Habit forming features should be front and center for new audiences

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


My colleague and fount of all knowledge around media subscriptions, INMA Readers First Initiative Lead Greg Piechota, asked me to host a workshop on habit forming features and products during the recent INMA Media Subscriptions Summit.

Today I want to share two things from that workshop: one is the key takeaways and the other is an interesting discussion the room had about organising to deliver objectives. 

Key takeaways on habit forming features and products

  • Numerous research reports show frequency is the biggest indicator of loyalty. Many companies use daily active users (DAU) as a core metric. 

  • Look for high-impact opportunities where you see frequency, relevancy, and volume with user habits.

  • Specific features can be used for different audiences. Be focused on who you are building for and why you are building those features. 

  • Active personalisation can give you a lot of information; remember it is a value exchange so be clear to tell them what they get in return or make great specific offers (for example, The Washington Post offered a digital copy of the front page from the day you were born to learn users birthdays) 

  • Habit building features should be front and center. Consider how you showcase them in prime locations in the user journey, such as through onboarding and navigation.

  • Great features won’t make up for a bad user experience. 

  • Organise to deliver. The above are reliant on a number of departments working together. To be effective, you have to harness the right parts of the organisation.

During the summit workshop, attendees discussed the Hooked Model for building habit.
During the summit workshop, attendees discussed the Hooked Model for building habit.

The case for squads

During the workshop, we got into a good discussion about this last point: organising to deliver. 

From the perspective I have on the industry, it’s clear to see that squads are highly effective. But it’s not right for everyone. If you decide to move to a squad structure, know that it takes time to make it work and you have to be committed.

One thing that became apparent is that squads don’t work as well if they sit alongside everyone’s day jobs. We were told by one company that it meant more meetings, more layers of bureaucracy and sign off because each department also wanted to sign off.

Death by committee is a thing; we need to make sure we are building efficient structures — not making it harder.  

Within a squad, everyone needs to be empowered. A good leader is essential to bring people together and keep everyone on track. Recognise skill sets and desires. The people in the squad will have opinions, data, and smarts so it’s the leader’s job to bring those out and get people committed. 

Clear mission is critical. We heard that OKRs work well (for more on using OKRs, check out this blog post). If you can have a singular metric and focus on one job at a time, you are setting the squad up for success …

But please remember, this isn’t a silver bullet, and you won’t see overnight success. Building effective squads takes a lot of time. 

The real secret here is laser focus and enabling teams to deliver on that focus with as little red tape as possible. That’s the entire goal and one that you as a leader need to focus on.

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About Jodie Hopperton

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