When a consumer goes through this cycle repeatedly, he or she starts getting habituated to the process. Let us understand this by decoding how the human brain functions.
Psychologists and neurologists split the brain function into two types of systems. One is automatic and intuitive, and the other is rational and reflective. By constantly repeating the cycle, the use of a product shifts from rational and reflective thinking to intuitive and automatic.
For example, when XYZ starts using Instagram for the first time, she uses the rational system of the brain. At this point, the decision to click on notifications is rationalized by the brain and the action of clicking happens. By repeatedly going through the cycle of clicking on notifications to see posts, the action shifts from the rational system to the automatic and intuitive system of the brain. If one analyzes all the successful products around us, we find that many use this concept effectively to form consumer habits.
Let us consider another example :
A UPI payment platform in India, which entered the market much later than its competitors did, and recently used the concept of variable reward, in the form of scratch cards. This strategy helped them become the market leader in UPI transactions.
The irony is that, while on the one side people are seeing their mental health deteriorate due to their addiction to products designed to hook consumers, on the other side, the same concepts of behavioral science can be used by the wellness industry to create healthy habits among users.
Impact of technology on human psychology
Let us take an example of Peloton, an American exercise equipment and media company that has developed a spin bike with a 22 inch tablet attached to it, to get customers habituated to exercise.
- In order to create a trigger in the mind of their customers, Peloton purposely designed the product to be sleek and small, so that it can be easily placed in a prominent area of the house, like the living room or bedroom. This is called the mere exposure effect. The more the number of times one sees the bike, the higher the chances that one will use it.
- Simplicity effect is used to make the action of getting on the bike easier for consumers. In his behavior change model, Professor B.J Fogg from Stanford University concludes that the simpler a task, the greater the ability to perform it. Peloton has an offline library of prerecorded classes on its tablet, and also offers live classes round the clock. This makes the action of getting on the bike easier and convenient.
- Peloton has an irresistible reward system in which the customers are shown how much more they need to exercise to get the reward, instead of how many calories they have burnt. Also, every time a consumer uses the bike, he creates competition for the community of about 2 million users. This is his investment in the product. Peloton has thus achieved an impossible target of making millions of users addicted to exercise. The company’s huge active user base and growth is a testament of its success.
Studies also show that a loss incentive strategy works best to create an exercise habit among employees. In an experiment, 3 strategies were tested among employees who were asked to achieve a goal of completing 7000 steps :
- A fixed incentive of $1.4 per day.
- A daily lottery with a mean incentive of
- $1.4 per employee, per day.
- Loss incentive: An advance of $42 was given to the employees in an account from which $1.4 was deducted for each day they missed their goals.
The study concluded that a loss incentive strategy increased the percentage of employees completing the task from 30% to 45%.
The Global Wellness economy is a $4.5 trillion market today. It has seen a mushrooming of online sessions for improving mental state, that cost anywhere between $30 to $60 per hour.