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Hooked Model: making your product a habit

Stimulate engagement and turn your users into brand advocates.  The Hooked Model helps companies connect a customer’s problem to the company’s solution in a way to make it a habit. 

“Your Uber is on the way.” Is this sentence familiar to you? If you own a mobile phone, you most likely have an Uber ride in your trip history.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? With a few clicks we can request a ride to our destination, order food, shop online, etc. We spend our days receiving notifications from our favorite apps while we carry out our daily tasks. 

These actions that occur with little or no conscious thought are called habits. We do not think about them; we simply carry them out.

In practice, habit-forming companies link their services to their users’ daily routines and emotions, participating actively in people’s lives. This stimulates continuous engagement, which could turn users into brand advocates. To maintain an ongoing presence, companies can use “hooks,” experiences responsible for connecting a customer’s problem to a company’s solution with enough frequency to form a habit.

Building digital products with the Hooked Model

The Hooked Model consists of four phases: trigger, action, variable reward, and investment.

1. Trigger:

Provides the basis for sustained behavioral change to stimulate the creation of habits. In essence, it is the starting point of an action, the incentive for something. “Someone liked your photo” and other Instagram notifications are examples of this phase.

An external trigger (advertising, notification, etc.) tells the user what to do next, while an internal trigger manifests automatically in each person’s mind. 

Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover highlight the importance of building a habit-forming product, developers need to connect the use of the product’s solution to a frequently perceived internal trigger and understand how to leverage external triggers to drive the user to action.

2. Action:

After the trigger, the user is guided toward what action to take. In this phase, the solution suggests the next step: the intended behavior.

To accomplish this, it is necessary to highlight the importance of UX Design when it comes to usability and user engagement — doing must be easier than thinking. A Google search is an example of how action can be simple.

Quick tip: UX Design can use heuristics to work on this phase. These are cognitive shortcuts we take to make quick decisions that motivate us to take action. To analyze your digital product from this perspective, we highly recommend reading “How to improve your digital product with a heuristic review.”

3. Variable reward:

In this phase, you reward users by solving a problem, reinforcing their motivation for the action taken in the previous phase. An example of a variable reward happens during interaction with Pinterest. When accessing the board, the user cannot predict what images will be exhibited. As they scroll, more inspiring images load. The tool’s design contributes to increasing and relieving the user’s curiosity. 

Another example mixes the variable and the fixed rewards: timesheet gamification.

Fixed reward:

When registering their tasks daily, the user receives X points.

When registering their tasks intermittently, the user receives Y points.

Variable reward:

At the end of the month, there is a draw with different prizes each time (a book token, a movie or a theater ticket, etc.) among the employees who ranked 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

Does it have to be a variable reward?

The answer is yes, because keeping the same reward for too long can bore users and they will no longer participate. In the timesheet gamification example, the point system and the ranking alone are not enough to generate interest for employees to register tasks daily.

So I attracted the user, they performed the action and received the reward. Now what?

4. Investment:

After getting a reward in the previous phase, the user is ready to contribute something to the product (as examples: time, data, recommendation, review, etc.). It is important to highlight that the investment phase refers to the return the user gives to the product when the hook cycle is concluded.

When an intended behavior occurs with enough frequency and perceived utility, it enters the habit zone, which is the moment the desired behavior becomes a habit. Companies must keep these factors in mind when developing their products.

How do you plan to engage your users? What habit do you want to build? Can you apply any of the Hooked Model principles to your digital product?

Text based on the book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”, by Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover.

By Nicole Santos Mendes Fernandes

Aligned. Agile. Accelerated.

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