Day# 148: Reciprocity and how it can be used in UX

Day# 148: Reciprocity and how it can be used in UX

Hi there and welcome to Uxergirl, a blog about UX, design and behavioral science. For today’s post I want to discuss reciprocity, the act of feeling reciprocity is common among us as human beings because we are social by nature. Our ability to understand the act of giving and then return it with an action of our own is a method we have mastered long ago. You will see it in healthy relationships whether they be of a friendly, family or romantic type of relationship. As an example, it is common to see with people who give compliments, often the individual receiving the compliment will return the compliment in a different way. One person indicating how nice the other’s hair is and the other responding with a compliment on their clothing etc.


In relation to business, companies have been trying to recreate the act of reciprocity for a long time, it creates the feeling of lowering one’s defenses as a human being because the individual did something nice for you. I remember as a child looking in our post box to always find little stationery gifts from a popular real estate company in our area. They would have their business card and with it would come a fairly nice quality pen or notebook etc, everything had the company branding of course but it was a really nice gesture and to this day I actually remember the name of the company off the top of my head, granted their colours were very unique in the industry but it still created an impression nonetheless.


In the online space reciprocity can also be created to help customers feel the need to give back by a “good natured deed”. I recently signed up on a popular recruitment site and after creating my profile and chatting to my assigned recruiter, I was sent a mail indicating that they have a gift for me. I will be doing a post on this company in the near future but for now know that I have not actually even given this company any business yet, they have not placed me in a position or had a referral from me for any others in the industry. The package arrived and it is awesome, something so small and yet the service of this company is utterly amazing. Along with my gift is a few notable extras branded with the company branding, as well as a signed note from my assigned recruiter. The whole process feels so personal and well thought out.


A mistake a lot of people make when trying to implement recriposity through a commitment, for example “Here is a voucher for % off your first purchase” This entails that the user must commit to be entitled to your voucher, this is not going to recreate reciprocity. It may actually result in the voucher being spent but it is simple not an accurate example of the concept. To end off there are many ways to entice users to commit online, it just means doing enough research to understand your potential users enough so that you know how you can recreate some of these behavioral science social structures that we as humans feel and act on.



Obviously no good blog post or article is of any value at all, if a reference is not made to the N/N group, check out the rather long article here on the reciprocity principle. I say long so you prepare yourself! Don’t just skip it, it’s a pretty good read 😉


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