How to Make a Habit Forming App

Do you know that feeling when something seems to keep popping up everywhere? You have one conversation about a product and then you start noticing it everywhere. Then the more times you start noticing it, the product becomes more engrained in your mind to the point you may think of that brand subconsciously. Yes, this can be done with retargeting ads which "follow" you around the internet, but it also happens naturally to us all. This may be called the frequency illusion, which occurs when something you've recently discovered or brought to focus suddenly seems to keep popping up everywhere. Now you don't want to be forcing your app down people's throats, but if you happen to be in a lot of different places your customer is looking, eventually you may get them to subconsciously remember your app and use it.

A big part of ensuring your app or product continuously pops up is having an app that goes viral. But before we get into how to make a viral and habit forming app, let's explore why vitality has changed the game for app developers.

Limitless connections and global networks

It’s easy to forget that before the Internet, word-of-mouth was limited to the people you encountered either face-to-face or over the phone. If you loved a new movie, you might tell your friends, your co-workers, and even your dentist. Ideas could go viral, but it usually took a while. Thanks to platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, we’ve all dramatically expanded our social reach. We have both direct and indirect access to hundreds and even thousands of people – depending how much you nurture those networks. If you rave about a new restaurant or vent about bad airline service, for example, people know in an instant. Technology has multiplied the network effect, both in sheer numbers and global influence, which accelerates virality.

Creating two-way virality

Obviously, a product or service that people really want is far more likely to go viral. The odds get even better if your customers are ready to advocate for you – and the most effective way to create brand advocates is by giving them an easy button. Simplify a complex task or streamline something that has multiple steps and complications. Apple created customer advocates with the very first iPhone (among other pioneering products). Here was a phone, daytimer, camera and music player all in one, and it came in an industrial strength package. You could use it constantly, drop it and stress test it, and the device generally kept on going.

Here’s another example. I’m a total Amazon junkie, so I admire how Jeff Bezos and his team have made long-term bets that are just beginning to pay off. As we all know, Amazon started by selling books online. They made people feel comfortable shopping on the Internet – which was pretty much unheard of in 1994 – and created serious fulfillment and distribution channels. As they introduced more products, customers already trusted the Amazon name and began adding toothpaste and sweaters to their digital carts.

When the company rolled out Amazon Prime in 2005, it started as a free service. People told their friends and families how two-day delivery on an unlimited number of items had simplified their lives (remember that easy button). Now, not only were customers naturally spreading the word, the brand was gaining more traction in each customer’s life. To use an inelegant metaphor, the Amazon virus was spreading within individual people, as well as the global market. This internal virality continues to shift extra dollars in Amazon’s direction.

More day-to-day reliance = more revenue