“We are, all of us, creatures of habit,” wrote Edgar Rice Burroughs in his 1916 novel ‘The Beasts of Tarzan’. In so doing, he coined an aphorism that science and psychology have subsequently proved to be more accurate and apposite than he might have imagined at the time.
This very morning, each of us has subconsciously repeated the cycle of many different habits. We’ve got out of bed prompted by the siren call of an alarm. Stood bleary-eyed in front of the bathroom mirror and brushed our teeth. Grabbed a latte just how we like it at our favourite coffee shop – tendering our little black and blue loyalty card to be stamped as we did so. Glanced at the headlines in the Metro. Said “Good morning” to the smiling receptionist…the list of our repeated daily habits – routines if you like, expands as time passes.
What then is a habit? In simple terms it is a behaviour done with little or no conscious thought. In psychology, ‘habits’ are defined as behavioural patterns enacted automatically in response to a situation in which the behaviour has been performed repeatedly and consistently in the past. (Verplanken & Aarts, 1999; Wood and Neal, 2009). Not only have we conditioned ourselves to behave in a particular way in a given context, recent investigation suggests that alternative actions are actually less accessible in the brain (Danner, Aarts & de Vries, 2007, 2008).
What then if you could harness the psychology of habit formation to encourage your customers to use your product, service or brand more frequently or more consistently? Well, you can. Companies that form strong customer habits enjoy several benefits to their bottom line. They successfully attach their product to internal triggers. Instead of relying on expensive marketing, habit-forming companies link their services to peoples’ daily routines and emotions. Revenues increase and costs fall.
Habit-forming products, both good and bad, have been around for decades but technology has magnified the power and potential of this approach – think Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Minecraft, Candy Crush or Fitbit. These category leading brands, and many others like them, design their customer or user experience around the four stages in the habit formation cycle:-
We have developed ways of helping clients make their product or service customer experience more habit-forming, at each and every stage in this cycle, as illustrated in the diagram above. This approach can be applied in any sector where it is a realistic objective to secure purchases or customer engagement with the brand at least once a quarter. Do get in touch if you would like to know more about how to go about harnessing the psychology of habit formation to grow your business or brand.
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