Creating Habit Forming Products

Jas Banwait
Feb 18, 2016 · 4 min read

If you’re an avid reader of Medium blogs, then you’re also an avid reader of trendy business books like Hooked. If you haven’t read it, then go and read it — it’s excellent and will change the way you look at your business.

I’ve been thinking lately about ARCADE… could it be a habit forming product? In the book, there are 4 things that make up a habit forming product: Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, and Investment. Let’s examine:


This can be internal or external; something that urges you to interact with the product/service on a consistent basis so that it becomes a part of your routine. Think about the popular photo sharing app: Instagram. The internal trigger could be boredom during the morning commute or just before bedtime.

For ARCADE, it’s simple. Our trigger is the weekday 10am text message, an external trigger that is built into our product experience. We’ve had our members say that they “look forward to their 10am text, to see what’s for lunch.” Also, interestingly, we’ve even had a member say that everyday at work, someone yells out “ARCADE!” at 10am. When you look at your product/service, what is your trigger — can you build it into the experience of using it?


This relates to the user’s activity and how they use your product/service. For Instagram it’s liking/commenting on photos, and following friends. For ARCADE, it’s texting a keyword. After our offensive word debacle last year, we were so blown away by the sheer increase in engagement, that we added GIFs, contest, puzzles, and games along with the daily choice of lunch.

A person doesn’t necessarily have to order lunch, they can play the games or enter the contests. This ensures for maximum action from our users at a low commitment and no obligation. Our users range in both extremes: those that order lunch but ignore the “fun” stuff to those that don’t order lunch but always enter the contests and engage with the GIFs. When you look at your product/service, does your trigger illicit an action?

Variable Reward

This step is where things get really interesting. We all know the classic Pavlov’s dogs study and the one with birds, where a variable reward leads to increase in behavior (bird clicks the button for food more often if variable) vs. clicking only when needed if fixed).

If we look at Instagram, the variable reward is to see who liked or commented on our pictures. The element of surprise creates something to look forward to — an unplanned distraction that has the potential to delight. For ARCADE, this reward comes in a few different ways. First off, our menu changes everyday — we don’t repeat dishes and if we have promos or contests, they are never on the same day each week. A user doesn’t know what to expect when they get that text. Secondly, we have funny content that is quirky, wacky and sometimes cheesy. One member noted: “It’s like receiving a funny GIF from a friend.” We want to keep our members guessing and engaged everyday with our content. There is the obvious variable rewards in gift certificate and giveaways but the indirect reward comes from the positive emotions, as mentioned by a member: “makes me chuckle a bit.” That’s good enough for us! For your product/service, what is your variable reward, does any of your user’s actions create variable rewards?


With Instagram, it definitely takes a bit of work to create that perfect Instagram image. You have to choose the right filter, fix brightness, contrast and angles. On top of that, you have to come up with an enticing caption AND put in relevant hashtags. With all this work, its easy to deduce why an Instagram user may become attached to it. They’ve created works of art that collectively house their curated lives in one neat place. When I started thinking about how this “investment” step related to ARCADE, I was at a loss. What is the investment when our key differentiator is that it’s super simple with no commitment or obligation to partake?

Well, there is always room for improvement!

Types of investments that we are considering are a rewards program, where if you order a certain amount of times, you get an automatic discount. This is something we implemented with Stadium. There is an automated electronic punch card at the top of the screen, which keeps track of your orders. Once you hit 5 orders, you automatically get $5 off your fifth order.

Electronic Punch Card on

Creating more gamification opportunities as they pertain to actions and purchases definitely increase engagement and have users coming back to “finish” their “game”. For your product/service, what is the investment that your users put in that gets them to come back?

Try it out yourself, it could be potentially habit forming. :) Feedback welcome! Txt MEDIUM to 22105 to get started.

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Jas Banwait

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Growth Marketing Expert | Biz Automation | Entrepreneur