Turning visitors into users: initiate the habit loop

The goal of most consumer focused startups is to become an automatic habit for their customers and I’ve written before about Nir Eyal’s powerful Desire Engine framework for building habit forming services (tl;dr: take users round and round a four step habit loop – trigger, action, reward, investment). Yesterday Nir wrote about applying this framework to turning users into visitors, advocating that companies should use the onboarding process to take users round the habit loop for the first time.

In practice that means:

  • The trigger to click through to the site should anticipate the reward the user will get – e.g. advertising copy should describe what users will get out of Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 10.25.30the service, the Instagram Facebook inserted to the right is a great example.
  • The action should be low effort – BJ Fogg has shown that people are much more likely to complete an easy step with a low reward than a more complex step with a high reward. Site designers everywhere have seen the benefits of reducing the amount of info collected on sign-up – this is why.
  • Then there should be an instant reward – maybe telling the user something about herself, or something from their social graph. Research has shown that users respond better to rewards that are variable and carry a bit of surprise – e.g. what’s in this photo of me that’s been posted (we all click on those…)
  • Finally, and perhaps counter-intuitively, comes the investment stage – it’s better to invest a bit of time in the service than finish the onboarding process as quickly as possible . When users do a bit of work to improve how a service works for them – e.g. fill out more detail on a profile, follow some friends, customise an avatar – then they are more likely to come back. They feel more invested and they have an expectation that the next reward will be better.

I love Nir’s work and I’m pleased to see him building a brand for himself and running the HabitSummit conferences. Hopefully he will hold one in London soon. Amsterdam just isn’t the same…