Remember that time you went online in search of a simple answer, only to find yourself, two hours later, clicking on links that had nothing to do with the original answer you sought?
That’s a dopamine loop. It’s the scientific reason we end up online more than we plan to. It explains why we can’t put our smartphones down. It explains why some people neglect real life in favor of virtual life. And it leads to compulsive disorders, similar to those who are addicted to chemical stimulants and depressants such as cocaine, caffeine, methamphetamines, nicotine, and alcohol.
“Dopamine starts us seeking, then we get rewarded for the seeking, which makes us seek more,” explains Dr. Susan Weinschenk. “It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, texts, web links, or our smartphones to see if we have a new message or alert.”
Worst still, research shows the dopamine system is bottomless. Since it doesn’t have satiation built in, dopamine keeps demanding “more, more, more!” And it goes absolutely bonkers when unpredictability is introduced—say, an unexpected email, text, or app alert from who knows what and who knows whom. Surprise! It’s just like Pavlov’s famous and classically conditioned dogs, for those who remember your introductory college psychology course.
“It’s the same system at work for gambling and slot machines,” explains Weinschenk. “Since dopamine is involved in variable reinforcement schedules, it’s especially sensitive to dings, visual alerts, or any other cue that a reward is coming, which sends our dopamine system raging.”
And so we stay online and on our phones longer than anticipated. We forgo our offline lives. It’s science.
Taken at one of my local skate shops (Photo: Blake Snow)
Outside of groceries, my household shops online 90% of the time. That’s not me overstating something. That’s my wife’s estimate. She does the budget.
Over the last 10 years, Amazon Prime, Zappos, Target.com, iTunes, Netflix, and many other e-tailers have dramatically improved my family’s standard of living, product selection, and buying power, while reducing buyer’s remorse, time spent, and money spent consuming wants and needs.
Every now and again, I get romantic and decide to “shop local,” as they say. Usually I regret it. The last time I needed a pair of slacks, I went to a big box store. The style selection wasn’t what I wanted. 30 minutes of my life, gone.
Before leaving the parking lot, I launched the Amazon app, found a better pair of 4.5/5 star fitted-pants for less, and clicked “buy now.” The transaction took two minutes. The slacks would be on my door step two days later, and if, for whatever reason, I didn’t like them, I could put them back on my door mat, and a brown truck would magically return them for free.
“Twitter sees something like 200 million tweets a day, but I I can’t even read 1,000 a day,” complained YouTube’s Steve Chen. Seemingly in between bouts of “Mine! Mine! Mine!” he added, “There’s a waterfall of content that you’re missing out on [and] a lot of services trying to solve the information discovery problem, but no one has got it right yet.”
Information discovery problem?
Maybe a few thousand Silicon Valley nerds have that problem. But the vast majority of us have no problem finding information online.
As I’ve said before, “Whether online or off, the cream of life always rises to the top. The best status updates and news transcend the Internet.”
Want to encourage better conversion rates on your website (be it purchases, blog traffic, whatever) while looking good? Don’t give your readers more than a few options to choose from. By forcing them to look at what you want, you’ll enjoy more targeted traffic.
Apple does it. So does Shoe Guru. Both may be extreme, but their website design ensures them greater control over what they promote, resulting in tighter focus and better sales over the alternative, cluttered sites.
Off-topic: I’d totally buy those shoes if knew what Shoe Guru size I wear.
harvardbusiness.com — “Zappos sells shoes —lots of them—over the Internet. After a week or so of employment with the company, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!”
After four years, I canceled my Vonage line on Friday. I only used 20 minutes per month on average over the last year, so it made sense in my case to ditch the service, even though it works fine. Instead, I will rely solely on Blackberry and Skype for voice chat, as I have done for personal use since 2003.
I have so far managed to cut back my phone use by only answering expected or known calls. I check voice mail as soon as I’m notified, and I have a policy of returning both calls and emails within two working hours.
I tell my professional contacts that email is “preferred,” and my cell phone is “secondary.” To further encourage asynchronous communication, I reward emailers with faster response times. It works cleverly well, and I’m one step closer to my goal of ditching web access for an entire year. Whatever it takes.
Since 1999, major console makers including Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (SNE), Nintendo, and the now-defunct Sega have been touting online gaming as a mainstay of the industry. And though online console use is rising, mainstream apathy means the initiative has never matured.
Of the 172 million systems sold in the last generation of consoles*, an estimated 5 million gamers ventured online — representing just three percent of the market. But wouldn’t you know it, each and every major console circa the early 2000s was capable of online play (some better than others).
By comparison, there are currently 26 million “next-gen” consoles in households (11M Wiis, 11M 360s, 4M PS3s). As of August, Microsoft’s Xbox Live claimed more than 7 million active users, including paying and free silver account users that aren’t privy to online multiplayer.
Lon Safko has created one of the coolest, most efficient business models I’ve ever seen. He sells paper model designs to kids for $10 on his Yahoo! store.Here’s how it works: a kid logs on the site, selects a structure he wants to build, buys the pdf file using Mommy’s credit card, prints off the design, and builds it in under an hour using only paper, Elmer’s Glue, and scissors. Lon then makes off like a bandit only having to pay server fees and the cost of contracting new paper designs (if any). He markets the site using good ole fashion PPC arbitrage and proper SEO.Sweetness! Forget these fleeting, unproven “Web 2.0” companies. Money 1.0 for the win.