What are Digital Nudges - A Complete Guide

Suneeta Munjuluri
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Best Practices
Suneeta Munjuluri
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10m Read
April 8, 2024
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What are Nudges

You must have chanced upon some of these happening in and around the applications we use regularly.

Gmail Rolls Out Nudge Feature, Reminding You to Respond to Emails

Your Page Title

According to Richard Thaler in his book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, defines nudge as:

(Nudge is) any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.

A digital nudge is thus a slight prod to the user to take an action (that might be beneficial to them) without pushing too hard.

Origin of Nudges

Nudges have always been a part of our civilization. A cue to rush to safety, or an elbow nudge to keep quite, or even the raise of an eyebrow. They have been part of our body language to subtly convey our emotions or ideas.

What makes nudges work in that they are not over powering. They are subtle, thats the reason why people feel compelled to follow the nudge. Its always in human nature to disobey commands, to be rebelious. But when something is told gently, people tend to obey more often than not. Its the same power of behavioral psychology that nudges harness.

Nudge Economy

Noble prize winner for Economics, Richard Thaler says,

if you want to get somebody to do something, make it easy. If you want to get people to eat healthier foods, then put healthier foods in the cafeteria, and make them easier to find, and make them taste better. So in every meeting I say, “Make it easy.”

Your Page Title

How Nudges are included in Behavioral Economics to influence user behavior

Behavioral economics is a study of psychology which is related to the economic decision-making processes of people. Scientists have done a number of studies which clearly show the impact of how subtle nudges can alter the decisions made by people.

Choice architecture is the design of different ways in which choices can be presented to decision makers and impact their decisions.

Some popular use cases of choice architecture and its influence are:

  • Up-sell: If you go to a fast-food restaurant, servers are trained to ‘up-sell’ – this means they offer extra options to go with the meal. Often it is ‘drinks, extras and deserts’ which are the most profitable part of the meal. If you buy a coffee, and a barista offers a pastry as well – we are more likely to buy the pasty when it is offered as a suggestion.
  • Product placement: To encourage healthy eating, healthy options could be made more easily available, e.g school lunches could be carefully monitored – reducing the number of unhealthy options. This is related to the concept of ‘choice architecture’ – the idea that if goods are presented in a different way, it can help ‘nudge’ people’s consumption to the desired option.
  • Default options: A powerful way to encourage take-up rates of ‘desirable options’ is to set the desired outcome as the default option. For example, at the moment, people have to ‘opt-in’ to be an organ donor. This leads to low rates of organ donation as people don’t want to carry a card. But, the other way would be to change rules so you have to ‘opt-out’ of organ donation. This would cause donation rates to retire.
  • Explicit Markers:  To encourage healthier eating, packaged food products show the ingredients and their calorific values in tabular forms and also highlight features like ‘High in protein’, or ‘Rich in fibre’, or ‘Healthy Heart’ etc.

So what are Digital Nudges?

Transcending the scope of nudges from brick and mortar stores, B2C products have started using them in their digital form.

Digital Nudges (definition)

Digital nudging is defined as a subtle form of using design, information and interaction elements to guide user behavior in digital environments, without restricting the individual’s freedom of choice.

They are a low effort - high return mechanism for improving user experience with minimal interference.

Researchers Randi Karlsen and Anders Andersen state that ‘there is also untapped potential in the use of personalizing the nudging mechanisms, both their choice and the implementation, to individual users and their contextual situation. The implementation of such “smart nudges” however requires that additional information about the user’s current situation is available to create the highest added value for the users.’

How do they look like?

Digital nudges serve as a helper or a guide in the app without even the user feeling intrusive. Some of the most common ways to nudge users in digital environments are tooltips, coachmarks, beacons or attention grabbing banners. They guide users to do the actions you want them to do. When combined with data-driven intelligence, these nudges become your biggest growth hacks, as they can persuade your users to do exactly what you want them to.

These are just some of the concepts of nudges. There are so many other ways to nudge users and frankly the boundary between the product and the nudge on top of it will become a blur once we explore all the possibilities. Skip intro of Netflix is an experience enhancing nudge. So is personalizing your feed with your preferred content making your browsing life so much easier.

Let us take a look at the different styles of nudges.

Your Page Title

Tooltips:

Tooltips are short inline messages that appears when a user interacts with a specific element on your app and provide useful information about the element. When deployed contextually, tooltips allow you to gently guide your users’ attention to features that they need to discover.

Coachmarks:

Coachmarks represent multiple help call-outs that appear on a transparent overlay. By using text and often arrows and images, they point to and explain the functionality of the user interface. Coachmarks call attention to new or unique features, nudge users in the right direction, or guide users during onboarding. A well placed contextual coachmark can strongly influence your users towards conversion.

Beacons:

Beacons are simple colored dots placed next to a desired feature, especially when there is an update in the feature. Influence user behavior in the app by subtly guiding their attention to such features.

In-app Messages:

In-app messages are powerful banners that display your offers and discounts to your users. Personalize them in real time to thrill your users and gain repeat usage.

Walkthroughs:

Walkthroughs are step-by-step guidance to help your users navigate to the required features. Onboard your users with  walkthroughs that guide them to activation within the app.

Micro-Surveys:

Contextual Micro-Surveys are in-the-moment user feedback gathering tools. You can get NPS ratings from your users, or capture actionable user sentiment by launching them contextually.

Use cases of Digital Nudges:

Your Page Title

User Onboarding for Product Guidance [Onboarding Walkthroughs]

An Onboarding Walkthrough is one of the best ways to onboard users, where you take them through the app and ensures they get what they came for. Nudges in the form of onboarding walkthroughs help to understand

1. the expectation of the users who have installed the app,

2. the selling point of the app which will enable users to get value (i.e) Context and Value feature of the app.

Instead of showcasing features of low relevance, the most important or niche feature should be highlighted while onboarding the user on the app.

While doing this, it is important to provide guidance only when needed.

Feature Discovery and Adoption [Coachmarks, Tooltips, Beacons]

Feature discovery drives adoption. There are 2 ways a feature can be discovered : One being the obvious way of replacing app flow to prioritize new features. This decision can either go really well or go haywire. It can go haywire because this completely breaks the default flow of the users who are not going to realize the change until the tap and are likely to get disappointed. The smarter choice without causing much disruption is to place the feature in an appropriate place - either the home screen or within any other layer in the app, and nudge them towards the new feature. This can be complemented with the help of relevant and timed in-app communication.

Display nudges like coachmarks and tooltips can be informative and instructional. These nudges can convey information about the feature or how to use it. Both can contain CTAs to make sure that further discovery happens in the app after nudging. Once discovered, the target is for adoption of the new feature.

In-App Announcements [In-App Messaging]

Banner messaging in apps is one of the most attention seeking ways for conveying information to users. Hence, it is important to show important information at the right time for it to get consumed rather than just displaying it for namesake, which would cause a disruption in the users’ natural flow on the app.

Hence, when it comes to in-app messages, timing and context play the most important role in their success or failure. An offer or discount given at the right time has more value than a generic offer.

Drop Off Journey Recovery [Surveys]

Certain drop offs are hard to analyse quantitatively and that’s where qualitative surveys come to the rescue. Finding out the right reason for the drop off is critical for product iterations and will reduce the time taken to correct the app and launch appropriate fixes in the app.

In-app Surveys allow you to get instant user feedback contextually and work on what end users face. The outcome of running surveys could help you find new insights like the reason for the drop off.

To run the right kind of surveys, you need the right data points to track where the users drop off.  Having the right data points will help in identifying the patterns of drop offs and user behaviours which lead to the drop off.

Underlying benefits of Digital Nudges

There are two very subtle yet important benefits of using Digital nudges, which can really differentiate your product from your competitors.

Your Page Title

Elevating user experience: The entire premise of nudges is based on guiding user behavior to perform actions which are desired by you. While you are guiding user behavior, users also feel an elevated user experience because of the subtleness of the nudges and their ability to be there or appear when the users need them.

Another way in which users feel that the app cares about them is by the usage of contextual micro-surveys. These surveys not only help users deflect from dropping-off, but also make the users feel that the app cares about their concerns. The feedback provided by users in such surveys is in-the-moment and more accurate than offline surveys.

Faster product experimentation: This is one of the most underrated benefits of using digital nudges. By using contextual digital nudges, you can fasten the pace of your feature discovery. This helps you in understanding if a feature is working or not more quickly than ever. The faster you get the results, the more you can experiment.

Nudges and Context

Having the right context for nudging allows the user to reach the goal more easily than earlier. Almost 70% of the work is done when the right context is identified. The rest 30% is to implement the right nudge at the right feature such that the user realizes that what is being nudged is what he was looking for in the app.

The right nudge increases the attention span of the user on the app and increases the engagement time. This increase eventually builds loyalty and improves retention. Context needn’t be the right time but also with the right users. Identifying the right target audience for experiment improves the quality of nudging.

Nudging at the right time with the right content to the right audience plays a crucial role in customer retention and churn. Knowing that you need to hand hold users until they are loyal is one part, but using the right way to nudge and the right type of nudge is another ball game which a lot of apps have not yet tapped into. This is the future of app communication which will change the way developers approach app design, and the way consumers use the app.

ROI of Digital Nudges

Do Nudges really move the needle?

Here are a few of the Improvements noticed in apps that nudge users contextually

How to adopt Digital Nudges for your product

There are two ways in which your B2C company can start using digital nudges.

1. Create static nudges which will be deployed along with your new features in your builds. These nudges will not have the ability to be changed dynamically, nor they will be smart as they cannot act on the of basis user intent in the right context.

2. Use a no-code tool like Apxor which instantly gives you the ability to identify the context, design and deploy nudges without writing any code.

What is Apxor and How Can Apxor Help in Implementing Digital Nudges

Apxor is the world’s first digital nudging platform for mobile apps. It is a simple plug and play solution that enables product managers to implement nudges inside an app in realtime via tooltips, coachmarks, walkthroughs and micro surveys.

Apxors is solving the digital nudging needs of apps like Dream11, Vedantu, ICICI, Zepto, mFine and many more.

Using Apxor, apps can onboard and activate users effectively, improve conversions and get the right feedback. Digital Nudging can well be the difference between the leaders and the pack!

Key Differentiators of Apxor

Apxor works at scale across multiple apps with millions of users. Some of the key differentiating features that our clientele devour are:

#1 Precise Targeting - Target users accurately using cohorts or by creating segments on the fly.

#2 Real-time Context - Nudge users in true real-time based on their intent

#3 Individualized Messaging -  Communicate personalized text to users using Apxor's Dynamic Text functionality

#4 Insight-Driven Experimentation - Nudge experiments are backed by data so that there is no shooting in dark.

Want to Begin Nudging Your Users?

Glossary

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What are Digital Nudges - A Complete Guide

(Nudge is) any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.

Suneeta Munjuluri

What are Nudges

You must have chanced upon some of these happening in and around the applications we use regularly.

Gmail Rolls Out Nudge Feature, Reminding You to Respond to Emails

Your Page Title

According to Richard Thaler in his book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, defines nudge as:

(Nudge is) any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.

A digital nudge is thus a slight prod to the user to take an action (that might be beneficial to them) without pushing too hard.

Origin of Nudges

Nudges have always been a part of our civilization. A cue to rush to safety, or an elbow nudge to keep quite, or even the raise of an eyebrow. They have been part of our body language to subtly convey our emotions or ideas.

What makes nudges work in that they are not over powering. They are subtle, thats the reason why people feel compelled to follow the nudge. Its always in human nature to disobey commands, to be rebelious. But when something is told gently, people tend to obey more often than not. Its the same power of behavioral psychology that nudges harness.

Nudge Economy

Noble prize winner for Economics, Richard Thaler says,

if you want to get somebody to do something, make it easy. If you want to get people to eat healthier foods, then put healthier foods in the cafeteria, and make them easier to find, and make them taste better. So in every meeting I say, “Make it easy.”

Your Page Title

How Nudges are included in Behavioral Economics to influence user behavior

Behavioral economics is a study of psychology which is related to the economic decision-making processes of people. Scientists have done a number of studies which clearly show the impact of how subtle nudges can alter the decisions made by people.

Choice architecture is the design of different ways in which choices can be presented to decision makers and impact their decisions.

Some popular use cases of choice architecture and its influence are:

  • Up-sell: If you go to a fast-food restaurant, servers are trained to ‘up-sell’ – this means they offer extra options to go with the meal. Often it is ‘drinks, extras and deserts’ which are the most profitable part of the meal. If you buy a coffee, and a barista offers a pastry as well – we are more likely to buy the pasty when it is offered as a suggestion.
  • Product placement: To encourage healthy eating, healthy options could be made more easily available, e.g school lunches could be carefully monitored – reducing the number of unhealthy options. This is related to the concept of ‘choice architecture’ – the idea that if goods are presented in a different way, it can help ‘nudge’ people’s consumption to the desired option.
  • Default options: A powerful way to encourage take-up rates of ‘desirable options’ is to set the desired outcome as the default option. For example, at the moment, people have to ‘opt-in’ to be an organ donor. This leads to low rates of organ donation as people don’t want to carry a card. But, the other way would be to change rules so you have to ‘opt-out’ of organ donation. This would cause donation rates to retire.
  • Explicit Markers:  To encourage healthier eating, packaged food products show the ingredients and their calorific values in tabular forms and also highlight features like ‘High in protein’, or ‘Rich in fibre’, or ‘Healthy Heart’ etc.

So what are Digital Nudges?

Transcending the scope of nudges from brick and mortar stores, B2C products have started using them in their digital form.

Digital Nudges (definition)

Digital nudging is defined as a subtle form of using design, information and interaction elements to guide user behavior in digital environments, without restricting the individual’s freedom of choice.

They are a low effort - high return mechanism for improving user experience with minimal interference.

Researchers Randi Karlsen and Anders Andersen state that ‘there is also untapped potential in the use of personalizing the nudging mechanisms, both their choice and the implementation, to individual users and their contextual situation. The implementation of such “smart nudges” however requires that additional information about the user’s current situation is available to create the highest added value for the users.’

How do they look like?

Digital nudges serve as a helper or a guide in the app without even the user feeling intrusive. Some of the most common ways to nudge users in digital environments are tooltips, coachmarks, beacons or attention grabbing banners. They guide users to do the actions you want them to do. When combined with data-driven intelligence, these nudges become your biggest growth hacks, as they can persuade your users to do exactly what you want them to.

These are just some of the concepts of nudges. There are so many other ways to nudge users and frankly the boundary between the product and the nudge on top of it will become a blur once we explore all the possibilities. Skip intro of Netflix is an experience enhancing nudge. So is personalizing your feed with your preferred content making your browsing life so much easier.

Let us take a look at the different styles of nudges.

Your Page Title

Tooltips:

Tooltips are short inline messages that appears when a user interacts with a specific element on your app and provide useful information about the element. When deployed contextually, tooltips allow you to gently guide your users’ attention to features that they need to discover.

Coachmarks:

Coachmarks represent multiple help call-outs that appear on a transparent overlay. By using text and often arrows and images, they point to and explain the functionality of the user interface. Coachmarks call attention to new or unique features, nudge users in the right direction, or guide users during onboarding. A well placed contextual coachmark can strongly influence your users towards conversion.

Beacons:

Beacons are simple colored dots placed next to a desired feature, especially when there is an update in the feature. Influence user behavior in the app by subtly guiding their attention to such features.

In-app Messages:

In-app messages are powerful banners that display your offers and discounts to your users. Personalize them in real time to thrill your users and gain repeat usage.

Walkthroughs:

Walkthroughs are step-by-step guidance to help your users navigate to the required features. Onboard your users with  walkthroughs that guide them to activation within the app.

Micro-Surveys:

Contextual Micro-Surveys are in-the-moment user feedback gathering tools. You can get NPS ratings from your users, or capture actionable user sentiment by launching them contextually.

Use cases of Digital Nudges:

Your Page Title

User Onboarding for Product Guidance [Onboarding Walkthroughs]

An Onboarding Walkthrough is one of the best ways to onboard users, where you take them through the app and ensures they get what they came for. Nudges in the form of onboarding walkthroughs help to understand

1. the expectation of the users who have installed the app,

2. the selling point of the app which will enable users to get value (i.e) Context and Value feature of the app.

Instead of showcasing features of low relevance, the most important or niche feature should be highlighted while onboarding the user on the app.

While doing this, it is important to provide guidance only when needed.

Feature Discovery and Adoption [Coachmarks, Tooltips, Beacons]

Feature discovery drives adoption. There are 2 ways a feature can be discovered : One being the obvious way of replacing app flow to prioritize new features. This decision can either go really well or go haywire. It can go haywire because this completely breaks the default flow of the users who are not going to realize the change until the tap and are likely to get disappointed. The smarter choice without causing much disruption is to place the feature in an appropriate place - either the home screen or within any other layer in the app, and nudge them towards the new feature. This can be complemented with the help of relevant and timed in-app communication.

Display nudges like coachmarks and tooltips can be informative and instructional. These nudges can convey information about the feature or how to use it. Both can contain CTAs to make sure that further discovery happens in the app after nudging. Once discovered, the target is for adoption of the new feature.

In-App Announcements [In-App Messaging]

Banner messaging in apps is one of the most attention seeking ways for conveying information to users. Hence, it is important to show important information at the right time for it to get consumed rather than just displaying it for namesake, which would cause a disruption in the users’ natural flow on the app.

Hence, when it comes to in-app messages, timing and context play the most important role in their success or failure. An offer or discount given at the right time has more value than a generic offer.

Drop Off Journey Recovery [Surveys]

Certain drop offs are hard to analyse quantitatively and that’s where qualitative surveys come to the rescue. Finding out the right reason for the drop off is critical for product iterations and will reduce the time taken to correct the app and launch appropriate fixes in the app.

In-app Surveys allow you to get instant user feedback contextually and work on what end users face. The outcome of running surveys could help you find new insights like the reason for the drop off.

To run the right kind of surveys, you need the right data points to track where the users drop off.  Having the right data points will help in identifying the patterns of drop offs and user behaviours which lead to the drop off.

Underlying benefits of Digital Nudges

There are two very subtle yet important benefits of using Digital nudges, which can really differentiate your product from your competitors.

Your Page Title

Elevating user experience: The entire premise of nudges is based on guiding user behavior to perform actions which are desired by you. While you are guiding user behavior, users also feel an elevated user experience because of the subtleness of the nudges and their ability to be there or appear when the users need them.

Another way in which users feel that the app cares about them is by the usage of contextual micro-surveys. These surveys not only help users deflect from dropping-off, but also make the users feel that the app cares about their concerns. The feedback provided by users in such surveys is in-the-moment and more accurate than offline surveys.

Faster product experimentation: This is one of the most underrated benefits of using digital nudges. By using contextual digital nudges, you can fasten the pace of your feature discovery. This helps you in understanding if a feature is working or not more quickly than ever. The faster you get the results, the more you can experiment.

Nudges and Context

Having the right context for nudging allows the user to reach the goal more easily than earlier. Almost 70% of the work is done when the right context is identified. The rest 30% is to implement the right nudge at the right feature such that the user realizes that what is being nudged is what he was looking for in the app.

The right nudge increases the attention span of the user on the app and increases the engagement time. This increase eventually builds loyalty and improves retention. Context needn’t be the right time but also with the right users. Identifying the right target audience for experiment improves the quality of nudging.

Nudging at the right time with the right content to the right audience plays a crucial role in customer retention and churn. Knowing that you need to hand hold users until they are loyal is one part, but using the right way to nudge and the right type of nudge is another ball game which a lot of apps have not yet tapped into. This is the future of app communication which will change the way developers approach app design, and the way consumers use the app.

ROI of Digital Nudges

Do Nudges really move the needle?

Here are a few of the Improvements noticed in apps that nudge users contextually

How to adopt Digital Nudges for your product

There are two ways in which your B2C company can start using digital nudges.

1. Create static nudges which will be deployed along with your new features in your builds. These nudges will not have the ability to be changed dynamically, nor they will be smart as they cannot act on the of basis user intent in the right context.

2. Use a no-code tool like Apxor which instantly gives you the ability to identify the context, design and deploy nudges without writing any code.

What is Apxor and How Can Apxor Help in Implementing Digital Nudges

Apxor is the world’s first digital nudging platform for mobile apps. It is a simple plug and play solution that enables product managers to implement nudges inside an app in realtime via tooltips, coachmarks, walkthroughs and micro surveys.

Apxors is solving the digital nudging needs of apps like Dream11, Vedantu, ICICI, Zepto, mFine and many more.

Using Apxor, apps can onboard and activate users effectively, improve conversions and get the right feedback. Digital Nudging can well be the difference between the leaders and the pack!

Key Differentiators of Apxor

Apxor works at scale across multiple apps with millions of users. Some of the key differentiating features that our clientele devour are:

#1 Precise Targeting - Target users accurately using cohorts or by creating segments on the fly.

#2 Real-time Context - Nudge users in true real-time based on their intent

#3 Individualized Messaging -  Communicate personalized text to users using Apxor's Dynamic Text functionality

#4 Insight-Driven Experimentation - Nudge experiments are backed by data so that there is no shooting in dark.

Want to Begin Nudging Your Users?

Glossary

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