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With marketplace competition on the rise alongside growing buyer empowerment, creating engaging customer experiences is more important than ever for companies that want to survive and thrive. According to a marketing research survey, about 89% of companies consider customer experience to be their primary basis for competition. So how can digital marketers and designers create experiences that capture people’s interest and keep them coming back for more? The trick may lie in fashioning a more compelling “hook.”

I was honored to meet Nir Eyal, the author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” when we co-hosted a webinar together. According to Nir, it’s not necessarily the best product that wins customers over, but rather, it’s the product that can capture “the monopoly of the mind.” His four-part HOOK model—based on behavioral psychology and his experiences within technology and business—breaks down exactly what we can do to facilitate habit-forming customer behavior to secure repeat-engagement and, ultimately, gain a competitive edge.

“The first-to-mind solution is what people turn to out of habit,” Nir says. “It’s through successive cycling through the different parts of the HOOK that users’ preferences are changed, tastes are formed and the habits take hold.”

Here, I’ll run through the basics of Nir’s HOOK model. And then we’ll look at how you can put the wisdom of the model into practice on your ecommerce site and content management platform using Episerver.

The HOOK Model

The HOOK Model is based on the idea that habits are good for business. How is that? Habits influence how long and frequently your customers use your product. And when customers make a habit of using your product, they’re more likely to use it more frequently and integrate it into their daily routine, and tell their friends about it—which is great for business growth and gaining market share.

Of course, it’s important to be conscious of the moral implications of manipulating user behavior. Nir Eyal points out that companies need to take the responsibility to help customers form habits that are healthy, help them find meaning, and engage them in something important.

The HOOK model has four parts that work together in a repeating cycle.

Part 1: Trigger

Before new habits can be formed, a new behavior needs to be created. Triggers provide the basis for sustained behavioral change, and there are two main types: external and internal. External triggers tells your customer what to do next with some piece of information. For example, a call-to-action message that asks them to “Buy now” or “Click here.” An internal trigger also tells them what to do next, but is informed through an emotional association in their own memory. For example, a feeling of boredom or loneliness that triggers them to engage with your product in order to modulate their mood and make them feel different.

Key question: What internal and external triggers are you addressing?

Part 2: Action

Action is the simplest behavior carried out in the anticipation of receiving an immediate reward. According to the BJ Fogg formula, behavior = motivation + ability + trigger. In other words, to influence user action simply triggering it is not enough. We also need to provide some motivation and make it easy to access the reward. For example, by providing a feed customers can easily scroll through in the anticipation of discovering an interesting piece of content they can click on to open or play.

Key question: What is the simplest behavior your customers can carry out in anticipation of reward?

Part 3: Reward

Now you need to reward your customers for taking action and using your product. And that means delivering on your promises and providing them with a feel-good stimulus — but one that comes intermittently and leaves them wanting more. This could take the form of a social “tribal” reward that comes from other people, such as receiving a like. It could be a reward directly related to their “hunt” or search, such as discovering a great piece of content. Or it could be related to the self and the desire for self-improvement, such as the ability to check items off a to do list or resolve notifications.

Key question: Is the reward fulfilling yet leaves the customer wanting more?

Part 4: Investment

The more time and effort users invest into a product or service, the more they value it. To secure your customer’s commitment and increase the likelihood of another pass through the HOOK, design your product, service or experience so that it appreciates with use. When your customer invests their money, personal data, emotional commitment, effort, time, or social capital into your product with the expectation that the experience will improve over time, they are more likely to come back. For example, when they add data to a health tracking app or acquire a large number of followers on a social platform.

Key question: What “bit of work” is done to increase the likelihood of returning?

Using the HOOK model for ecommerce

Let’s take a look at each step of the HOOK model again but through the lens of ecommerce and marketing.

Trigger: Create emails and social triggers based on any content and interaction.

Action: Create relevant and engaging content that encourages users to take action.

Reward: Provide variable rewards depending on where your customer came from and their various interactions.

Investment: The more users visit your site, the more personalized their experience becomes.