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 check for email notifications on your phone. It’s your compulsion to visit Facebook or Twitter for just a few minutes, but somehow find yourself still scrolling after an hour. It’s the fact that if I recommended a book to purchase, your mind would flash “Amazon” like a gaudy neon sign. If habits are defined as repeated and automatic behaviors, then technology has wired your brain so you behave exactly the way it wants you to.
In an online world of ever-increasing distractions, user habits matter. In fact, the economic value of web businesses increasingly depends on the strength of the habitual behavior of their users. These user habits ultimately will be a deciding factor in what separates startup winners and losers.
Turning User Habits Into Cash
Ever since the creation of the first online media companies at the dawn of Web 1.0, businesses have made money from their users’ behaviors. Early online media enterprises like AOL and Yahoo! sold their users’ attention to advertisers in the form of ad impressions. However, Web 1.0 companies measured themselves on pages viewed and CPM rates, rather than the strength of their user habits. As millions of dial-up customers came online for the first time, these companies were lulled into complacency as their user numbers grew.
Such self-assurance left them vulnerable to attack from social media companies, which plundered their user base as the web evolved. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, armed with an arsenal of behavioral engineering weaponry including hot triggers, variable rewards, and social proof eventually dominated the Social Web. Upon reaching critical mass, these companies began selling user behavior as well. But unlike Web 1.0 companies, social media proved so valuable and habit-forming, users begrudgingly allowed these businesses to layer personal and demographic information onto their ad units, resulting in increased revenue and profitability.
Viral Is Nice, But User Habits Are Required
Today, at the dawn of the Curated Web, companies must build habit creation into their products and business models. Not only are users inundated by distractions, but acquiring users is also harder than ever before.
Finding new users through paid advertising rarely provides a positive return on investment. And while viral mechanics are still employed, users are becoming increasingly intolerant of applications spamming their contact lists for the purpose of inviting new users to join a service. Viral growth is also under attack as platforms like Facebook, Apple, and Android respond to customer complaints and quickly shut down such tactics.
Relying too heavily on viral growth is also bad for business. Silicon Valley is strewn with the stories of “leaky bucket” companies – businesses that grew quickly, annoyed lots of people, and died. While some of these companies were pure spam, others offered value to users but failed to form user habits.
Of course, attaching user habits to a viral growth engine is ideal, the embodiment of the rare “rocket ship” business. However, it is important to note that companies, which successfully create user habits, even without viral growth, can build huge enterprises. I call these companies “commitment businesses” because users become increasingly tied to the service the more they use it. Evernote’s famous smile graph provides the clearest visualization of how a commitment business establishes user habits. Though originally rebuffed by investors who could not see past the company’s slow growth, Evernote succeeded by betting on habit formation and patiently waited for its users to prove the company right. Other successful slow-growth commitment businesses have similar stories, including Pandora and Amazon.
The Curated Web Will Run On Habits
Increasingly, companies will become experts at designing user habits. Curated Web companies already rely on these methods. This new breed of company, defined by the ability to help users find only the content they care about, includes such white-hot companies as Pinterest and Tumblr. These companies have habit formation embedded in their DNA. This is because data collection is at the heart of any Curated Web business and to succeed, they must predict what users will think is most personally relevant.
Curated Web companies can only improve if users tell their systems what they want to see more of. If users use the service sparingly, it is less valuable than if they use it habitually. The more the user engages with a Curated Web company, the more data the company has to tailor and improve the user’s experience. This self-improving feedback loop has the potential to be more useful – and more addictive — than anything we’ve seen before.
Top Consumer Psychology Articles
- The One Fitness App That Hooked Me For Good
- Here’s How Fortnite ‘Hooked’ Millions
- How Apps Can Shape Your Future Self
- How Netflix’s Customer Obsession Created a Customer Obsession
- Want to Design User Behavior? Pass the ‘Regret Test’ First
- How to Trigger Product Usage that Sticks
- How to Get People to Help Each Other, Online and Off
- Here’s How Amazon’s Alexa Hooks You
- How to Use Psychology to Make Persuasive Video
- How to Use Personality Science to Drive Online Conversions
- The Unbelievable Future of Habit-Forming Technology
- The Secret Marketing Power of Evolutionary Psychology
- Don’t Ask People What They Want, Watch What They Do
- How Cognitive Biases Can Help (and Hurt) Your Business
- What Most People Don’t Know About Behavioral Design
- How to Start a Career in Behavioral Design
- Your World is Full of Placebo Buttons (and That’s a Good Thing)
- How to Build Technology that Feels Like a Friend
- 3 Pillars of the Most Successful Tech Products
- Here’s How to Ethically Manipulate Other People
- How Two Companies Hooked Customers On Products They Rarely Use
- How to Hook Users in 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing
- Die Dashboards, Die! Why Conversations Will Reinvent Software
- The Secret to Sending Emails and Notifications That Work
- How to Win Your Competition’s Customers
- Hooked for Good: How Habit-Forming Products Improve Lives
- Good Products Start With Good Questions
- Human + A.I. = Your Digital Future
- Why ‘Assistant-As-App’ Might Be the Next Big Tech Trend
- People Don’t Want Something Truly New, They Want the Familiar Done Differently.
- 4 Ways to Win Your Competitor’s Customer Habits (Slides)
- Here’s Why You’ll Hate the Apple Watch (and the Important Business Lesson You Need to Know)
- The Secret Psychology of Snapchat
- The Psychology of Notifications: How to Send Triggers that Work
- How Technology Tricks You Into Tipping More
- The Limits of Loyalty: When Habits Change, You’re Toast
- 4 Ways to Use Psychology to Win Your Competition’s Customers
- The Real Reason “Stupid” Startups Raise So Much Money
- The Psychology Behind Why We Can’t Stop Messaging
- The Psychology of a Billion-Dollar Enterprise App: Why is Slack so Habit-Forming?
- Framing Reward is as Important as Reward Itself
- A Free Course on User Behavior
- It’s Not All Fun And Games: The Pros and Cons of Gamification at Work
- Getting Traction: How to Hook New Users
- Designing for Behavior Change Book Review
- The Sneaky Trick Behind the Explosive Growth of the Kardashian Game
- How Successful Companies Design for Users’ Multi-Device Lives
- The Link Between Habits and User Satisfaction
- What Triggers The Best Word of Mouth Marketing?
- What Tech Companies Can Learn from Rehab
- The Secrets of Addictive Online Auctions
- Teach or Hook? What’s the Real Goal of Online Education?
- Using Mind Control to Raise Startup Cash
- How To Build Habits In A Multi-Device World
- How To Cope with Your Insane Jealousy Of The WhatsApp Deal
- Why Do Fads Fade? The Inevitable Death Of Flappy Bird
- You’d Be Surprised By What Really Motivates Users
- Nostalgia: A Product Designer’s Secret Weapon
- How You Can Help Users Change Habits
- Is “Lean Startup” Right for Your Idea?
- Hunting for Habits: Keying in on smart design to make a product irresistible
- Are Companies Too Obsessed With Growth? How to Measure Habits
- Refresh: The App a Secret Agent Would Love
- Angel or Devil: Who’s Really Investing In Your Start-Up?
- In 10 Years, We Won’t Use Personal Technology
- 4 Simple Things I Did to Control My Bad Tech Habits
- “Yes, And”: The Two Words that Created a #1 App
- From Laid to Paid: How Tinder Set Fire to Online Dating
- What if In-App Purchases Came to Real Life?
- Hooking Users One Snapchat at a Time
- How To Save Your Startup From The “Spotlight Effect”
- Bible App: Getting 100 Million Downloads is More Psychology Than Miracles
- How to Boost Desire Using the Psychology of Scarcity
- Marketplaces & The Curse of the Network Effect
- Today’s Behaviors, Tomorrow’s Startups
- Venture Capital and The Superstitious Investor
- The Future is Driven by Interface Changes
- Why Business is Addicted to Habits
- Viral Loops Or Viral ‘Oops’?
- Making a Marketplace
- What Killed Turntable.fm?
- What You Don’t Know About Human Intuition Can Hurt You
- Designing to Reward our Tribal Sides
- New Video – “Hooked: Building Habit-Forming Products”
- How Technology is Like Bug Sex
- Ways To Get People To Do Things They Don’t Want To Do
- The Network Effect Isn’t Good Enough
- Mass Persuasion, One User At A Time
- How Investment Drives Engagement (Slides)
- Getting Your Product Into the Habit Zone
- Where Have The Users Gone?
- Infinite Scroll: The Web’s Slot Machine
- Designing User Habits Video
- Psychology of Sports: How Sports Infect Your Brain
- This is Your Brain On Boarding: How to Turn Visitors Into Users
- User Investment: Make Your Users Do the Work
- Behavior by Design Video
- When Designing for Good Is Bad
- Stop Building Apps, Start Building User Behaviors
- The Morality of Manipulation
- The Next Secrets of the Internet
- User Growth and Engagement: A Hacker Metric
- Spotting the Next Facebook: Why Emotions are Big Business
- The Billion Dollar Mind Trick: An Intro to Triggers
- Why Everyone Hates I.T. People
- Hooking Users In 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing
- Abolish The Reference Check
- Variable Rewards: Want To Hook Users? Drive Them Crazy
- How to Design Behavior (The Behavior Change Matrix)
- How To Design For “Normals”
- Hooks: An Intro on How to Manufacture Desire
- User Habits: Why Startups Must Be Behavior Experts
- What Is, and Is Not, Your Product’s Job
- Pinterest’s Obvious Secret
- Personalized eCommerce Is Already Here, You Just Don’t Recognize It
- Where is the Web Going?
- The Developer Divide: When Great Companies Can’t Hire
- Being a Quitter Makes You a Good Entrepreneur
- Behavior by Design
- Why You Should Run Your Business Barefoot
- Are you a Startup Star, Wacko, or Wannabe?