5 Triggers to Make Your Product a Loved One

What makes you choose one product over another? Think about it. It’s no coincidence that Facebook, Google or Youtube have over 1 billion active users each month. In the attempt to find out what makes us choose a particular product, I researched the triggers used by top online companies. There are two types of triggersexternal and internal. They come in different forms and serve various purposes. Some of them simply make you click, while others make you stay. After reading this article you will be one step closer to making your product a loved one.

External Triggers

A trigger is a stimulant, which elicits a response. In marketing this is an e-mail, website link, paid ad or app icon. Triggers work if the user does the desired action like clicking a link or opening a message. The indicators most often used to measure if and how the trigger worked are open rate and click-thru rate.

There are four types of external triggers according to Nir Eyal: paid, earned, relationship and owned.


Paid triggers

Search engine algorithms change and companies need to apply paid advertising to stay on top of the search results. Two most popular types of paid ads are:

Display Ads

The history of online advertising goes back to 1980s when a joint venture between IBM and Sears, known as Prodigy started promoting Sears products online. The first clickable web ad was displayed 20 years ago, in 1994. HotWired was the first website to sell a large number of banner ads and provide click through rate reports.


World’s first banner ad, 1994.
World’s first banner ad, 1994.


A lot has changed in online advertising and graphic design since 1990s.

Here are three tips on how to create a banner that triggers conversion:

  1. Clear call-to-action (CTA).
  2. Post banner adson pages with related content.
  3. Keep it simple.


FitBit banner ad on Men’s Health, 2014.
FitBit banner ad on Men’s Health, 2014.


Display ads evolved into retargeting also called remarketing. For most websites, only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit. Retargeting allows to reach the remaining 98% and trigger them to go back to the website.

How it works: A few minutes ago I saved a cardigan in my Answear.com shopping cart. Answear.com placed a small piece of code on their website and when I visited it they placed a cookie in my browser. Now, as I browse the Web, the cookie will tell pages that serve ads to show me Answear.com ads.


Answear.com retargeting ad on The Verge, 2015



Earned Triggers

Earned triggers require a lot of time and effort in public relations. They are the response to brand’s actions and can take various forms: favorable press mentions or blog posts, viral video, placement in the featured apps and more.

Taylor Swift Diet Coke Ad Remake is a good example of a free earned trigger.
An anonymous girl creates a remake of an ad featuring pop singer, Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift Diet Coke

Relationship Triggers

According to Edelman Trust Barometer, people trust opinions and recommendations of a „person like yourself”. Nielsen study reveals that 92% of people trust opinions of people they know. Consumer opinions placed on the Internet are in the second place (72%). Word of mouth marketing can be a valuable trigger brands can develop by providing a good product.

Yelp is an example of an app where people share opinions about places they visit.




Owned Triggers

When a person subscribes to email list, downloads an app or agrees to receive push notifications from a company, s/he becomes an „owner” of the chosen trigger. This means s/he wants to receive more information from the company. Owned triggers help to increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), because the user has already agreed to receive the company’s communication and now needs incentives and guidance to buy more products.

Email marketing

Email marketing remains the No. 1 digital tactic for digital marketers. It is the most effective tool for building awareness (41% of respondents), boosting acquisition (37%), and increasing conversion (42%), reveal the key findings of Gigaom and Extole research.

Automated emails, called Autoresponders enable companies to send targeted and relevant 1-to-1 communication based on subsrciber’s actual needs. Autoresponders come in two types: time-based and action-based. They allow to send follow-up cycles, birthday emails and customized offers and therefore, create a strong relationship with a customer.

In mobile era, a popular type of owned triggers are mobile applications. If a person decides to see an app’s icon on their smartphone’s display, chances are s/he will use it more often. This is how habits are formed.

Owned triggers may also take form of recommendations or suggested products present on most of the top e-commerce websites. Amazon presents other product under „Customers who bought this product also bought”.


Owned trigger - recommendations, Amazon.com, 2015
Owned trigger – recommendations, Amazon.com, 2015


Internal Triggers

When a habit is formed, a user will connect a product with particular needs or emotions.

Internal triggers don’t require an external stimulant. They provide relief and answer particular needs or emotions.

Think of digital products you reach for. They usually provide relief to your need or emotion. People reach for Google Maps when they need to find certain location and feel lost. Facebook is a platform where people hang out with friends when feeling happy, lonely or when they have a fear of missing out (FOMO). Instagram helps capture and share moments. Amazon is a fast and easy shopping site where people can find almost everything they need. Internal triggers are the most difficult and time consuming to develop.

I wish all of you reading this article that your products serve as a relief for your customers and form good and long-lasting habits.



W. Wood and D. T. Neal, „A New Look at Habits and the Habit-Goal Interface,” Psychological Review 114, no. 4 (2007): 843-63.

Psychology Dictionary, http://psychologydictionary.org/trigger-1/

N. Eyal and Ryan Hoover, „Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” (2014): 39-57.

B. Brennan, „Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers” (2009): 210.

Gigaom Research Report, “Workhorses and Dark Horses – Digital Tactics for Customer Acquisition”, http://go.extole.com/GigaOM-Research.html (2014).