Persuasive Patterns: Temptation


Give users a way to reach their goal more quickly than they could before

Illustration of Privileges
Run a Privileges play

This persuasive pattern is part of the Persuasive Patterns printed card deck.

The Persuasive Patterns Card Deck is a collection of 60 design patterns driven by psychology, presented in a manner easily referenced and used as a brainstorming tool.

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The Privileges pattern leverages the psychological appeal of exclusivity and efficiency to enhance user engagement and satisfaction. By offering users a way to bypass usual hurdles or access enhanced features, this pattern not only improves the user experience but also encourages deeper investment in a service or product. When implemented effectively, Privileges can significantly increase user loyalty, reduce churn, and promote a sense of belonging or prestige among users.

In a busy airport where travelers are faced with long check-in and security lines, a person who has opted into a premium service offered by her airline. This service grants access to a fast-track lane letting premium customers bypass the regular queues. As a result, our traveler experiences a quicker, more streamlined process, reaching the departure gate with time to spare and significantly less stress. This privilege not only enhances her airport experience but also reinforces her decision to choose a premium service, increasing their likelihood of remaining loyal to the airline.

Similarly, an online learning platform offers both standard and premium membership options. When a new user signs up for a premium membership, they get access to personalized 1:1 live mentor sessions sessions. This allows them to achieve their learning goals more efficiently compared to standard users, who must progress through full courses without additional support.

In both cases, the privilege enhances the user’s experience and satisfaction, encouraging ongoing engagement and loyalty. These stories exemplify how providing accelerated paths to goal achievement can be a compelling incentive across industries.

The study

A seminal study that directly explores the impact of granting privileges in the context of online platforms is conducted by Wagner, Schramm-Klein, and Steinmann (2015). This research focused on the effects of granting VIP status to customers on e-commerce platforms. The study revealed that customers who were granted VIP status, which included benefits such as exclusive discounts, early access to products, and special customer service lines, showed increased loyalty and purchase frequency compared to non-VIP customers. This change was attributed to the perceived exclusivity and enhanced service quality associated with VIP status, demonstrating how privileges can effectively motivate consumer behavior and foster brand loyalty.

Wagner, G., Schramm-Klein, H., & Steinmann, S. (2015). The Role of VIP Status as a Privilege in Enhancing Customer Retention. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 25, 140-149.

In marketing and psychology, the systematic study and application of privileges emerged with the development of loyalty programs and exclusive memberships in the mid-20th century. Businesses recognized that by offering differentiated experiences or rewards, they could enhance customer loyalty and engagement. This practice was deeply influenced by early studies in behaviorism, which demonstrated how variable reinforcements could modify behavior.

The persuasive pattern of Privileges plays on the psychological principle of scarcity and the desire for exclusivity. This principle posits that individuals value and are more motivated by services or resources that are perceived as rare or exclusive. When privileges are offered, they create a perception of scarcity and exclusivity, making the opportunity to achieve them highly desirable.

Privileges also leverage the principle of social status elevation. By granting certain users faster access or unique capabilities, these users perceive an enhancement in their social standing within a given community or platform. This not only motivates individuals to strive for these privileges but also to maintain them, thereby driving consistent engagement and loyalty.

Furthermore, the principle of operant conditioning applies here, where privileges serve as positive reinforcement. When users are rewarded with privileges for certain actions or levels of engagement, these rewards reinforce the behavior, encouraging users to continue or increase their activity. The faster access or unique benefits act as powerful motivators because they directly link users’ actions to tangible rewards, enhancing their overall experience and satisfaction.

Designing products with more Privileges

Identify what goals users are working towards and map what privileges can be offered to facilitate these goals. Whether it’s skipping steps, accessing premium features, or getting discounts, these privileges should be directly tied to user activities and clearly communicated. For example, an e-commerce platform might offer free shipping as a privilege once a customer spends a certain amount, which encourages more purchases while providing a clear goal for users.

Not all users are the same, and neither should the privileges be. Segment your users based on their behavior, preferences, or purchase history, and tailor privileges to match. This targeted approach ensures that privileges are perceived as more valuable and relevant, increasing their effectiveness. For instance, a video streaming service could offer early access to new episodes for users who frequently binge-watch certain shows.

Privileges should feel like a natural part of the user’s journey, not an afterthought. Integrate them into the product’s core experience, making them easily accessible and simple to use. For a software tool, this might mean integrating an option to save work templates as a privilege for premium members, directly within the normal workflow.

Ensure that the communication around privileges highlights their value and ties back to the users’ goals. This can be done through in-app messages, emails, or even during the onboarding process. Make it clear how these privileges help users achieve their goals faster or more easily.

Ensure that all communications about privileges clearly highlight their value and how they relate to user goals. Utilize various channels such as in-app messages, emails, or during onboarding to explain how these privileges help users achieve their goals more efficiently. Clear communication ensures users understand and appreciate the benefits of the privileges offered.

Grant roles

Consider the specific roles users may have within your platform, such as contributors and curators in a content-driven website. Contributors add value through content creation, while curators enhance quality by reviewing and filtering submissions. Rewarding these roles with appropriate privileges not only promotes quality but also fosters a healthy community dynamic. For instance, experienced contributors might receive the privilege of having their content featured more prominently, whereas curators could be granted enhanced voting powers to influence content visibility more significantly.

Aligning privileges with fundamental psychological needs - competence, autonomy, and relatedness - can magnify their impact. This alignment helps satisfy users’ intrinsic motivations and enhances their engagement and loyalty to the platform. Granting users roles that offer a sense of purpose within the community, like moderator or mentor roles, can fulfill these needs, providing both recognition and influence.

Instill a sense of self-determination

According to self-determination theory, people are able to become self-determined when their needs for competence, connection, and autonomy are fulfilled. Granting privileges to individuals can provide a path that will allow them to go their own ways, have a place and connection in a community, and grow their competence to interact with as they administer their powers3.

Common Privileges

Grant specific powers that align with user activities and contributions. Common powers include the ability to vote content up or down, power votes that count multiple times, and administrative privileges like deleting or editing content. These powers should be carefully managed to ensure they enhance the community and do not undermine user trust or platform integrity.

There are several ways to empower users with privileges:

  • Administrative controls
    This includes adding or removing users, managing roles, and customizing software settings. Further, it may extend to the ability to delete resources such as content, comments, posts, images, or even user accounts, providing high-level users with significant control over the community or platform environment.
  • Voting rights
    Let users vote comments or other content up or down or consider giving some users a power vote that counts double, triple, or quadruple the vote of regular users
  • Access to data
    Allow users to gain a deeper level of insights by granting them access to analytics and reporting.
  • Beta features access
    Early access to new features or beta testing is a common privilege. Users may also receive the ability to test and provide feedback on new content types, such as polls or quizzes, before they are made available to the general user base.
  • Priority feature requests
    This privilege allows users to have a direct impact on the development roadmap, ensuring that their needs are prioritized by the development team.
  • Increased storage or capacity
    Enhancing a user’s ability to store more data or access greater processing power. This can be critical for users who regularly create and manage large amounts of content.
  • Premium support
    Includes faster response times and personalized assistance. Users with premium support might also have a ‘power vote’ privilege where their feedback or ratings on service features count multiple times more than those of regular users, giving them greater influence on product development.
  • Customization and integration options
    Users can often customize their interfaces or integrate the SaaS with other tools. This privilege may include advanced content creation capabilities, allowing users to post specialized content types like interactive polls or detailed quizzes.
  • Exclusive training and resources
    Access to specialized training sessions or educational materials can help users maximize their use of the software. This might include tutorials on using advanced features like API integration or data security enhancements.

Ethical recommendations

Although granting Privileges offers significant advantages in enhancing user engagement and differentiation of service, it also presents potential ethical challenges. One major concern is the risk of creating unequal access or perceived inequality among users, where those without privileges might feel disadvantaged or less valued. This can lead to user dissatisfaction, reduced trust, and a divided user community. Additionally, if not properly managed, privileges can be exploited by users who might manipulate the system to gain undue advantage, undermining the fairness and integrity of the platform.

To ensure the ethical application of the Privileges pattern, consider the following best practices:

  • Be transparent
    Clearly communicate the criteria and process for earning and maintaining privileges. Users should understand what actions contribute to gaining privileges and the benefits these privileges entail. This openness helps manage expectations and fosters an environment of fairness.
  • Equitability
    Design privilege systems that are accessible to all users through fair means. Avoid creating high barriers that only a few can overcome. Consider offering different types of privileges that cater to diverse user groups and their varying abilities or resources.
  • Monitor and adjust continuously
    Continuously monitor how privileges are used and the impact they have on the user community. Be vigilant about signs of abuse or negative community feedback, and be prepared to adjust policies to rectify any unfair advantages or disadvantages.
  • Design inclusively
    While designing privileges, ensure that they do not alienate or exclude segments of your user base. Offer alternative ways to achieve similar goals that cater to different user needs and situations.
  • Promote privileges ethically
    Promote privileges in a way that does not exploit user vulnerabilities or pressure users into undesirable commitments. Avoid using privileges to coerce users into decisions that may not align with their interests or values.


LinkedIn Premium

LinkedIn offers various premium tiers that provide users with enhanced capabilities such as the ability to see who has viewed their profile, access to online professional development courses, and increased visibility to recruiters. These privileges expedite users’ career goals by providing them with tools for faster and more effective networking and job searching.

Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow’s reputation system rewards users with privileges for quality contributions. Starting as basic users, members can advance to roles like Commenter, Editor, and Moderator by earning points through community upvotes. This structure boosts engagement and enables self-regulation, ensuring content quality and active community participation.

Apple Developer Program

Members of this program gain access to beta software, advanced app capabilities, extensive beta testing tools, and app analytics. These privileges allow developers to bring their software to market more quickly and with better support from Apple.

Trigger Questions

  • What specific goals are our users trying to achieve, and how can we align privileges to these goals?
  • How can we ensure that the privileges offered provide genuine value and are perceived as such by our users?
  • Are the privileges we offer scalable and sustainable with our business model and resources?
  • How can we maintain consistency and reliability in the delivery of these privileges to foster trust and loyalty?
  • What impact do these privileges have on user behavior, and how do we measure their effectiveness?
  • How do we communicate the availability and benefits of these privileges in a way that is simple and compelling?


Privileges + Rewards + Goal-Gradient Effect

Integrating Privileges with Rewards and the Goal-Gradient Effect can create a compelling user experience. As users progress towards their goals, the incremental rewards and privileges they earn not only motivate them but also make the journey enjoyable and engaging. For example, a fitness app might unlock premium workouts as users progress in their fitness levels, combining immediate rewards with privileges that align with users’ goal achievements.

Illustration of Privileges

Give users a way to reach their goal more quickly than they could before

Illustration of Rewards

Use rewards to encourage continuation of wanted behavior

Illustration of Goal-Gradient Effect
Goal-Gradient Effect

Our motivation increases as we move closer to a goal

Privileges + Status + Levels

Combining Privileges with Status and Levels can enhance user engagement and foster a competitive environment. Users could earn status upgrades that come with specific privileges, enhancing their motivation to reach higher levels within the community or platform. A gaming platform could use this combination by providing users with special abilities or content access as they level up, enhancing both their status and experience.

Illustration of Privileges

Give users a way to reach their goal more quickly than they could before

Illustration of Status

We constantly look to how our actions improve or impair how others see us

Illustration of Levels

Use levels to communicate progress and gauge users' personal development

Privileges + Framing Effect + Value Attribution

Using the Framing Effect and Value Attribution in conjunction with Privileges can significantly alter how users perceive the benefits they receive. By framing privileges as exclusive or limited-time offers, users are more likely to value them higher and engage more deeply with the product. An e-commerce site might offer early access to sales as a privilege for premium members, increasing perceived value and exclusivity.

Illustration of Privileges

Give users a way to reach their goal more quickly than they could before

Illustration of Framing Effect
Framing Effect

The way a fact is presented greatly alters our judgment and decisions

Illustration of Value Attribution
Value Attribution

The perceived value of things increases with their cost and appearance

Privileges + Social Proof

Combining Social Proof with Privileges can amplify the perceived value of the privileges offered. For instance, showcasing testimonials or case studies of users who have gained significant advantages through certain privileges can motivate others to engage in behaviors that earn these privileges. This could be effectively implemented in a professional networking site where premium members, highlighted as industry leaders, share stories about how exclusive networking features have helped their careers.

Illustration of Privileges

Give users a way to reach their goal more quickly than they could before

Illustration of Social Proof
Social Proof

We assume the actions of others in new or unfamiliar situations

Privileges + Scarcity Bias

Linking the concept of Scarcity with Privileges can create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. Offering limited-time access to certain privileges or making them available to only a select number of users at a time can drive users to take action quickly. An example could be a limited offer where the first 100 subscribers on a platform receive a special privilege, such as increased data limits or special account features.

Illustration of Privileges

Give users a way to reach their goal more quickly than they could before

Illustration of Scarcity Bias
Scarcity Bias

We value something more when it is in short supply

Privileges + Feedback Loops

Integrating Feedback Loops with Privileges ensures that users receive continuous and immediate feedback as they utilize their privileges, reinforcing positive behavior and encouraging further engagement. For example, a cloud software that grants higher data processing speeds as a privilege could provide real-time analytics on the performance enhancements experienced due to the privilege, encouraging continued engagement and subscription upgrades.

Illustration of Privileges

Give users a way to reach their goal more quickly than they could before

Illustration of Feedback Loops
Feedback Loops

We are influenced by information that provides clarity on our actions

Privileges + Tailoring

Tailoring (or personalization), when combined with Privileges, can significantly increase the effectiveness of the privileges by making them more relevant to the individual user’s needs and preferences. An e-commerce platform could offer personalized shopping privileges like early access to products tailored to the user’s past purchasing behavior, enhancing the overall shopping experience and increasing loyalty.

Illustration of Privileges

Give users a way to reach their goal more quickly than they could before

Illustration of Tailoring

Adapt the offerings of a system to match individual users- needs and abilities

Privileges +

Commitment and Consistency

Utilizing the principle of Commitment and Consistency along with Privileges can help in maintaining long-term engagement. Once users commit to a path that offers them certain privileges (e.g., subscribing to a premium service), they are more likely to continue behaviors that are consistent with their initial commitment. A fitness app might offer a series of tiered privileges that reward consistent workout habits, encouraging users to maintain a regular fitness routine.

Illustration of Privileges

Give users a way to reach their goal more quickly than they could before

This persuasive pattern is part of the Persuasive Patterns printed card deck.

The Persuasive Patterns Card Deck is a collection of 60 design patterns driven by psychology, presented in a manner easily referenced and used as a brainstorming tool.

Get your deck!
  • Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation [ by Ryan & Deci
  • The Art of Game Design - A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell
  • Joy in gaming & gamified experiences
  • Self-Determination Theory: How It Explains Motivation at Verywell Mind
  • Nunes, J. C., & Drèze, X. (). Your Loyalty Program Is Betraying You. Harvard Business Review.Kivetz, R., & Simonson, I. (2002). Earning the Right to Indulge: Effort as a Determinant of Customer Preferences Toward Frequency Program Rewards. Journal of Marketing Research, 39(2), 155-170.
  • (). Effects of Price Discounts and Bonus Packs on Online Impulse Buying. Social Behavior and Personality, 42(8), 1293-1302.
  • (). Creating When You Have Less: The Impact of Resource Scarcity on Product Use Creativity. Journal of Consumer Research, 42(5), 767-782.
  • (). The Role of VIP Status as a Privilege in Enhancing Customer Retention. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 25, 140-149.
  • (). Reward Programs and Tacit Collusion. Marketing Science, 20(2), 99-120.
  • (). Overearning. Psychological Science, 24(6), 852-859.
  • (). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. The social psychology of intergroup relations.
  • (). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. Yale University Press.
  • (). Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk. Econometrica.
  • Ryan, R. M.; Deci, E. L. (). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist. 55 (1): 68–78.

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