How to use the E.A.D. framework to reduce churn | Product Habits (3/4)
Examples from Turbo Tax, Uber Eats and Plaid
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This article is Part III of a 4-part series on Building Product Habits. Each article explores one of the four steps laid out in James Clear's best-selling book, Atomic Habits: cue, craving, response, and reward.
The Unfortunate Truth
As founders and product leaders, it's easy to get so obsessed with the product we're building that we forget that the end goal isn't to get users to "use the product" but rather "receive value from the product." When we think about it that way, our product is actually a bit of friction between the user and the value they desire.
"Every habit is just an obstacle to getting what you really want. Dieting is an obstacle to getting fit. Meditation is an obstacle to feeling calm. Journaling is an obstacle to thinking clearly. You don't actually want the habit itself. What you really want is the outcome the habit delivers."
—James Clear, Atomic Habits
As we go through this series on helping users build habits around our products, the point of this exercise is to help them realize the value of your product faster and easier.
The Law of Least Effort states...
"When faced with two options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work."
It's not a commentary on human laziness, I swear. This law is actually embedded into the very fabric of the universe. Water, for example, will flow down the path of least resistance.
In fact, humans are unique in that we can override our nature and NOT choose the path of least resistance. When something difficult has to be done, what do we do? We put on our big boy and big girl pants, put some chaw in our lip and power through. It’s actually pretty amazing.
But if we start powering through too often, our body will notice and say, "Slow down there cowboy, we can't be doing this willpower thing every day. We're gonna wire up these neurons so they all fire together to lower the cognitive burden."
And thus a habit is born… more or less.
The habit doesn't mean there's zero friction. It just means there's significantly less. There's even a term for this called automaticity.
"Automaticity is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit."
Soooo, great news right? We'll just let our brains turn everything into a habit, shift into autopilot and enjoy the ride!
Not so fast. You see, habits have to be built.
It's Time to Build (a New Habit)
Unlike the armchair philosophers who tell us that it takes 21 days to build a habit, science tells us that it's actually less about the time you put in and more about the reps you put in that builds the habit.
If the term "reps" sounds familiar, that's because we've explored the massively underrated power of The Product Rep before.
The Product Rep is that core unit of action in every product that results in a win-win. Turns out, it's great for building habits.
With every rep…
every song played (Spotify)…
every dollar collected (Square)…
and every message sent (Slack)…
…our neurons are wired together tighter and tighter and a new habit begins to form.
"If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection."
—James Clear, Atomic Habits
If we want to help our users build a habit, we need to help them get their reps in. And as we've learned, it's gotta be easy.
"Easy" is spelled E.A.D.
One of the best frameworks I’ve come across to help me reduce friction is:
It comes with two rules:
Never automate something that can be eliminated.
Never delegate something that can be automated.
Whatever remains, that's what you can ask a user to do.
I'll give you three strategies for each filter (with examples of course).
Literally just cut out the unnecessary stuff. I bet you can cut out more than you imagine.
Example: SMS-based authentication reduces the user's need to remember which email or password they used.
This is an exercise in clarity. Ask the question, "is this necessary or is this helpful"? If it's helpful but not necessary, make it optional and execute as best you can without that input.
Example: Early on when building Check, we required the user to enter a business name. It's a nice-to-have piece of information to flesh out invoices and customer-facing texts. But was it absolutely necessary? Not to get started. So we made it optional. One less thing between them and the value moment.
Hide the non-relevant portions of your product experience to reduce the number of options available to the user. If it doesn't contribute to the immediate task at hand in any way, why is it there?
Example: Superhuman's full-screen email-writing experience removes all actions not related to composing an email to help users get into a state of flow.
...the last mile.
Take a "batteries included" approach and provide an end-to-end experience for the user. Innovate up and down the value chain so that the user doesn't have to leave your product to complete the task they set out to accomplish.
Example: TurboTax's auto-filing option files your tax forms for you instead of just helping you fill them out.
...the tedious tasks.
Sometimes little tasks have to be done. It's not important for the user to do them necessarily, but they have to be done. Automate or assist with those tasks using technology.
Example: Apple's "found in Messages" feature surfaces verification codes when logging in to apps using SMS-based authentication.
Start with popular or relevant defaults and create an experience that feels customizable but simple to get started without those customizations.
Example: Netflix defaults to suggesting top shows in your geographic area before it learns your personal tastes in movies and shows.
...the sales pitch.
Users are naturally untrusting of new products and it's up to you to convince them you can be trusted... or is it? Delegate the persuasion to your happy customers by leveraging social proof like testimonials and case studies.
Example: "Join 5 of your friends using LinkedIn"
...the non-urgent tasks.
Sometimes user input required, but it's not required immediately. In those cases, you can punt on asking the user for something until it's absolutely necessary. Not only does this reduce friction in the current workflow but it has the subtle psychological benefit of giving users more context for why that information is being requested of them.
Example: When registering for Uber Eats, they could ask for a name upon sign up. But they don't - they only ask for a phone number. Then, when you go to checkout, they ask something like, "Who is this delivery for?" which the user is happy to provide.
...the stuff other software does better.
Some things are important, which is why they didn't get eliminated. But it's also not something you can automate because it's outside of your core competency. So delegate it to other software.
Example: External bank account verification requires users to trigger a randomized $0.01-$0.50 transaction, wait multiple days for it to go through and then manually type that amount into a verification form to connect an external bank account. Now banks just tie their system into Plaid and it verifies your external account in seconds.
It’s hard to make things easy.
Just as the natural state of the universe is entropy (a slow decent into disorder and chaos), the natural state of product is bloat (a slow decent into confusion and overwhelm).
Remember that users are coming to you with a job to be done and it’s your job to deliver. If you want to read more on this sort of thing, check out the “Jobs To Be Done” framework which acts as a lens through which to see:
the value your users WANT from you…
and the product friction standing in their way.
I hope the tactics I outlined above gave you a good place to start in your journey to “easy.” Best of luck!
As a reminder, this is Part III of a 4-part series. Next week we're going to be exploring how to deliver on the value moment and encourage another rep. As always, it's gonna be packed with real-world examples.
Thanks for reading!
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