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The Value of Habit

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When designing a game, one of the things we consider most important is its replay potential.

Our client’s aim is often to gain maximum brand visibility – and it’s our aim to do that by delivering a top notch product that is designed to be an everyday pleasure to use.

Some 20% of mobile users typically open their newly downloaded apps a single time before deleting or simply ignoring, left to the applications folder abyss. But we want our products to be for life, not just for Christmas.

So how do you hook people in and give the app or game its forever-home?

How do you convert ‘want to play… maybe’… into ‘need to play…. now’?

Experts in the field of human behaviour tell us that we can achieve this through creating consecutive hook cycles.

A consecutive hook cycle is, in this context, the ‘external trigger’ of the game being installed on the device, and therefore into the consciousness of the user. From there, with the right ingredients, is the introduction of an ‘internal trigger’ which becomes habitual urge.

This nifty process is great at initiating an unprompted user engagement with the application. Like the compulsion to sing a catchy tune or check the time every 7.2 seconds when waiting for the bus, it’s ingrained in our subconscious.

Retailers historically advertised their products on billboards, bus stops, television screens and catalogues, but now people’s attention is coveted by their portable devices.

We are much more likely to flick through our Freecycle feed on Facebook than trawl through the a catalogue for casual entertainment. Reflectively, gamers are playing more on mobile rather than waiting all day to get home and play their consoles or lug around the comparatively bulky portable games consoles like the 3DS. The games industry has had to evolve, and so must the retail kings.

Mobile apps and mobile web publishers saw an increase in monthly audience by 21% and 42% respectively in the past year. So, to benefit from this change, by drawing inspiration from the gaming world, retailers swapped their catalogues for apps.

Luckily for them, in the quest for higher ‘on the go’ visibility, the first hurdle is barely an inch off the ground. We are never more than a few paces away from our smart phones or tablets.

The second hurdle is a little more difficult – managing to crack into how games have successfully ‘addicted’ people for the past thirty years.

Companies like Starbucks and Costa are on the digital rise with impressive doublings of their app audiences, thanks to their reward systems, gaining Starbucks, in particular, over 15 million installs. The appeal lies in what most games can’t offer in real life – free stuff.

Simple, really – to create an internal trigger for users, it is essential to find the pre-existing triggers we’re all attracted to. To socialise, to learn… to get free stuff.


Starbuck’s reward system has gained it over 15 million installs

Walmart has recently climbed into the top 25 mobile web properties in the US with its Savings Catcher app. The superstore’s astonishing 402% increase in unique mobile visitors may surprise you – after all, what’s Walmart doing at Candy Crush’s party?

Interestingly, 8 out the top 10 apps right now are owned by Google or Facebook. Both, we use to engage with the world around us – to discover, and to communicate what we’ve discovered.

Walmart’s app has recognised and run with this. It features a 1-Hour photo service, allowing users to upload their photos from their phone memories or social media albums and then collect them in store, bringing them into the real world. Also, it allows people to create gift lists – great for birthdays, baby showers and weddings – all events that images and comments on inevitably get shared online.

top25mobileappsUSJune 2015: 8 of the top 10 apps are owned by either Google or Facebook (comScore)

In June 2015, among the top mobile apps were Facebook, Youtube and Instagram – all three have found ways to turn real world behaviours into app based habits. By mirroring this, Walmart have successfully hooked users in.

Big brands are seeing that – although it is admittedly ironic – by following the methods that games have been utilising for years, tapping into our pre-existing internal trigger to interact, share, enjoy and de-fuss our lives, they can get people’s noses down and their eyes locked on their brand.