Getting people to be more healthy is a big ask. So when one of our briefs involved doing just that, we turned to behavioural science for insights and tools for how to best approach this tricky task.
We had more than 50 volunteer participants recruited across age brackets, demographic groups and attitudes to health and wellness. And five weeks to test some of our key assumptions around the product, the service and the experience.
We had one control group, who were only given a product to take. And several cohorts with which we were testing various aspects of the proposition. To make sure we’re not skewing any of the results, we spent a lot of time designing our experiment. If you want to know more about how we run experiments at Reason, take a look here.
Here are some of the key insights we gathered along the way.
1. Social proof is key to habit change, especially in the first few weeks
Our hypothesis was that setting a goal and letting others know about it would make our customers more accountable to the community. Our control group didn’t have to set goals or share them. They were on their own.
At the end of the official trial period, the participants with access to a community felt that it was instrumental in keeping them on track, and accountable to the wider group. They felt more positive about the experience, and a third of them asked to carry on with the experiment.
During the extended trial phase, they had no access to a community, and at the end of that phase most participants reported slipping back into old bad habits and missing the community to keep them in check.
Our control group had no emotional engagement with the product, they only carried on with the trial because they were asked to. They felt zero to minimal change in their wellness levels.
When designing your proposition, consider ways to introduce social proof to encourage customers to act a certain way. That could be anything from creating an actual community to introducing subtler references to what other users do, in order to influence behaviours.
2. Creating a path of least resistance is key to gradual habit change
Our product came in one big pack, with one big scoop, to be taken only once a day. This was the smallest effort we could ask for, and the easiest way for customers to get in the habit of taking the product.
We knew this was the least elegant solution in the long run, but we needed to learn what people did with that pack, where they put it, how they used the scoop, what they sprinkled the product on, when they took the product during the day. Aesthetics wasn’t our priority, we just wanted people to get in the habit of using it every day.
We gently introduced extra asks as the weeks progressed. We asked customers to take the product twice a day, to try new ways of taking it, to try new flavours, to cut out certain foods, to exercise for an extra 20 minutes a day, and so on. We even scaled back some of our asks when the pace of change was too demanding.
When designing your own proposition, challenge yourself to come up with the easiest way to get consumers to complete a certain behaviour without impacting on how they currently do things.
3. Concrete recommendations beat vague guidelines by miles
First off, we sent out quite high level guidelines for taking the product. Our assumption was that people would try the product, and then incorporate it into anything they were already eating or drinking, at a time that suited them.
We were wrong. Consumers wanted specific directions. They wanted to be told to take one scoop, once a day at 11am, with a cup of coffee. What we assumed would be restricting for them turned out to be necessary to induce habit change.
Another experiment was to ask them to reduce their sugar intake. We assumed that they would spot sugary treats, and then eliminate them from their diet.
We were wrong. Consumers wanted more clarity on what constituted sugar, what bad sugars were, and what they could substitute them with. So we ended up creating very specific videos and infographics to get our message across. This turned out to be the most successful bit of the experiment by far!
When designing your own proposition, put your messaging in front of users who have not been involved in the project at all. Listen to their feedback, and tighten any wording or guidelines that weren’t immediately understood.
4. Finding the best time to talk to customers turns an annoying notification to an effective message
One of the most common reasons for deleting apps is annoying notifications. It’s worth remembering the customer’s view of your notification - sending out one push notification may be competing with 30± other apps that are also trying to grab their attention.
That’s why we wanted to understand when users wanted to hear from us. Initially, we left them to their own devices, and asked them to check in when they can to see any new content. Gradually, we started personalising our message.
In the first week of the trial, we asked the participants to fill out a food diary. From that, we knew when they prone to snacking, when they would be exercising and when they would be in need of a boost from us. Our experiments were designed to give them a word of encouragement if they hadn’t exercised the day before, or when they were likely to forget to take the product because they were tempted by bad treats.
When designing your own proposition, get to know your customers really well. A deep understanding of their habits, enables you to pick the best moment to create super effective messaging.