Product Engagement Strategy

March 31, 2022

I took a class about Psychology of Engagement, learning the methodologies and vocabulary needed to create highly engaging products. I am applying them to a product of my choosing.

A product that got me “hooked” is an app I checked daily for my savings and investment. The intended behaviour for using the product is to deposit and save money. I love to see the progress I make every night, as it’s rewarding to grow my account balance. The internal trigger that drives my engagement with this product is my goal to reach financial freedom.

I am currently working at Thought Machine, which is a product company. It has built the core banking product to transform the banking industry and empower banks to offer innovative financial services to their customers. We raised $200M in our recent Series C funding round with industry-leading VCs and leading global banks, including Nyca Partners, Molten Ventures, JPMorgan and Standard Chartered, bringing our total funding to $350M at a £1bn+ valuation.

Based on customer feedback, Banks love our Vault product, a ledger on cloud-native platforms (including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure) with no legacy technology. Through Smart Contracts, Vault can be configured to run any type of retail bank product with flexibility, such as current accounts, savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and mortgages. Banks’ customers are getting easy to spend money but have difficulty saving money.

The habit zones help me to identify behaviours that have strong habit-forming potential. Three behaviours my firm could habituate:

  • Behaviour 1: Spending money (e.g. paying monthly rent using current account)
  • Behaviour 2: Saving money (e.g. getting daily interest accrual in a savings account)
  • Behaviour 3: Borrowing money (e.g. credit card with reward points or personal loan)

Behaviour with the best habit-forming potential is to save money and check daily interest accrual. This behaviour occurs to me daily based on personal experience.

Start with this intended behaviour, and ask myself why five times:

  • Why? Because I want to check my bank account for daily interest accrual.
  • Why? Because I want to review progress and see how much interest has been accumulated.
  • Why? Because I double if able to save enough money and reach the financial goal to buy specific items.
  • Why? Because I fear not having enough money to afford the wedding.
  • Why? Because of uncertainty in the future and feel more security with money in case of emergency.

Then, apply the 5 Panels framework to design an external trigger that cues customers to perform the intended behaviour.

Persona:

  • Characteristic: Alex is a 34-year-old working professional in Singapore
  • Value: Enjoy life, love coffee, cars and cooking.
  • Need: Pay for Wedding, Purchase a car, Repay loan, Buy coffee machine
  • Constraint: Inflation is high. No savings and spend all monthly salary.

Internal Trigger: He wants to start saving money while limiting his expenses. He wants to meet his financial goals. He has anxiety about not being able to afford an expensive wedding.

Context: Alex goes on a date with Melanie to a coffee shop to discuss their wedding plans and finances. Alex states he has identified a car he wishes to buy during this date.

External Trigger: Social pressure with peers the same age is getting married. He wants to get a baby and start having a family life.

Association: Fear of not saving enough money for a wedding = Checking bank accounts for daily interest accrual.

Next, in the action phase, between feeling the internal trigger and performing the intended behaviour, these are all steps customers and hurdles that a customer face:

  1. Salary paid: Money - paying monthly rent and repaying the loan.
  2. Set aside 10% for savings: Money - delay gratification and not able to spend the money now.
  3. Log in to the bank account: Physical Effort - open the app and click.
  4. Transfer money to the savings account: Physical Effort - open the app and click.
  5. Transfer money to the savings account: Physical Effort - open the app and click.
  6. Wait for the next day: Time - it takes a long time to see significant interest accumulation.
  7. See daily interest accrual: Cognitive load - calculate if the amount is correct or not.
  8. Resist the temptation: Non-Routine - there are many excuses to now withdraw and spend the saved money.

From the customer’s perspective, the most important hurdle to overcome is money and ringfence 10% of income for savings, which seems to be the hardest.

User Story: As a working professional, I want to save more money to achieve financial freedom. It is difficult now because I have many expenses and repay loans. It requires me to stop buying unnecessary stuff and estimate how much money to save.

The relevant heuristic is endowed progress: the more money and time put in the savings account, the more we value it.

Description of Solution: Via the daily interest accrual, a customer can get rewards for savings. Each time the customer sets aside more money for savings, the simulator app can project how much money can be saved and interest accrued after a couple of years. Based on this visualization chart, the app registers the customer’s risk preference and associates it with their risk profile and savings goal. This investment enables the app to automatically set aside a salary for a savings pot for the customer to earn higher interest.

To be hooked on the Thought Machine product, we could make Saving money feels more fun than spending money.

  • Trigger: Salary Pay with push notification reminder to set aside money for savings. Simulate the accounts after a year and project the balance if the user starts savings
  • Action: Schedule the transfer of money to a savings pot. See all the progress daily with interest accrual.
  • Variable Rewards: After saving more money and getting closer to financial goals, the user has a strong sense of achievement. Share content to users for tips and tricks to save money and reduce daily expenses. Earn cash back, get notified of discounts and share coupons via the banking platform.
  • Investment: Refer friends to open a savings account with the bank and get a higher interest rate. Unlock new incentives to reduce expenses and save more money.

In terms of Strategic Priority, the next immediate action that Thought Machine should take for the initiative is to engage users with more Rewarding Rewards when saving money:

  • Rewards of the Tribe - Refer friends to open a savings account and earn a higher interest rate.
  • Rewards of the Hunt - Establish a sense of accomplishment by getting closer to a savings goal.
  • Rewards of the self - Create a sense of control when saving money and visualize the progress.

The key initiative is to lower the hurdle to saving money. For example, make it automatically transfer money to a savings account with 10% of salary and set up a monthly schedule. It allows easy access to the account balance by the users and views daily interest accrual and applications.

The KPIs that could be used to measure progress toward the priorities:

  • Count the number of reminder notifications sent
  • Monitor the number of savings accounts opened with referral
  • Measure the total amount of interest paid to the savings accounts to the customer.

Overall, the Hooked Model is a powerful yet simple framework synthesizing decades of research into four phases. Some behaviours become habits while others don’t. I have assessed a behaviour’s habit-forming potential

  1. Began money-saving habituation through triggers.
  2. In the action phase, customers perform the behaviour my product intends to habituate.
  3. In the reward phase, customers get the relief they came for.
  4. In the investment phase, the goal is to bring customers back into and through another Hook cycle, further cementing a habit.

Last but not least, to know for sure whether habits are taking hold, I must continuously test the products. To reign in its power, I also need to ensure the firm applies it ethically and strategically. Now we could get into the habit of saving money through this product design.


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Experience in software development, application architecture, and deploying cloud solutions for enterprise customers. Strong hands-on skills with a Master's degree in Computer Science and business acumen with a master of business administration (MBA) in Finance. Certified in Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, Kubernetes (CKA, CKAD, CKS, KCNA) and Scrum (PSM, PSPO) with experience in building banking products from scratch. Connect on Linkedin

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