In his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal explains the basic criteria for product and service development that need to be fulfilled in order to promote customers’ regular usage and cause a positive addiction.

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By Matthias Breitschaft, Jonas Gorris and Ruben Best

Products and services as solutions to our daily problems

We use various digital products and services every day without thinking about why we actually do so. But if we wouldn’t use those services, there would be something missing for us. Dramatically said: We are addicted.

There are some really obvious examples for these kinds of addictive products: We use Facebook and Instagram to tackle boredom, Google against uncertainty and Amazon due to our hunting instinct for the cheapest products. Besides those omnipresent examples, everyone uses individual products and services in order to solve tiny to major problems in their daily life.

And this is where we get to the bottom of it: A business that manages to spot the problem of customers or offers a solution in the form of a brand or product experience will nearly run successfully by itself. Especially when spontaneous interaction with customers is an essential part of the business model, it is necessary to develop these kinds of products to stay competitive on the market.

The advantages are obvious: While being able to keep direct contact, customers will come back on their own, be less price sensitive and can be used as promotional voices for the distribution of products within their community.

For the development of a successful product or service, it is necessary to keep in mind the following basic principles:

  1. Identify the customer’s problem and target it directly

Analyse the customer and his behaviour: Does the customer need a painkiller or a vitamin pill? The painkiller would solve a functional deficit while the vitamin pill would rather satisfy an emotional or social need. The following questions serve as a basis for product and service development: Which specific problem bothers the customer? How does the customer try to solve the problem? And how can we – as a brand – help the customer even better to solve it?

  1. Lure the customer with external or internal triggers

In order to make customers aware of the product, they need to be encouraged to use it through an internal or external trigger. Examples for external triggers are classic communication or product recommendations of friends, while internal triggers find their origin within the human’s subconscious. Especially negative emotions such as tension, insecurity, boredom, loneliness or fear of loss can be used as strong triggers. Combined with the knowledge about the essential customer problem, it is the goal to develop a tempting trigger.

  1. Trigger the customer’s action

In order initially prompt usage, the presence of the trigger is necessary as well as the activation of customer’s motivation and easy accessibility of the product. The following three essential pairs of motivation can be specifically addressed:

  • The search for pleasure and the prevention of pain.
  • The search for hope and the prevention of fear.
  • The search for approval and the prevention of rejection.

In addition to the motivation it is also important to make the product as easily accessible as possible. That means to minimise financial costs, physical and cognitive efforts as well as the deviation from habits and routines.

  1. Award the customer for usage

In order to make usage natural and positively addictive, it is important to reward them for using the product or service. Rewards for customers could be social approval, the satisfaction of their hunting instinct or a material or financial benefit. In addition, customers can also be rewarded by improving their personal performance noticeably.

  1. Give users the opportunity to constantly grapple deeper with the product

The more customers have the opportunity to get involved with the product and invest more time, money, personal data and effort in the use of it, the more likely it is for them to come back by themselves. At the same time, the trigger is reinforced to return to the product or even to recommend it.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

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