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User Engagement – How to Get Your Customer to Return to Your Digital Product

User engagement is one of the most essential features of a successful digital product. Compared to brick and mortar products and services, the use of digital products does not involve calculating traditional costs, such as profit margins. Thus business-wise, the more users “consume” the digital product, the better. When users are engaged with the product and continue their subscriptions, the network starts to spread. Reaching hyperfast growth is thus possible, as the existing users don’t fall by the wayside. In addition, with engaged users, continuous communication never interrupts, which helps to keep the business’ defendability at a satisfying level.

So, how do you get your customers to use your product even more?

One widely known way to increase user engagement is gamification: perhaps even artificial levels can be created in the user experience of the product and reward users who complete those levels. However, gamifying a product is usually easier said than done. The digital universe is bursting with gamified products and services. The best-known examples are precisely documented, but at the same time, one doesn’t necessarily even recognize the most clever gamified solutions. Also, there are plenty of failed attempts of gamification that people don’t necessarily like to brag about afterwards.

However, it can be stated that using is virtually always desired behaviour. Studying human behaviour quickly takes us to more complicated thought paths. Behaviour tends to include motivation, an ability, and an action-triggering stimulus. In his book Hooked – How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal sums up the above in a consultant-approved equation B=MAT (Behaviour = MotivationAbilityTrigger). Recurring behaviour, on the other hand, is described by Charles Duhiggin in his book The Power of Habit as a continuum, alternating between cue, routine and reward. Each repetition establishes regular behaviour. How could you include these features in your product?

Affecting behaviour with positivity

The conversation may quickly shift to influencing behaviour through addiction. However, this is often rather far-fetched to even think about. As Arnold reassured his novice gym visitors who were afraid of becoming too muscular, I’m reassuring you – no worries, that won’t happen to you. The chances of affecting a user’s unconscious behaviour and get them hooked to a product are low, even though all attempts must contribute to it in some way.

Of course, it is relevant to look at this matter from a more optimistic perspective, as products that seek to influence behaviour can also create positive changes for users. The tools and services offered through digital products are essential to the daily lives of many of us. For instance, there are plenty of wellness-related products in the market. Think about how popular mindfulness apps like Calm, Oak, and Headspace reward and guide their users. They usually list streaks of how many consecutive days a user has completed their exercises. Users can see the minutes spent with the wellness-enhancing app cumulate, and after finishing the exercises, confetti flying on the screen, as well as an encouragement to thank themselves. The apps also send praises, thank you notes and gentle reminders to keep on using the app. These features are not relevant to the actual exercises, but they contribute indirectly to achieving the desired result. After all, is the setup similar to a coach and a trainee?

It is ultimately about who manages to create something that is accepted. Something that is embraced and adopted as a part of our daily lives, such as workflow, communication with loved ones, or maintaining mental well-being. With great power comes great responsibility.

The first minutes and days matter when it comes to user engagement

When it comes to digital products, the user experience is always fully electric. This means that a living person won’t be there to guide you. Instead, several assisting features can be added to the product, such as introduction videos and wizards.

The key variables in product deployment are the aha experiences created for users and the time it takes to experience value in using the product. The user needs to be able to independently discover what value the product gives them in their unique world. Does it save time or improve performance, for instance? You see, users are very impatient, so don’t think they will carefully browse your product manuals. Peace of mind or the feeling of success need to be achieved quickly without much effort.

Personally, I recall engaging user experiences with Audible and Miro, for example. I believe their user experiences must be even better today. In Audible, I downloaded my first audiobook as a free sample recommended to me based on my previous book orders. Click, and the audiobook was in my digital library. Another click, and the audiobook app was installed. Logging in with my existing username, a third click, and “Hello, this is Audible…“. All that took less than two minutes. Now I have used Audible for approximately five years with a monthly subscription of 9,51€, which makes 571 € altogether. And I’ve payed that sum gladly. With Miro, in turn, I get from clicking an invitation to filling the shared board with post it notes in less than five seconds. Opening a paid account has a few steps, but I’ve seen my clients manage it easily. Sofokus has paid pretty monthly penny for using Miro for over a year now. However, value can bee seen incredibly fast, and pricing is directly linked to value generation.

A couple thoughts on user delight

Pocket calculators are boring, because you always get the same result. That’s why I won’t take a calculator out of my pocket ten times a day just to check what fun and exciting it might show me.

Digital products are random: you don’t always know what they’re going to give you. Mostly this hooking effect is done with the content created by other users. However, it is also possible to programmatically produce various functionalities, such as filters, routes, themes, or something new to follow. These can be directed both at random, and in a very sophisticated way, based on user history or trending phenomena among the user network, for example.

User engagement is thus based on providing something new the user craves. It can’t be anything too obvious. This subject will definitely be further discussed a lot in this blog.

Interested in learning how we at Sofokus could help you with creating engaging digital products? Let’s chat!

Tomi Neulanen

Digital Business Consultant

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