Book Summary || Hooked

How to Build Habit-Forming Products

I read the book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal.  The overall premise of this book is to teach entrepreneurs how to design a product that will draw users in and keep them “hooked” so they return to the product over and over again.  Eyal argues that when a product successfully follows his Hook model, the product possesses the power to control users minds and create a habit that users unconsciously perform on a consistent basis.

To begin with, Eyal discusses the many benefits of creating a product that forms a habit for its consumers. Habit forming products have a higher customer lifetime value because consumers continue to use the product out of habit and are less likely to switch or abandon the product.  As a result of this connection between user and product, the consumer is less sensitive to price and is willing to pay an increased rate in order to sustain their habit.  Additionally, consumers that have formed habits with their products are likely to recommend the product to friends.  As the number of return users increases, the Viral Cycle Time, or the “amount of time it takes a user to invite another user”, dramatically decreases (Eyal, 22). Consequently, producers of habit forming products spend little money on advertising because consumers are prompted to buy the product by their friends’ recommendations. 

Trigger

Throughout the rest of the book, Eyal discusses the four phases of the Hooked model, which guide entrepreneurs in creating habit forming products.  Eyal argues that the first step in drawing in the attention of the consumer is to create a trigger that alerts the user to try the product.  Some triggers are external and are presented in the form of phone notifications, emails, advertisements or viral videos. Other triggers are internal and occur when the use of the product is coupled with an internal feeling or prior experience, thus prompting an emotional connection to the product.  It is important for product developers to learn about their target consumers and to understand their emotions in order to better trigger a response.  

Action 

Although the consumer may be triggered to use the product, Eyal argues that the user must also have sufficient motivation and ability to complete the action before any behavior is activated.  In order to increase motivation and ability, the product needs to be simple and straightforward to use.  Eyal also discusses psychological phenomenon that can be leveraged in order to motivate consumers subconsciously.  For example, when people see measurable progress and believe they are nearing a goal, their motivation to finish the task is increased.  As a result, companies such as LinkedIn use this strategy to encourage users to complete their profiles by displaying a “profile strength” bar that is always partially full (Eyal, 90).

Variable Rewards

Once the consumer has taken action and experienced the product, variable rewards are utilized to increase the rate of return customers.  It is important that the consumer is rewarded sporadically in order to maintain their engagement over a longer period of time.  When rewards are consistent, the organization is forced to constantly reinvent itself in order to keep consumers interested.   

Investment

Lastly, the final phase of the Hook model is designed to generate a commitment to the product through a consumer investment.  Consumers value products or services greater if they have invested time into learning how to use it or money into enhancing their experience.  This commitment to a product develops into a habit after repeat practice.  

Google 

Throughout the book, Eyal used Google as an example to illustrate the ways in which the Hook model is applied in a successful organization.  To begin with, the name “Google” has been widely adopted as a verb to describe any search for information on the internet.  This is a form of earned external trigger because users are constantly prompted to use Google whenever someone says “Google it”.  Additionally, through the use of a Gmail account or Google alerts, the organization is using owned triggers to alert users to repeatedly engage with Google beyond their search service. After users are triggered to use the service, Google uses strategies such as predictive search results to simplify the task and increase consumer ability and motivation.  Users are rewarded variably when they have to hunt through search results to find a hidden treasure of a site.  Lastly, Google collects data on its user’s search habits in order to better adapt and match each individual’s needs.  This increases the switching costs of leaving Google for a competitor. I found these Google examples to be extremely fascinating and relevant to Tech Trek because we will be visiting Google and learning more about their strategies for initiating and maintaining consistent consumer engagement.

My Assessment 

As I read this book, I began to analyze the products that I use daily and I questioned myself as to why these were the products I created a habit of using.  As I thought about my daily activities, I realized that many of the products I use do not fully complete their job, and that I had needed to buy two or three products to accomplish the entire task.  This exercise helped me to discover some of the many products that are yet to be created.  As a result, I decided to use the steps of the Hook model to create a product on my own that would solve one of my daily struggles.  The product that I created while reading this book is a blender that automatically cleans itself after use.  This helps to accomplish my entire task of blending a smoothie without having to buy an additional product to clean the blender as well.  From there, I used the 4 phases of the Hooked model to design other features on the blender, as well as  marketing strategies, that would make this product successful.  

Overall, “Hooked” encouraged me to think actively about the products that I use regularly out of habit. It also inspired me to create products of my own that have potential to be successful using the Hook model.  I would definitely recommend this book to any business people to better understand how they might improve existing products or generate ideas for future habit forming products.

3 thoughts on “Book Summary || Hooked

  1. Hi Jane!

    I think this sounds like a fascinating book, and I almost ended up reading it myself!

    I did end up reading In the Plex, about Google, so I was especially intrigued by the use of Google as an example. I suppose we can’t know objectively which perspective is correct, but the ethic and motivations of the Google founders as presented in In the Plex seem, in many cases, almost exactly opposed to the habit-forming system laid out here.

    Google executives in In the Plex are described as wanting their products to serve the user, rather than catch a consumer. I’ve also read that Google consistently avoids using the name as a verb internally, in order to prevent losing the trademark, which doesn’t seem to match up with its use as a trigger like you described. Plus, Google’s constant improvement of its search is meant to ensure users don’t have to search through results to find what they’re looking for, according to In the Plex: Google wants it to be top result, always. In fact, Google’s internal data analysis found that when users experience load times even milliseconds slower, they searched less and kept searching less for a period afterwards– again, apparently contradictory to the idea of variable rewards increasing use.

    I wonder: is Google’s model just a different way to form habits that isn’t described by this book, or was that never their goal? After all, I don’t google things as a habit, the way I make breakfast or check social media in the mornings. If not, is there a different recipe to Google’s success? I think it’s an interesting question.

    Rachel

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  2. Jane– ‘Hooked’ seems like an engaging book. ‘Habit formation’ with technology is something that is really interesting to me. My eyes have been opened ever since ios12’s update allowing users to see the amount of time spent on their iPhones came out. Since the technology industry is just now facing a lot of regulation, it will be interesting to see if the ‘habit forming’ properties of these products are ever regulated. I just read about a pharmaceutical CEO who was recently prosecuted for bribing doctors to essentially get patients hooked on painkillers. Although these examples are certainly not equitable– at least not yet– it is interesting to think about this possibility. I think some would argue that, although not necessarily physically harmful, ‘addiction’ to or ‘over-reliance’ on technology can be harmful psychologically. This is just something to think about, something that made me stop for a second at least. See you tomorrow!

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  3. Hi Jane.

    Thanks for the summary of the book.

    The first thing that popped in to my head was Instagram. The mobile app definitely follows the four steps outlined above. Instagram provides an experience rather than a physical product. Its constant notification function that keeps the user engage definitely triggers the user to open the app. Then users usually check their initial notification, and maybe in the process check their newsfeed where they like other people’s pictures and content. After they invested in other people’s content, they post their own content, and receive a reward in the form of likes; this process then feeds back into another loop of triggering more engagement. There’s definitely so many more examples out there. This books is super insightful!

    See you soon.

    Robert

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