How to Build Habit Forming Products with Nir Eyal

October 19, 2020 | By Sabrina Kestenbaum
How to Build Habit Forming Products with Nir Eyal

In our third Wellbeing Academy event, we hosted Nir Eyal for an insightful talk based on his best-selling book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

Nir writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business and previously taught as a Lecturer in Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. He is the author of two bestselling books, Hooked and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. Nir is also an active investor in habit-forming technologies. Some of his past investments include Eventbrite, (acquired by Spotify), Kahoot! and Canva.

Here Are Our Key Takeaways

Know the Psychological Itch of Your Users🤳

According to Nir, the most successful products rely on a four phase process to create user habits, which he has famously titled the Hooked model. The first phase in the model is the trigger – an internal or external trigger is something that tells users what to do next and prompts them into action. Nir says that internal triggers such as emotions (e.g. boredom, loneliness, uncertainty) tend to be the most successful in cueing our next action.

If you are building the kind of product that needs unprompted user engagement, you want people to come to your product on their own and you have to be able to articulate what is that internal trigger […]. If you need to build a habit with your consumer and cant articulate that internal trigger you’re flying blind.”

Create & Measure Simple Behaviors 🏃‍♀️

Once you’ve identified your trigger, you should be thinking about simple steps and behaviors you can create for your users to give them relief for that psychological itch (can be as simple as a scroll or press play button). How can you predict the likelihood that your user will take on a behavior? Nir says that for any human behavior we can follow a simple formula which tells us that we need three things at the same time: sufficient motivation (energy for action), sufficient ability (capacity to do a behavior) and a sufficient trigger: b=m+a+t.

Give Your User What They Came for 💰

The reward phase of the hooked model is when the users gets what they came for. Nir claims there is actually a way for products to manufacture or “supecharge” desire within their users by creating variable rewards which can be broken down into three categories: tribe (search for social), hunt (search for resources e.g. material, information) self (search for intrinsically pleasurable, self-achievement). “Give users what they came for and yet have this level of variability and uncertainty that leaves them wanting more.”

Keep Users Totally Committed 🤝

After a user has been triggered into action and rewarded, the investment phase of the hooked model is where the user is asked to do the work and start building commitment. The investment phase is not about providing an immediate reward but rather aims to load the trigger for future hooks (through inviting friends, building and storing virtual assets etc.). Investments can be leveraged to strengthen our motivation, make our actions easier and increase our reward in the next pass of the hook.

The Hooked Model by Nir Eyal

Start Early & Continue Running Diagnostics 🩺

“If you can utilize the hooked model when your idea is still a pencil sketch – that’s a terrific time. But the hooked model is certainly relevant for more mature companies as well. […],” says Nir. “Many of the fast-growing companies have what I call leaky buckets – while they may have been able to buy growth, what they can’t buy is engagement & retention, it has to be built in the product. You can use the Hooked model as a diagnostic tool to figure out where the symptoms are in the product so you can cure the disease.”

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