Case Study: Ipsy’s Hot Trigger Hot Mess

Case StudyBJ Fogg talks about “hot triggers,” the design equivalent of a big shiny red button that you just can’t help but press. The hot trigger is a call to action that is immediate and easy. By making the commitment of time and energy low, and making an action easy to take, a hot trigger helps overcome the need to have high levels of motivation to get someone to do something. Fogg talks about hot triggers in terms of those ubiquitous emails from Facebook letting you know you’ve been tagged and allowing you to see the photo in question with just one click; I wrote about them with respect to similar emails from LinkedIn. Hot triggers can be very powerful when they work, but as I’ve recently experienced, sometimes they can backfire.

I subscribe to a monthly beauty box called Ipsy. For $10 per month, I get a “glam bag” shipped to me with five beauty products to try. Some of them are samples, and some are full-sized. Some are ridiculous, but some end up finding a place on my vanity. It’s a fun little monthly treat, and part of the fun is that I don’t know what I’m going to get until it arrives.

Ipsy recognized that they have an opportunity to pique subscriber curiosity with a monthly email campaign, and seized the opportunity. About 10 days before that month’s glam bag arrives, Ipsy always sends an email with what appears to be a very hot trigger:

Wait, I can get a sneak peek with just one click?
Wait, I can get a sneak peek with just one click?

Look at that big pink button! So easy to click! Yes, I do want to get a peek at my next Glam Bag! <Click.> Here’s what I see next:

ispy_step1Hm. This is not the information I was looking for. Ipsy doesn’t just demand a click through, but also that I share information on social media about my subscription. And Step 1 of 3? What are steps 2 and 3 going to be? This trigger is not as hot as I thought!

Honestly, I have always closed out of the browser at this point in past months, but this month, knowing I wanted to blog about this hot mess of a hot trigger, I kept going:


OK, Step 2 is liking them on Facebook. Fine. Now let’s see what Step 3 is:


Subscribe to your YouTube channels? Ugh, fine. Now you’ll tell em what’s in the bag, right?


All right! The information was indeed there–below yet one more call to promote Ipsy via your social media network.

This is one of the most poorly executed hot triggers I’ve ever seen. First, it makes actually achieving the desired objective complicated and time-consuming, which means anyone who’s not highly motivated is going to quit before they get to the end of the process. The whole point of a hot trigger is to make the ability threshold incredibly low for people, so that they take action.

Second, there’s a lack of clarity in the request from Ipsy that can rub users the wrong way. One of the principles of supporting user autonomy and competence is helping users to understand what tasks are required of them when they engage in a system. Ipsy’s email implies that I will have the information I want with just a click or two, but that turns out not to be the case.

Third, the tasks Ipsy asks of you are obnoxious. Liking a brand on social media channels is one thing, but they want you to also post publicly. And the YouTube request strikes me as particularly ludicrous, since subscribing to a channel requires a Google account on YouTube, something many people may not have. All told, Ipsy wants me to log into at least two additional services in order to find out some information that I will learn anyway when my bag arrives.

Which is why I always just wait for my bag to arrive. Don’t get me wrong; despite Ipsy’s artless use of the hot trigger concept in their emails, I really like receiving my package each month. Just check out this shiny envelope:

The Glam Bag is here!
The Glam Bag is here!

Inside the envelope is a cute little cosmetics bag stuffed with my five goodies:


The products, as I mentioned, might not always end up being my favorite, but seem to be a good value for my $10 and have introduced me to some products I like. Here’s December’s haul:


I don’t even open the Ipsy emails anymore, and I suspect I’m not alone among subscribers. Sure, the sneak preview would be nice, but it’s a lot easier to just wait a few days and get the surprise when the shiny pink package arrives.

If you are interested in trying Ipsy based on my comments, consider using my subscriber link to enroll. It earns me points toward additional products–not a big deal, but fun!