How behavioural science can help you influence consumer behaviour

Published: 24/08/2021
Author: Vidatec

At Vidatec we are passionate about using behavioural science to help create the best possible user experience with our technology. Understanding human motivations and habits can be an especially powerful tool when working with brands seeking to promote positive behavioural changes.

Just take a look at projects such as the Couch to 5K app that we developed with Public Health England to provide a supportive tool for those looking to increase their fitness levels and run 5K, or our work with Ryvita to promote good gut health through the FibreFit app.

Behavioural science is an important design and development consideration for introducing any kind of new user journey. The best way to build a lasting relationship with your target customers, after all, is to build your solution in such a way that it can easily fit into their lifestyles. While creating positive new habits is never easy, we’re going to delve a little deeper into understanding how it can be achieved.

A Habit Loop

A habit loop is one way to think about how habits are formed and how they facilitate our daily behaviours to feel so natural and effortless. For example, when was the last time you had to think about changing gears in your car? You don’t, you just drive. Or the last time you had to remind yourself to brush your teeth? This is most often a triggered response that has become instinctive from the simple action of waking up in the morning or your night-time routine.  So, the question is how do you take a consumer action and turn it into a consumer habit that fits seamlessly into a routine?

Well, the loop essentially boils down to three parts, which are a response to a given cue that delivers a reward.

The response element involves identifying the new behavioural change you’re trying to implement. The cue refers to the trigger element of the loop, the part that’s going to remind your consumer to partake in the behaviour. And finally, the reward component is all about making that uncomfortable action of breaking an old / making a new habit all worthwhile with a feeling of satisfaction that is enough for the brain to want to repeat the behaviour again and again.

Close up of a smiling man running while listening to music using earphones.Are your consumers getting a better quality of sleep, improved fitness levels or feeling more energised after making healthier food choices through your solution, for example? Then that is the reward!

Getting a little more familiar with this process will not only enable you to make informed decisions when it comes to designing a user journey, but it will also help to create an effective habit loop around the behavioural change you are asking the user to strive towards.

Habits Are Open to Influence

Now that you know what a habit loop is, the art of knowing how to build one comes down to identifying which part of the cycle you’re going to target. As Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit ‘there isn’t one formula for changing habits. There are thousands.’ Therefore, there will always be an element of experimentation as you try to determine what the most effective change will be for your target audience.

…there isn’t one formula for changing habits. There are thousands.

Charles Duhigg

For instance, your first option is to home in on the cue. This can be achieved by either owning a moment, for example linking your action to a specific time of the day or by drawing the user’s attention to what triggers the old habit in the first place. By improving awareness of a particular emotion or place that enables the behaviour, it then becomes possible to replace that habit with a new, more desirable action.

Another option is to look at targeting the action itself. This means spending time minimising the friction that could put barriers in the way of the user performing the action. From a brand’s perspective this is all about ensuring that the user experience is as smooth and intuitive as possible. This will only make the action more desirable to do and will consequently increase the chances of the user repeating the behaviour significantly.

Alternatively, a third opportunity is to target the motivation aspect of the cycle so that the consumer is encouraged by the overall outcome of the habit; the reward. To do this effectively there needs to be a strong connection between the outcome of an action with a reward, which will help to increase that sense of achievement. When focusing on motivation it’s important to be as creative as possible in making the process more fun, which will ultimately deepen that sense of meaningful reward. Why not consider adding a gamification element or even tying in a social aspect to a user journey to encourage them to engage throughout the process and leave them craving more?

Moving Forward

Knowing more about the science behind human behaviour will only enhance the effectiveness of any technology that you decide to implement, especially when you’re trying to develop new habits.

It’s important to take the time to properly research and plan your desired outcomes. By planning how you’re going to pique your target audience’s interest, what behaviour you want to change and how you’re going to facilitate a sense of reward, you will only increase your chances of encouraging positive behavioural change.

If you’re keen to learn more about how behavioural science can impact consumer habits, Vidatec recently participated in a webinar in partnership with The Behaviours Agency on this very topic, which is available to watch here: