being added or innovated, or build into the product itself (think facebook & constant new content from users)

When our autonomy is threatened, we feel constrained by our lack of choices and often rebel against doing a new behavior. Psychologists refer to this as reactance. Maintaining a sense of user autonomy is a requirement for repeat engagement.

Before users create the mental association that activate their automatic behaviors, they must first invest in the product. The more users invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that our labor leads to love. Additionally, our past behaviours also alter our future actions and cognitive dissonance has its effects. We change our perception of something to better or worse based on our ability to own/have it.

The more effort we put into something, the more likely we are to value it; We are more likely to be consistent with our past behaviours; and finally we change our preferences to avoid cognitive dissonance.

  • Storing Value
    • Products can have stored value put in by their users. Think of a bank account where you have your savings. Once you signed up and deposited the first time, you are much less likely to change to another bank.
    • The stored value users put into the product increases the likelihood they will use it again in the future and comes in a variety of forms.
    • Content: Users personal content they added to a product/service. Think about facebook and your personal photos. The collection of memories and experiences, in aggregate, becomes more valuable over time, and the service becomes harder to leave as users' personal investment in the site grows.
    • Data: Users can input data about themselves and use a product as storage & display tool. In LinkedIn for example you can build up your own resume to show to other people.
    • Followers: Collecting other people to follow your own profile can be tremendous value. Once a threshold of followers/friends/connections have been established, it is unlikely to change to another product/service.
    • Reputation: Reputation is similar to followers, but rather based on reviews/ratings. (Think goolge business,ebay ratings, etc.)
    • Skill: Once people learn how to use a product, they become better at using it. Switching to another product is often associated with having to learn a product form scratch. (think adobe photoshop)