Advisor Case Study: The Behavioral Science Behind Triggers

Rajesh Nerlikar May 10 2021

The following is adapted from Build What Matters.

I had no idea what behavioral science was until I joined Ben at Opower. There, I learned that our entire company was founded on a behavioral experiment by Dr. Robert Cialdini, who found that the most effective way to get people to reduce their home energy usage was to tell them they were using more than their neighbors. This peer comparison was more effective than any message about saving money or the environment.

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When I went on to HelloWallet, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Steve Wendel, our Principal Behavioral Scientist, on how to use behavioral science to improve financial wellness using his CREATE behavioral funnel (Cue, Reaction, Evaluation, Ability, Timing, Experience). In working with Steve, I realized that I was only focused on the execution step: the act of clicking a button, logging in, or completing some task that would improve the user’s financial wellness. When we started thinking about how a user might discover a new feature (the ‘Cue’) or decide whether to try it (the emotional ‘Reaction’ and deliberative ‘Evaluation’) , we saw better results. We started sending more product update emails and using a banner message at the top of the home page to direct users to new features. While this may seem obvious, I still see plenty of product teams make the same mistake: not giving the cue to encourage a particular action within the product. Unlike the movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come” never applies to products.

If you’d like to learn more about Steve’s CREATE framework, you can read more about it here.

Written by Rajesh Nerlikar

Rajesh is a co-founder of Prodify and Principal Product Advisor / Coach. He is currently the VP of Product at Regrow. Prior to that, he was the Director of Workplace Products at Morningstar, a Senior PM at HelloWallet (which was acquired by Morningstar) and a PM at Opower (which went public in 2014).

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