I recently discovered Amazon’s Prime Pantry feature, where you can shop for typical pantry items and have them delivered to your house. The feature is built around the idea of filling up a box with items. Each box can hold up to 45 pounds of products and ships for a flat rate of $6. The feature is only open to Amazon Prime members and includes items that are otherwise cost prohibitive to ship. Think 12 packs of canned soda (too heavy) or a 3 pack of popcorn (too little to ship alone). From a shopper’s perspective, there are numerous conveniences to this service - fewer trips to the grocery store, savings on time and gas, not having to know what store aisle certain items are hidden on - the list goes on. Surely these things motivate people to try the service (it worked on me), but what makes customers go beyond reading about the service and actually making a purchase? And how do they decide what to purchase? I want to highlight two motivation techniques used in the experience design itself.

Motivation Technique: Encourage Loss Aversion

amazon prime pantry box - v2b
amazon prime pantry box - v2b

When you add an item to your cart, an image of a box displays showing your progress towards filling up the box. It’s a visual indicator of how much space you have left before needing a second box (without having to do any math in your head).

Not only does the box show you how much space is left, it’s reminding you that an entire box will be shipped to you regardless of what’s inside. You pay the full $6 shipping whether you fill the box 50% or 90%. Six dollars doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but when you’re essentially choosing to lose $6 (or a part of it), it’s a bigger deal. Enter the concept of loss aversion.

Wikipedia provides a simple definition:

“[L]oss aversion refers to people's tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Some studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains… Loss aversion implies that one who loses $100 will lose more satisfaction than another person will gain satisfaction from a $100 windfall.”

Loss aversion says customers won't appreciate that $6 shipping is still likely a good deal even if the box is only 50% full. Instead, they’ll focus on how much more stuff they could have shipped for $6 if they had only added more items to the box. Ironically, customers will spend money to buy more items just to avoid a loss.

Motivation Technique: Make it Fun

I was surprised at how long it took to fill up a box. After adding about 10 items, I was still a long ways from 100% and started wondering just how much stuff would fit. Shopping for laundry detergent or cereal isn’t terrible, but it’s not something I’d describe as fun either. Having this little box to fill up made it a bit like a game and added a little fun to an otherwise mundane process.

It also introduced a challenge. While shopping, you’re trying to fill the box as close to 100% as possible. If you’re at 97% and add an item that takes up 5%, a second box is started. Now the first box is left at 97%, which means it’s 3% less efficient than it could have been. That goes back to loss aversion again (I’m paying to ship a box that’s not full!) but it also asks the question - can I get a perfect 100% box? Let the games begin.

Keep in Mind...

Design can motivate users to take certain actions or change their behavior, but the biggest motivation is having a useful and usable product. No design can make up for a product that just isn’t needed. I’ll never use the most awesome running app, because I’m not a runner. However, don’t stop at finding the product people need. Make the product itself a motivation for using it.