Friday, September 20, 2013

changing a habit with one interaction

While mindful of not confusing repeat purchase, or habit, with loyalty, a lesson for us could be; that when we are designing experiences that require customers to complete any set of tasks over time - be that filling out forms or collecting points with purchases or even simply purchasing a number of items over time - framing that task as one that is already underway – for example using some kind of indicator that progress has been even made before the customer has to start - improves the chances of a customer completing the thing we want them to do.

As an example, earlier this week I visited a new coffee shop, not my usual one, and along with my coffee I received a card that gives me a free coffee once I fill the card with stamps.

So what? Pretty standard coffee shop practice, I hear you say.

But, my card requires 10 stamps for a free coffee, and the cheeky barista gave me a jump start with two free stamps.

Now transpose this onto an imaginary situation.

Suppose for a second that I had visited said coffee shop with a friend and that friend had also received a 'loyalty' card. Except my friend doesn’t get any free stamps, but their card only requires 8 stamps instead of 10.

So both of us are looking at the same number of future transactions (8) to get a free coffee.

But, assuming we don't go for coffee together every time, who do you think is more likely to come back enough times to fill up their card?

As it goes, it’s 'me'.

I have the card that needs 10 stamps in total, but now I've already received enough stamps to get 20% of the way towards the free coffee.

And, as it also goes I have returned to the unfamiliar coffee shop this week for more stamps, and broken my usual habit without thinking about it.

In the case of data analysis it's never a good idea to infer the general from the particular.

However in human behaviour, particularly around common mundane activities, observing ones own behaviour can often be a good indicator of what others are likely to do.

So armed with that observation I subsequently found out that this situation is called ‘the endowed progress effect.’

I also uncovered that in experiments conducted around similar habitual behaviours 34% of people who got a 10-stamp card with 2 free stamps in advance went back enough times to complete the cards, compared to 19% of customers who started with the empty card requiring only 8 stamps. This is despite the fact that both sets of customers only needed 8 stamps for a free thing.

And what’s more, those given the two free stamps also tried to fill up their card faster.

By giving people just a feeling of instant progress towards a reward, they’re more likely to take the required steps to reach that reward.

By giving the two free stamps the barista has framed the activity (i.e., buying enough coffee to get a free one) as one that is already in progress.

With any new behaviour, the hardest part it getting started in the first place. so by fuzzying up the commencement takes advantage of our naturally inclination to complete tasks that we feel we are already into.

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