6 ways to build a product that becomes a habit

We live in an age where technology accompanies us at all times of our day, from when the alarm sounds to wake us up to when we check social media before going to bed.

We feel an impulse that pushes us to control the smartphone every time we hear a notification. We developed a kind of addiction, forming habits that would have seemed crazy 10 years ago.

How did this change come about?

Let’s first try to understand what a habit is: for psychologists, the term habit  denotes “automatic behavior that is triggered by a situational signal”, or to put it simply, an action that we automatically carry out in certain circumstances.

How to create a habit

Anyone who creates a product today must ask themselves a question: how can I make my users continue to use my product? The answer is simple: create a product that forms a habit. To do this, it is necessary to understand what is the mechanism that leads a user to repeatedly use a product or service. To create a habit, you need to guide your user through a series of steps: the more often they are repeated, the more likely they will become a habit.

These steps can be observed in any behavior that creeps into our minds, thus becoming a habit:

  • Trigger – is the signal that sets the action in motion. There are two types: internal and external.
  • Action – what we do, usually with the expectation of a prize.
  • Variable reward – the one that creates a desire for the user.
  • Investment – the user invests something – money, time, effort – ensuring that the cycle will repeat itself in the future.

Step 1: create the trigger – trigger

The first step of each cycle is the so-called trigger, or a stimulus that leads us to take a certain action. There are two types of stimuli, internal and external.

External stimuli are the most common ones, which most of us are able to recognize. We think of notifications on the smartphone, pinging a new e-mail. These stimuli are extremely simple to implement, because they give the user a direct signal, and trigger predetermined behavior.

Internal stimuli, on the other hand, are those that do not depend on external factors, but are generated directly by our brain. This usually happens in response to an emotion we feel. The emotions that generate the strongest stimuli are generally the negative ones, such as boredom, anger, depression. If we feel bored, for example, we are stimulated to open Facebook or YouTube to find something that contrasts boredom.

Both stimuli create a sort of discomfort in us, an uncomfortable feeling we want to get rid of. The type of emotion we feel is closely related to the type of technology that we will use to alleviate this sensation. And this brings us to the second phase of the cycle.

Step 2: stimulate action – Action

Action is what we do in response to the stimulus. The moment we feel that discomfort created by the stimulus, we immediately seek a way to get rid of it.

Since we are in an uncomfortable situation, we are looking for an action that requires the least effort to satisfy our need, so one of the most important points to consider is the simplicity of the action.

There is a sort of formula that can help us understand when a stimulus leads to an action:

B = MAT

Where, to have a behavior ( B ehaviour), 3 conditions must be met:

  • M otivation (motivation) – it is what transforms the stimulus into action, it is our desire. The stronger the discomfort we feel, the greater our willingness to find a solution. If we have to wait in the waiting room for 10 minutes, we will be highly motivated to look for something to pass the time.
  • A bility – is the level of ease with which we can do the necessary action. The less effort required to perform a certain action, the greater the likelihood of repeating it. If I just open an app to see interesting articles, I will be more inclined to do so rather than having to enter my username and password every time.

When both Motivation and Skill are present, the user is in a highly influenced mental state. So here is the third element of our formula: