Native Hooks and Triggers How to Direct the User Attention to Your Mobile App?
Mobile Marketing

Native Hooks and Triggers How to Direct the User Attention to Your Mobile App?

Native Hooks and Triggers How to Direct the User Attention to Your Mobile App?
Polskii Mark
Author at InAppStory

Engaging users with your mobile app isn't just about creating an attractive interface or offering valuable features, but also about understanding and influencing their behavior. This article offers an in-depth exploration of the Hook Model, focusing on the crucial role of 'triggers' in user engagement and habit formation. We delve into the theory behind external and internal triggers, their effective implementation, and the value of leveraging familiar formats like 'Stories' as triggers.  This knowledge will provide you with the tools to create a mobile app that is not just popular but addictive, becoming an integral part of your users' daily routines.


Understanding the Hook Model


In today's world of mobile applications, user retention is becoming an increasingly complex and costly task. According to research, the cost of attracting a new user can be five times higher than the cost of retaining an existing one. At the same time, your efforts to attract users can be in vain if a user stops using the app after the first use.

Therefore, companies are faced with the need to find optimal ways to retain customers, which would both align with their branding and help reduce the customer acquisition cost (CAC), while increasing the lifetime value (LTV) of the customer. It's also important to increase the retention rate, which reflects how long a user stays with you. And all this needs to be done while increasing the time the user spends in the app to enhance their potential value to the business.

The Hook Model, as proposed by Nir Eyal in his groundbreaking book "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products," is a compelling and insightful framework that sheds light on the mechanics behind user engagement and habit formation. At its core, the Hook Model is designed to assist product developers and marketers in creating user-friendly products that captivate user interest and drive habitual usage. It comprises four cyclical stages: Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, and Investment.


Let's break down these components for a comprehensive understanding:






This is the initiator of the behavior. It signals the user to take action. Triggers can be external, like push notifications, ads, or news stories, or internal, such as emotional responses or specific user states like boredom or loneliness.




It's the simplest behavior in anticipation of reward. The user performs an action, such as tapping a notification or clicking a button, based on the trigger.


Variable Reward




The reward varies each time the user performs the action. This unpredictability fuels further engagement as the user is never quite sure what they're going to get next.






This final stage asks for a bit of work from the user. It involves an action that improves the service for the next go-around, such as content creation, inviting friends, or any form of participation that fuels the next cycle of the hook.


These four components create a continuous loop driving user behaviors. The idea is to gradually shift behaviors triggered by external factors to being internally triggered, creating a habit. Understanding this model helps us lay the groundwork for creating powerful triggers, the focus of our discussion.


Deep Dive into Triggers


Triggers play a critical role in the Hook Model, setting the entire cycle into motion. They are the stimuli that prompt users to perform actions, driving them further into the loop and fostering habitual use. To create an effective trigger system, it's crucial to comprehend the types of triggers and how they function.


There are two types of triggers in the context of the Hook Model - external and internal.

  • External Triggers: These are the elements in the environment that tell the user what to do next. Examples of external triggers include push notifications, ads, email reminders, app icons, or even word-of-mouth recommendations. These are quite straightforward because they involve direct information - for instance, a notification telling the user to "click here," "watch this," or "read that."
  • Internal Triggers: These are triggers prompted by internal drives or states - the thoughts, emotions, and memories of users. Unlike external triggers, they originate within the users themselves. It could be a feeling of boredom prompting the user to open a gaming app or a sense of loneliness pushing them towards a social media app. The goal of any habit-forming product is to create strong associations with these internal triggers.


External and internal triggers, while both integral to the Hook Model, differ significantly in their origin and mode of action. External triggers are tangible cues in the environment that instruct the user on their next action. They provide explicit directions, as seen in push notifications, ads, or email reminders, and rely on delivering immediate, clear-cut commands like "click here" or "watch this." These triggers are usually the first step to user engagement, capturing attention and directing behavior towards a specific action.


On the other hand, internal triggers are subtler and more profound. They are rooted within the users themselves, arising from their thoughts, emotions, and internal states. This could be a sense of boredom driving a user to open a gaming app, or loneliness pushing them towards social media. Unlike external triggers, internal ones don't rely on explicit prompts but instead, leverage users' psychological states to spur action. The ultimate aim of a habit-forming product is to transition from relying on external triggers to building strong associations with these internal triggers, making the use of the product an instinctive response to specific internal cues. Thus, while external triggers may kickstart user engagement, it's the internal triggers that cultivate habitual and long-term usage.

Importantly, these triggers become tethered to the existing behaviors and emotions of the users. The goal of marketers is to link their product or service to these existing behaviors, so the user becomes automatically drawn to the product when the trigger presents itself. For instance, feeling stressed might become associated with launching a meditation app.


Creating Effective Triggers


Creating effective triggers is a pivotal step in driving consistent user engagement and nurturing habitual usage of your mobile app. Here's how you can go about it:


Identify the Right Triggers for Your Customers


Start by understanding your customers, their needs, behaviors, and emotional states. What kind of triggers would be most relevant to them? What are their regular activities, and where does your app fit into that routine? Research and user insights are key to answering these questions.

For example, let’s take Duolingo and its mobile app. The company understands that its users are interested in daily language learning, so they set up triggers like daily reminders or streak goals. By researching users’ learning patterns, they notify users at the time they are most likely to engage, aligning the app with their daily routine.


Enhance the Effectiveness of Triggers


Once you've identified potential triggers, consider how to make them more effective. This could involve optimizing the timing, frequency, or wording of push notifications for external triggers. For internal triggers, consider what emotions or situations your app could become associated with. The goal is to create triggers that are compelling and irresistible to the user.

Netflix optimizes external triggers by sending personalized recommendations. If a user watched a thriller, Netflix would trigger a notification suggesting similar films or series. By understanding user preferences, they make the triggers more compelling.


Track Trigger Effectiveness


It's important to measure how well your triggers are working. Use analytics to track user engagement following the introduction of new triggers. Look for changes in usage patterns, retention rates, and user feedback to determine if your triggers are having the desired effect.

Slack’s engagement data showed that users preferred channels and direct messages for communication. By tracking these patterns, they enhanced these features and used them as triggers for engaging users in collaboration, thereby improving retention rates.


Leverage Existing Triggers


Not all triggers need to be newly created; you can also leverage existing ones. If you find that certain user behaviors or emotional states are already acting as triggers for your app, consider how to reinforce and capitalize on these.

Spotify leverages existing user behaviors by creating playlists from previously listened-to songs. If a user listens to certain songs or genres in the morning, Spotify creates a morning playlist. By capitalizing on these habits, Spotify enhances user engagement.


Evaluate Potential Benefits


The ultimate aim of using triggers is to enhance user engagement and create a habit of using your mobile app. Consider what benefits the proposed triggers could bring. Will they improve user retention? Will they increase daily active users? Do they have the potential to convert occasional users into regular ones?

Headspace, a meditation app, introduced triggers like reminders for daily meditation practices, and badges for consistent practice. By considering the benefits of these triggers (increased daily usage, improved user retention), they successfully turned occasional users into regular ones.


Leveraging Stories as Triggers


The modern digital landscape has been revolutionized by the concept of 'Stories,' a format made ubiquitous by social media platforms. They have become a significant part of how people communicate, consume content, and interact online. Due to their universal familiarity and appeal, stories can serve as powerful triggers in the user journey of your mobile app.


Here's why and how 'Stories' can be harnessed as effective triggers:


Native experience




Stories have become a go-to format for content consumption. Users are already accustomed to engaging with stories across META social media platforms, making it a comfortable and intuitive interface to interact with. Incorporating stories into your app can naturally extend user journey and app engagement.


Captivating and Non-Intrusive




The ephemeral and dynamic nature of stories, often presented as full-screen short video clips or images, makes them highly engaging. They offer information quickly, catering to the dwindling attention spans of digital consumers. Furthermore, they are less intrusive than traditional ads, increasing the chances of users viewing them and acting upon them.


Game-like Elements




Stories can incorporate interactive and game-like elements, such as polls, quizzes, or even simple games, which can amplify user engagement. These elements can make your app more fun, sticky, and engaging.


Call to Actions




Stories can serve as triggers to motivate users to undertake various actions, like leaving feedback, creating user-generated content (UGC), or even participating in decision-making processes, such as voting for their favorite product feature or color.


Visual Appeal


Stories are often rich in visuals, utilizing colors, animations, interactivity and multimedia elements. This visual appeal can trigger positive emotions in users and lead to higher engagement.

Mobile Stories represent a native, familiar, and effective form of triggers that can draw users into the Hook Model cycle, enhance engagement, and promote habitual use of your app. As mobile marketers, tapping into the power of stories can bring about significant benefits and make your app a native part of your users' digital habits.




Crafting an effective strategy for directing user attention to your mobile app involves a deep understanding and application of the Hook Model, particularly the clever use of triggers. This process requires a keen understanding of your users - their behaviors, emotions, needs, and preferences.


External triggers, such as push notifications or ads, can kickstart the process, nudging users toward the desired action. However, the end game is to foster strong internal triggers. These internal triggers, tied to the user's emotions and states, make the usage of your mobile app a habitual response.


Incorporating native triggers like 'Stories' into your mobile app strategy can prove highly beneficial. Given their familiarity, engaging nature, and inherent call-to-action potential, stories serve as powerful triggers, compelling users to engage with your app habitually.


Remember, creating a successful trigger system isn't a one-off process but a continuous cycle of testing, measuring, learning, and refining. Keep your finger on the pulse of your user base, stay adaptable, and you'll be well on your way to building a mobile app that not only captures but also sustains user attention. Ultimately, the goal is to create a product or service that is the source of positive experiences and becomes seamlessly integrated into the daily routines and habits of your users.