Part [12/12] Review of CXL’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion

Aaron Baker
6 min readOct 11, 2020

Almost 46 hours of lectures and readings and we’ve finally made our way through the course material. In this weeks review of CXL’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion mini degree, we explore the psychology of products. In this, we learn not so much what drives decision making, but how can you create small behavioural change in the minds of your users so that they stay engaged with your product.

Get Users Engaged: Cues and Triggers

Do you ever find that there are products that you use more often than others? Think your phone, Instagram, coffee maker. Yes, they don’t all have to be tech. Have you ever actually look at the product and their competition? In most cases, the products that you use most often aren’t the most technically sophisticated products out the market. Why is that? Well, Professor Clifford Nass from Stanford University says “It’s not a technology triumph. It’s a design and psychology triumph.”

Erik says that we need a better understanding of our customers and that in order to get users our offers, we need to first get them engaged. To deliver your cue or trigger at the right time, you need to figure out when that right time is. Erik suggests that the first step is to map out your entire user journey. This way you’ll be able to figure out the points at which users will become more ‘open’ to a trigger.

There are two types of triggers; external and internal triggers.

External triggers are those that are visible to us, they are sent to us in the form of a notification, email, ads, etc. Essentially, anything that prompts you to take action is an external trigger.

There are 3 characteristics that make up a good trigger.

  1. They are clear. It should be completely obvious what the user should be doing — no beating around the bush.
  2. They are sent at the right time. If someone is googling best funeral homes in ‘my city’, then it’s probably not a good time to send them an ad to rent a bouncy castle. The timing needs to be relevant to be helpful. ‘
  3. The prompt needs to be exciting and engaging. Now if a user was to see an ad for a bouncy castle, it wouldn’t be very convincing if it said: “Great bouncy castle’s for rent near you, call today”. If I’m getting this ad, I’m thinking, “wow okay, there are bouncy castles for rent near me? Cool.” If it were to include an image and a caption, such as this.

Now, as an avid ‘bouncer’ I would think, “whoa, that’s a sweet looking set-up, and ‘Inflatable fun’ Now that’s right up my alley.” For whatever your offer is, you need to craft an external trigger that will engage and excite your target.

What do you do when you get bored? I’d bet that you head to social media. Now, is that on your own volition? Or were you trained to think of social media when you’re feeling this way? Erik would argue that this is the latter.

The best optimizers and growth marketers know that if you can continuously pull users into your offering and then give them variable rewards than you can form a habit. These habits of logging in at times of vulnerability (Bordem, depression, loneliness) are internal triggers.

They are these urges to use a product even when unprompted. This is the gold standard of triggers. If you can get users to this point, you’ll have a product that will be frequented by users almost on demand.

Completing the action

There is always that one key action that will have an impact on the success of your company. Do you know what yours is? For Facebook, it was getting users to add 7 friends as fast as possible and they were more likely to become long term users.

We all want users to be engaged, Erik argues that the truest way to keep users engaged is to change people’s behaviour. Easier said than done, in reality, it’s incredibly difficult to change behaviour. The surest way to do so is by changing very small things, slowly over time. If you need to find that one small habit where you can get users to go for it, it makes it easy for them to do it, over and over.

In order to create the best ‘key action’ ask yourself the following questions when you’re evaluating your offer.

How can you simplify the process?

Can you make the action easier to find?

Can you make the instructions more clear?

Can you make it easier to complete?

Keep them coming back

Once we get users engaged, we need to get them coming back. The surest way to get people to come back to your platform is to change their behaviour. Erik references Charles Duhigg here and talks about the psychology of habits.

Charles says to form a habit you need to take the desired habit through the loop. First, there must be a cue than a routine than there must be a reward. The key here is the reward stage. You must give users the right reward in order to get them back through the loop.

There are 3 types of rewards

  • Rewards of the self
  • Rewards of the hunt
  • Rewards of the tribe

Rewards of the self, also known as ‘achievement’ rewards. Are rewards that people earn, so if they complete a desired action such as liking a picture than they are rewarded with a little heart animation that is simple, yet so satisfying. As you continue to use the platform, you become better at it, then you feel better about yourself.

Rewards of the hunt also known as resource rewards are rewards that users earn after being given the challenge of ‘looking’ for them. Cue “The Feed”. I’d loosely describe the feed that you see on your social media account as a false flag operation. The company already know so much about you and they more or less know the type of content that will keep you logged-in longer. The act of you scrolling through is there to make you feel like you discovered this content on your own. You found it, therefore, combining the variable reward of the hunt — the act of you scrolling through your feed, and the reward — the content that ‘we know you’ll love’ it creates an amazing experience that keeps you coming back for more.

Rewards of the tribe, also known as social rewards are those that you receive for engaging with the platform itself and other users. When you like your friend’s pictures or they like yours. You feel good and your friend feels good. We’ve evolved as social creatures. 10,000 years ago, if the members of your tribe didn’t like you, you’d have a very difficult time surviving. We have an instinctual need to be liked by our peers.

Do you know what the rewards of your products are?

What are the rewards that your users receive for completing an action?

How can you make your rewards more salient?

Beyond the reward

Imagine you’re a freelancer marketer and you need a LinkedIn account so companies can see your work history. You upload a profile picture, you add a bio and fill out the form for the resume. Great news! You get a 2-year contract with a major conversion optimization firm! Turns out you no longer need that LinkedIn account as much.

So… Do you delete it? I doubt you would. You invested so much time crafting it. Remember how good it felt for it to finally go live? You can’t delete it, plus, it’s good to have a web presence. Erik says that getting users to invest their time and their data (names, interests and ahem, shopping patterns) makes them more likely to continue or increase their use of the platform.

How can you get users to be more invested in your product?

Is there a way that you can build investment after the reward?

Final Thoughts

This has been a wonderful experience! My rating for this weeks course is 5/5!

Thanks to CXL for this amazing experience!