Product Files, Short Posts

We Are Creatures Of Habit


As humans, we are creatures of habit. Our experiences form mental models that rest within the recesses of our mind and are triggered when we interact with similar circumstances. This is a very important influence in new product adaptation.

Product managers are prone to developing their product into the best version it can be. They want to deliver a package that is all inclusive, covers all customer needs (within inherent constraints) and leads them to expected ends (including great user experience). After all, a satisfied customer has a high probability of retention.

In order to keep pace with trends or data in the external or internal environment, PMs make modifications to their product, either feature-based or design related. Unfortunately, executing these changes, as convincing as the arguments may be, does not always guarantee positive customer reception.

Remember the cold reception Tropicana received when it altered the package design? A package refresh led to a drop in sales without the core product ever undergoing a change. Shouldn’t customers be more concerned about the juice?  



In the digital world SnapChat faced similar consequences when it changed part of its interface to make room for what it perceived as an improvement in user experience. The result – 1.2 million patrons signed an online petition demanding the platform reverse the update.

Where did both companies go wrong? Was it a lack of customer research, oversight, a bullish attitude or plain arrogance? 



CEO of SnapChat, Evan Spiegel had this to say…

“We learned that combining watching Stories and communicating with friends into the same place made it harder to optimize for both competing behaviors. We are currently rolling out an update to address this by sorting communication by recency and moving Stories from friends to the right side of the application, while maintaining the structural changes we have made around separating friends from creators and sorting friends’ Stories by relationships.”


Again, we are all creatures of habit. We become accustomed to certain practices that later affect us when change occurs, irrespective of its severity. Imagine if our mobile phones went back to being button-navigated. What if every automobile manufacturer decided to have its own proprietary sequence of foot pedals or gears? 

Therefore, certain expectations need to be managed delicately while others need to be nurtured towards change. Google does this beautifully when it makes changes to its interfaces. They leave the decision or opportunity to the user to test the newer version and if not satisfied, retain the former. Users have different comfort zones when it comes to their favorite products.

Whether users are differentiated on the basis on frequency, feature-usage, purpose, output etc. they always approach products with certain pre-conceived notions, expectations, mental models or habits. Failure to accept and meet these peculiarities leads to poor product acceptance, higher bounce rates, deflection rates, negative reviews and so on. In fact, trouble turns exponential when it solidifies the bond users have with competing products.

At the end of the day, great products are allowed to be only because of the customer base using them. Being empathetic to user preferences and concerns is paramount to success. While product managers have to work on the natural evolution of their products, they have to be perceptive to the masses that have come to depend on or appreciate the product they make.


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