May 30, 2013

I Want It Now

This post is part of a series on Design for Engagement.

Engagement > Immediacy >


the moment of impact
The great thing about immediate gratification is you get it now. People pay more attention to propositions that are available without delay: the sooner, the better. This instinctive response has evolved to help us respond quickly to pressing threats, and take advantage of fleeting opportunities.

One of the chief benefits of mobile computing is it makes gratification more immediate. If you want to know what schadenfreude means, or where you can find good goulash at this time of morning, the answer is available now on your phone.

Once engaged in an activity, we tend to stay engaged as long as the gratification flows uninterrupted. Successful games keep us engaged by meting out gratifications in quantities calibrated to sustain our attention.

Speed matters. Page load time, application performance, server response, any cause for slight delay can mean the loss of your audience to a distraction more immediate.
  • Amazon: 100 ms of extra load time caused a 1% drop in sales (source: Greg Linden, Amazon).
  • Google: 500 ms of extra load time caused 20% fewer searches (source: Marrissa Mayer, Google).
  • Yahoo!: 400 ms of extra load time caused a 5–9% increase in the number of people who clicked “back” before the page even loaded (source: Nicole Sullivan, Yahoo!). 
(facts courtesy of Alex McCaw)
ebay Now gratifies faster

To increase the attractiveness of your proposition, decrease time-to-gratification. For example, ebay now makes its proposition more exciting by offering one-hour delivery to your door.

Bottom line

  • Optimize for speed: not just the user interface, but everything from page load to proposition delivery.

What do you think? How do you make gratification more immediate? I'd appreciate your suggestions and thoughts. Leave a comment below. Please engage.

This post is part of a series on building customer engagement.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.

Design for Customer Engagement

I may take these posts down at any time. You should read them now.

If you are a Designer, Product manager or Developer, I wrote this series to help you succeed. If you don't read it, your product may fail unnecessarily. 

These posts give practical advice, based on scientific research, delivered in attention-span sized chunks, with examples. 

This page is just the overview. Read on!

customer lifetime value is built on beautiful, valuable, and enduring propositions

Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Engagement is the Holy Grail of digital product design. It brings traffic, clicks, conversions, and return visits. Customer Engagement is the bedrock on which strong brands are built, and the key to maximizing Customer Lifetime Value.
…so what is Customer Engagement? 

This post breaks down customer engagement into its component mechanisms. It follows the sequence of customer experience, traditionally described in marketing and advertising literature as AIDAS (Sheldon and McDowell 1923), which stands for: 
A - Attention (Awareness): attract the attention of the customer. 
I - Interest: raise customer interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits (instead of focusing on features, as in traditional advertising).
D - Desire: convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.
A - Action: lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.
S - Satisfaction - satisfy the customer so they become a repeat customer and give referrals to a product.
This model has been refined over the years (e.g., David Court 2009, Brian K. Walker 2011), but the basic structure of AIDAS underlies even the more recent proposals. It provides a solid framework to analyse: what makes a proposition engaging?

When people talk about a good book, they usually mean a good story. In the context of consumer engagement, when we talk about (a good) product, we usually mean (a good) proposition. This article prefers the term proposition, referring to the value a product offers to the consumer. (See here for a an analysis of the different modes of customer proposition.) The mechanisms of engagement discussed here apply to any product that makes a proposition to a consumer, including web sites, desktop applications, mobile apps, online services, and even advertisements. 

Arranged along the sequence of a customer's journey, the elements of engagement cluster into three broad categories: Immediacy, Persuasion, and Relevance. Engagement itself has three main properties, changing in value throughout the customer journey: Direction, Intensity, and Persistence.

timeline view of the elements of engagement

Immediacy (0-1000ms)

You are driving home after working late, thinking about dinner, navigating effortlessly through traffic, stopping at signs and changing lanes, adjusting the volume of the music and wondering whether to pick up some cheesecake for dessert. Suddenly, a kid pops out from behind a parked car. Now you are paying attention to driving.

Most of your brain’s activity, all of the time, is unconscious. The unconscious parts of your brain are constantly scanning the environment to determine where to allocate your scarce and valuable conscious attention. This unconscious brain activity must recognize and prioritize a proposition before we can become consciously aware of it. The unconscious brain is highly attuned to immediacy. 

Immediacy means the proposition is readily perceived by the senses, especially by the sense of sight. The meaning of your communication must be available to your audience directly and effortlessly. Specifically, the meaning must be available without cognitive, empathic, or imaginative effort. 

In practical terms, this means your proposition must be available here and now, be easy to understand, easy to relate toeasy to picture, and readily accessible

The mechanisms of Immediacy are shown below (I've added links to related posts where available): 

Persuasiveness (1-5 sec)

Attention is a limited and precious resource, so humans have evolved a system of shortcuts to lead us to choices most likely to be reasonable and reliable decisions. The system works automatically, based on 6 types of cue: Reciprocation, Consistency, Social, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity (Cialdini 2009). These are the cues that lead people to take action.

The following posts discuss the mechanisms of Persuasiveness in detail:

Relevance (>5 sec)

You have their attention, and you have persuaded them to consider your proposition more carefully. Your customer's question now is: “is this proposition relevant to me?” 

Relevance is key to building Customer Lifetime Value because it drives return visits and recurring transactions. Propositions are relevant to your customer either because they align with personal interests, or because they carry value, impression, or outcome relevance

The following posts discuss the mechanisms of Relevance in detail:

Properties of Engagement

The subjective state of engagement has three main properties: intensity, persistence, and duration.

The following posts discuss these properties of engagement in detail:

Please Engage!

I will discuss each of the mechanisms of Engagement in detail in future posts, adding links to the items above as I write them
I believe these posts will lead you to develop better, more successful products.

I'd love to hear your questions and learn from your comments. 

Contact me if I can be of any service. I'll do what I can to say yes.


  • David Court, D. E., Susan Mulder, Ole Jørgen Vetvik (2009). The consumer decision journey. McKinsey Quarterly.
  • Sheldon, A. F. and G. R. McDowell (1923). The art of selling, Sheldon School.
  • Walker, B. K., C. Johnson, et al. (2011). Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.