Get customers hooked to your product

a must-follow guide to build your habit-forming product

Ahmed Adel
Aug 20, 2018 · 6 min read

Back in university days, I started intensive exercising to get in shape and I was taking selfies everyday to check out my progress. I thought why not making a progress tracking app. The app takes photos every day and put them together in a video with a motivating soundtrack to share it everywhere. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

After discussing the idea with a friend, we got stuck at two questions; What will push users to use the application and commit to taking a picture daily? Why will they leave Instagram for this app?”. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find answers and we gave up going back to our assignments and daily routine.

Later on, I read“Hooked” a book by Nir Eyal. In the book I found answers to these questions and advice on how to build a habit-forming product.

“A habit is at work when users feel a tad bored and instantly open Twitter. They feel a pang of loneliness and before rational thought occurs, they are scrolling through their Facebook feed”.
Nir Eyal

Who doesn’t want to build a product like Facebook or Twitter which users unconsciously choose? Alright, to do that Eyal created “the hook” model to help you build a habit-forming product. The model consists of four steps: Trigger, Action, Variable reward and Investment.

The hook model according to Nir Eyal


In the trigger phase, you are trying to grab the attention of the customer to let them take an action towards your product. Triggers come in two types; external and internal.

External triggers are those triggers coming to the user from outside like emails, Billboard ads, or Google ads. These triggers give the users information on what to do next. Whether they should click on a link, make a phone call or pay a visit. The trigger needs to be attractive with a clear call to action. For example, if you are sending an email don’t put a lot of links and offers; as too many choices will make the user hesitated and confused. You need to make it to the point.

Internal triggers come from inside the users; how do they feel and what do they want. For instance, if you feel lonely, that’s a trigger to find something makes you feel connected like Facebook. If you are afraid to lose a memory, you run to open Instagram and capture the moment before it is gone.


The second phase is the action; in which you want to drive a positive behavior from the user towards your product.

Stanford Professor BJ Fogg created a behavioral model that explains how behaviors are formed. Fogg shows three basic elements for any behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability and Trigger.

In this video, Fogg explains simply the three factors

Motivation can be driven by one of three core motivators: seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, seeking hope and avoiding fear, seeking acceptance and avoiding rejection. For example, Facebook makes its users feel socially accepted. It helps them grow communities where they can belong and freely express their opinions and get comments on them.

On the Ability side, doing the action should be easier than thinking about it. That’s why Fogg put six elements of simplicity by which we can create a simple action for the user. The elements are:

  1. Time: how long the action will take.
  2. Money: how much it will cost the user.
  3. Physical effort: how much effort related to taking the action.
  4. Brain cycles: how much focus and mental effort required to take the action.
  5. Social deviance: how accepted the behavior is by others.
  6. Non- routine: how much the action meets or conflicts with the user’s routines.

Now, You can guarantee that users will take your desired behavior. Just apply the right trigger, get them motivated and design a simple action to be taken.

Variable reward

Now, you attract your users and they take their first action towards your product in anticipation for the reward. This reward must be variable to keep them hooked and wanting. Let’s see what Eyal wrote explaining the variability;

“The predictable response of your fridge light turning on when you open the door doesn’t drive you to keep opening it again and again. However, add some variability to the mix . Say a different treat magically appears in your fridge every time you open it — and voila, intrigue is created. You’ll be opening that door like a lab animal in a Skinner box.”
Nir Eyal

He also described three types of variable rewards:

  1. The tribe: the search for social rewards fueled by connectedness with other people. Just like getting an acceptance on a friend request, getting a like on a post on Facebook or just knowing what is going on with the friends on the newsfeed.
  2. The hunt: the search for material resources or information. like when you read an article on a website and find other related suggested articles on the page side. Or, when you sign up for Uber and get $10 as a reward for your first ride.
  3. The self: the search for intrinsic rewards of mastery, competence and completion. like leveling up in video games or reading all the emails in your Gmail inbox, Woohoo!
Gmail all read inbox notification


In this step, the users invest in your product. They invest in anticipation for future rewards. Their investment can take many forms. It can be in the form of content like creating playlists on iTunes so they can listen to their favorite songs later. It can be data like creating a LinkedIn profile which enable employers to find them later. It can be followers like twitter so they can get in touch with the people they like. Or investing in their reputation like yelp so people can find them and use their services from their customers’ reviews. Many forms of investment but they all share the same goal of getting more rewards.

As long as users are getting their rewards they will keep repeating using your product till it became a habit for them and voila that’s what you are looking for.

What now?

Now, it is your turn to start working on your product. These are five questions which conclude the process of creating a habit-forming product so that you can easily start with them.

  1. What do your users really want? What is the itch you are going to scratch for them? (internal trigger)
  2. What will lead users to your product? (external trigger)
  3. What is the simplest action they take in anticipation of reward? (action)
  4. Are they fulfilled by the reward and left wanting more? (variable reward)
  5. What will they invest in your product? Does it store a value that makes them want to use it again? (investment)

At the end there is still one more important question to think about; Will this model enable unethical companies to create addictive products that may hurt the users who get used to them?

Ahmed Adel

Written by

I'm an entrepreneur. I have a serious enjoyment in marketing and product management research. Bringing the customer voice to the table is my job.

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