Happy To Be Hooked: Design, Emotion and the New Customer Experience

Thanks to everyone who attended my "Happy to Be Hooked" presentation at NRF, with author of Hooked Nir Eyal, this week. The turnout and response was tremendous, and I greatly appreciated all of the positive feedback we received. Special thanks to all the NRF organizers, as well, who were extremely gracious hosts.

If you didn't get a chance to make it to NYC, or our talk, the writers at NRF did a great job of summarizing our discussion below. 

This article was published in the 2016 edition of STORES Magazine’s Show Dailies

Engaging Customers: Hook, Line and Sinker

By Fiona Soltes  | January 20, 2016

Don Draper of TV’s “Mad Men” is an easily recognizable icon of old-school advertising. To be fair, he did go through personal transformation as the series progressed.

But the same thing has happened to the world he represented. Sure, the concept of designing for emotion has held steady. But today’s efforts toward engaging consumers must focus less on pushing a message out — and more on drawing people in.

           See more insights from Retail’s BIG Show

           See more insights from Retail’s BIG Show

Chris Bye, design entrepreneur and customer experience strategist for Bye Design, opened a Retail’s BIG Show session called “Happy to Be Hooked: Design, Emotion and the New Customer Experience” with a photo of Draper and a charge to “look at the world through a new lens.”

That lens, according to Bye — and Nir Eyal, who co-authored Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products with Ryan Hoover — requires looking at and understanding consumers on the level of their needs and motivations. Quite simply, Bye said, “customer-centric companies win.”

Getting there, however, requires empathy in addition to immersion, or knowing consumers so well that there’s not only understanding of what they do, but why they do it. Here, Bye used the example of a 22-year-old single mom, and how an immersive study of her habits could provide insight for those willing to look closer.

Eyal then talked about how brands would once change customer preference and tastes based on exposure — but now do so through experience. Highly successful brands have hooks that end in changed habits.

The hook model, as outlined in the book, includes four components: trigger, action, reward and investment.

“Certain emotions dictate what we do next,” Eyal said. “Specifically negative emotions.” Being sad, lost, bored or lonely will trigger us to do things out of habit, with little or no conscious thought. In terms of habit-forming technology, this might include watching a YouTube video or scrolling through Pinterest.

Watching and scrolling is the action, the second component of the hook cycle, and the simplest behavior done in anticipation of reward. In addition to that trigger, there must be sufficient motivation and ability for the action to be performed.

As for the reward, Eyal said habit-forming rewards fall into three categories: the reward of the hunt, the reward of the tribe and the reward of the self. Social media, for example, can reward the hunt, because its high degree of variability means users never know what they’re going to get. Rewarding the self might come through game playing — there’s something “fun” about reaching the next level, whatever that level is.

The hook model’s fourth stage is investment, in which the user puts something into the product for a future benefit. If social media is the habit, for example, loading the next trigger — and continuing the cycle — might be sending a message that prompts a response. Investment also can come through storing value in the product.

“This is a really big deal,” Eyal said. “Everything in the physical world depreciates and loses value the more we use it. Habit-forming technology should do the opposite.”

Ultimately, products that form habits in consumers do bring up the morality of manipulation. If you have that queasiness, “Bravo,” Eyal said. “Any time we’re designing an experience to change user behavior, that is manipulation. And we need to be very careful how we apply these techniques.”