Imagine you are part way through a task. Will you be more motivated to complete the task if I tell you that you are 67% through, or you have 33% to go?
This question came to mind when I received this prompt from a loyalty program.
It’s a pretty effective way of spurring the customer on towards their next Reward Voucher isn’t it?
It taps into what’s known as “Completion Bias”(or the “Endowed Progress Effect”), which is our tendency to show greater persistence in attaining a goal once we perceive we have progressed towards completion.
So far, so good. Lesson one is that we like to see progress.
Progress completed vs progress remaining
But here’s the big question – what progress should you show? Is 67% completed better than 33% to go?
These are the challenges we are faced with all the time in business – having to make seemingly trivial decisions about how to write or design something without realising that they can make or break our effectiveness.
I refer to them as micro-moments and it’s what, for me, behavioural science is all about. Providing answers so you don’t have to guess.
And speaking of answers, thanks to the “small-area hypothesis” we now know that people are more motivated towards their goal if their attention is directed to the smaller representation of progress.
As small-area hypothesis researchers Koo and Fishbach state:
“at the beginning of goal pursuit, directing attention to accumulated progress increases goal adherence relative to directing attention to remaining progress (e.g., 20% completed is more impactful than 80% remaining). However, with closeness to the goal, directing attention to accumulated progress lessens goal adherence relative to directing attention to remaining progress (e.g., 20% remaining is more impactful than 80% completed).”
In other words, while the loyalty program had the right idea, they would have been even more effective if they’d directed my attention to the 33% I had to go rather than the 67% I had already achieved. Conversely for customers who were at the other end of the scale, focusing on the progress they had made (e.g. you’re already 25% to your reward) would be the smart way to go.
Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.