What are triggers?
Triggers can be anything that prompts us to complete a particular action. They suggest what to do next. There are two types of triggers, internal and external triggers.
External triggers are everywhere. They flood our senses and remind us how to take a particular action. The obvious example of an external trigger is the popular “Click here” button.
Internal triggers, on the other hand, are impulses that come from within. Memories, situations, and emotions tell us what to do next. For example, seeing a beautiful sunset, a celebrity or even an old friend can cause some people to take a photo and post it on social media. These habit-forming internal triggers are responsible for the success of many products and are key drivers for many companies.
Think back to psychology 101, you will likely remember Ivan Pavlov and his dogs. Pavlov trained his dogs to respond by salivating at the sound of a bell. The procedure which we now know as classical conditioning begins by ringing a bell before feeding time. Soon the dogs began to respond just by ring the bell.
Three elements must be present for the desired behavior to occur: motivation, ability, and a trigger. For our application, we might think of the three elements as value, simplicity, and attention-grabbing. If one or more of the elements are missing the desired action will not happen.
Now let’s look at some digital applications…
Call to action
Every call to action button, graphic link, or text which guides a web user to complete an action is an external trigger. Small adjustments in the copy, position, size, and even color can create massive changes in conversion rates. For example, Black and Decker saw a 17% increase in their click-through rate by using “Buy now” instead of “Shop now”.
Home screen app icons
We touch our phone nearly 3,000 times and unlock it up to 80 times a day. Each time you unlock your phone you are greeted with a grid full of external triggers. Red badges with numbers signaling missed notifications express a sense of urgency.
Push notifications can have a similar effect with open rates of up to 80%. Well-timed, well-designed push notifications tend to spark a lot of curiosity. Unless your the type of user that has hundreds of unread notifications on your home screen and in your email inbox.
Remember the last time you were reminded of a new update for an app that you forgot you ever had? Using push notifications and emails to notify users of strategically planned updates can be part of your marketing and retention strategy.
Sign up for a web app and get welcomed to the product by an automated email. User interactions within a web app or even a website can activate time-based conditional triggers in the form of transactional emails. IBM conducted an email marketing study and found out that transactional emails have a 116% higher open rate than marketing emails because they are personalized and are typically expected.
Wish lists and favorites
Another highly effective external trigger application is the use of wish lists and favorites. You often see them in eCommerce stores like Amazon or Target. Twitter and Instagram also store your favorite tweets and likes. Giving a book marketing mechanism to your users can increase overall engagement and open the door for remarketing in the future.
The autocomplete design pattern is now convention on many search engines. Often times, these suggestions can encourage an exploratory search when the suggestions are relevant. There is huge potential for taking advantage of this type of behavior when targeting keywords for content marketing and SEO.
They happen all the time. Unlike external triggers, you can’t see or hear an internal trigger since they are automatically manifested in your mind. Negative emotions are especially powerful triggers. In our digital age, one of the first signs of boredom is now someone checking their Facebook or Instagram. Researchers have found that people with depressive symptoms tend to check their inboxes more often.
The ultimate goal is to convert external triggers to internal ones. What situation might one of your users find themselves in? What desired habit could be built? and what external trigger can be executed close to that moment?