User Habits: Why Startups Must Be Behavior Experts

NOTE: This post originally appeared in Techcrunch

Here’s the gist:

  • In the age of infinite online distractions, successful web businesses must generate new user habits to stay relevant.
  • The strength of a web company’s user habits will increasingly equate to its economic value.
  • Forming strong user habits is more important than viral growth.
  • The Curated Web will run on habits.

Face it; you’re hooked. It’s your uncontrollable urge to

What Is, and Is Not, Your Product’s Job

Customer motivation: Thumbs up

Recently, my mom came for a visit.  She read my blog and discovered her son has a crazy habit of running barefoot.  After some convincing, she begrudgingly accepted my rationale, especially after I showed her that a nice Jewish professor at Harvard said it’s ok.

But on one morning, as I was about to walk out the door, my mom stopped me with a tight grab to the arm reminiscent of my childhood.  “It’s bad enough you run outside with bare feet but you look ridiculous running with these cheap shmatte gloves.”  She always had an eye for spotting the quality of apparel and she correctly identified my Wal-Mart bargain bin gloves, which I bought for $2 per dozen.

“Why are you wearing these things?”

Forming New Habits: Train to be an Amateur, Not an Expert

Note: I’m proud to have co-authored this post with my good friend Charles Wang.  Charles is a co-founder of LUMOback, a former classmate, and an accomplished psychiatrist.  He brings a great perspective to the art of Behavior Engineering.

Here’s the gist:

  • Forming new habits requires a unique set of techniques.
  • Training to become an expert has a completely different methodology than becoming an amateur.
  • Using the wrong technique will doom your good intentions.

Today’s top selling books are about how to acquire world-class skill. Daniel Coyle’s, The Talent Code looks at how deliberate practice is required to achieve greatness.  Joshua Foer shows us how we must smash past performance plateaus to be any good.  Worse, Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour series is doing for hipsters what crash diets do for teenage girls, making promises of quick transformations.

These authors’ methods work.  Yet, they are all dead wrong.  

Personalized eCommerce Is Already Here, You Just Don’t Recognize It

NOTE: This post originally appeared in Techcrunch. (Photo credits)

Personalized eCommerce is already here

Reading Leena Rao’s recent article on Techcrunch about the personalization revolution, you get the sense that the tech world is waiting for a bus that isn’t coming. Rao quotes well-known industry experts and luminaries describing what needs to happen for e-commerce to finally realize the promise of personalized shopping, a future where online retailers predict what you’ll want to buy before you know yourself.

Ironically, Rao and her pundits are missing the zooming race car that’s speeding by them

Pinterest’s Obvious Secret

Note: This article was first published in Forbes

User addiction illustrates the success of Pinterest

Executive Summary:

  • Pinterest is onto something big, but few know its obvious secret.
  • The success of Pinterest is because of its focus on reducing users’ cognitive load.
  • Pinterest brilliantly aligns its user experience with its business objectives of getting users to consume, create and share content.
  • Pinterest will soon have the richest consumer purchase intent data ever assembled.

Last week, I sat down for drinks with a few friends.  “Have you heard of this Pinterest website?”

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