Active Users, Habits, and Puppies

I just finished The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, which talks about identifying and improving habits. (You can’t really “break” habits; the best you can do is replace the routine withe something else. The key is identifying the cue (what triggers the habit autopilot) and the reward (what you get out of it) — both of which can be tricky to pin down — and then finding some other routine that will satisfy that reward.)

The book walks through personal examples (why does the author eat a cookie every day at 3pm and can he change his behavior?), organizational examples (can Starbucks employees all learn to have an automatic, pleasant reaction to an irate customer?), and marketing examples (why do always buy the same brands, even if we don’t like them?).

This morning, I spoke to a group of owners of tire stores. One asked what tire dealer I frequented and I said that I didn’t go to a tire dealer. I always go to the Volvo dealership for maintenance (even for non-warranty items). And as I was speaking those words, I realized why. Volvo has three years of free maintenance, including oil changes. The whole time I was thinking how nice and convenient Volvo made everything for me, they were really ingraining a habit that would last longer after the free maintenance expired.

We talk a lot about viral components and stickiness, active users and differentiators. But if we want users to come back to our products again and again, we need to both provide a reward (the awesome thing our product does for them) and a cue (what triggers the automatic action to come back). The reward alone (having an awesome product) isn’t enough.

For some products, everyone’s trigger might be different. (I never log in to Facebook unless I’m waiting for a flight to take off and everything’s packed away except my phone and a magazine, and then I always check Facebook). Some companies are trying to create new triggers rather than rely on existing ones (the big red Google+ number that shows up at the top of all logged in Google pages comes to mind).

We experience these triggers all the time — every time our phone buzzes, which is always, we look down to see what’s going on. If we have a product, can we create cues that trigger habits? And more importantly, as  consumers, can we identify cues before a habit is formed or change the routine to something else if it’s too late for that? Maybe every time my phone buzzes, I pet a puppy rather than look down to see the latest check in? Does anyone have a spare puppy I can attach to my phone?

« « Where’s The Man Who’s Paying For All Of This? Three Reasons I’m A Coach At Seattle Startup Weekend Women’s Edition

When’s the last time you heard a man say, ‘I’ve been reading this great book, you’d really like it?’ » »


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • What I’m Working On Now

    SEO metrics that matter and actionable insights for improving qualified traffic from unpaid search.

    Google webmaster tools + web analytics come together for a comprehensive view of how your site performs in Google unpaid search. Uncover "not provided" data, better understand your audiences, and monitor SEO and engagement metrics.

    Learn More

  • The BookThe BookThe Book My book Marketing in the Age of Google, has been called the “search marketing bible” and "first must-read-to-survive business book of the twenty-first century". Buy your copy today.
  • About Vanessa Fox

    Vanessa Fox
    I write and speak about the search engine industry and searcher behavior and help companies with online strategy and audience engagement. I'm fascinated by our searching culture and how it's shifted the way we seek out and consume information.

    In 2010, I wrote Marketing in the Age of Google, which I updated and released as a second edition in 2012.

    In 2008, I founded Nine By Blue and Blueprint Search Analytics, which I sold in 2013.

    I used to work at Google, where I built Webmaster Central and helped launch

    Now I'm CEO of Keylime Toolbox, software that generates online performance insights from Google Webmaster Tools, web analytics, and server logs for organizations of all sizes.

    I'm also traveling the United States in an RV, working from a different city every day.

  • Girl Meets Road

    I'm working from a different city every day, traveling the country in my Roadtrek 170. See where I am now at Girl Meets Road.
  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Mastadon