How tech firms make us feel like we own their apps—and how that benefits them

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Possessions are heading out of style. A limitless stream of media reports declare millennials – that amorphous mass of individuals born in the 1980s and 1990s who have actually matured with the web and digital technology—remain in favour of accessing instead of owning things.

And yet my research study programs that owning belongings is still something millennials appetite for. It is simply that these belongings are now digital instead of physical.

People who end up being heavy users of the apps they download can establish deep relationships with these services, so deep that they handle what we call “psychological ownership” of them. This suggests they view each app as something that belongs simply to them and has successfully end up being an extension of themselves. After utilizing it regularly and changing the settings to their preference, it ends up being “my app,” despite the fact that their rights to utilize the service and transfer their information are really limited and their accounts can be ended at any time.

Psychological ownership can benefit the business since it leads users to handle important additional functions. In the real life, business have actually long promoted consumers to provide feedback, suggest their items and assist other consumers. App “owners” are voluntarily doing all of this in the digital sphere and frequently with more competence and dedication than conventional customers.

My associates and I studied this phenomenon for users of music streaming apps such as Spotify and QQ Music and discovered that they went above and beyond in 4 methods. They offered services such as addressing the inquiries of other users on web online forums or providing other info that would enhance the experience of users. They enhanced the app by providing the business feedback or participating in the app’s governance. They promoted for the app by promoting it in public or protecting it versus critics. And they funded the service by paying a premium cost and even contributing cash.

By talking to more than 200 users of these music streaming services, we likewise discovered that business utilize 3 crucial experiences to motivate users to end up being “owners.”


We all have a strong desire to apply control and impact on our environment. Research study has actually revealed individuals get complete satisfaction and an increase in self-confidence by altering their environments, and we discovered the very same desire amongst app users to manage their digital space.

Users desire autonomy to utilize the app at their own speed and in their own method. They do this by altering the settings to fit their interests and tastes. They can pick what alerts they get or by which channel. They can avoid or conceal material. They can choose who they wish to share their activity with.

Through this procedure, they discover how to utilize the app and see their impact on it, slowly acquiring a sense that they can manage it therefore view it to be “their” Spotify or Apple Music.


Past generations of youths put posters on their bed room wall, used tee shirts with mottos and showed rows of vinyl or CDs as a program of who they were and what they thought in. Now this presentation happens online too. Self-identity is curated in the digital sphere.

Music apps enable users to reveal themselves by producing a library of likes and sharing the music that attract them. They can develop their own playlists for any state of mind or celebration: the research playlist, the celebration list or bath-time music.

The more you check out and listen to music, the more the app’s algorithms comprehend your likes and dislikes. Therefore the service ends up being more customized to your character. It ends up being “your” service and is trained to look like you. You can even submit your profile images and embellish your homepage in your own design.

Apps that enable users to sync their accounts throughout various gadgets even more strengthen this sense of customised identity.

Sense of house

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognised need of the human soul,” stated French theorist Simone Weil in her 1952 book The Need for Roots.

App designers succeed when they acknowledge this requirement. In addition to searching for a digital space to shop their productions and memory, users wish to develop a sense of house, their own location within the app, someplace familiar and comfy.

Some mobile apps have actually taken advantage of this yearning, enabling users to shop their memories and history within the app. For example, a timeline or stats include permits users to reflect on what they have actually done on the app and what music they have actually listened to.

This sense of history can likewise be made more concrete by producing playlists of a user’s leading tunes of the year, or advising them of previous occasions they had on the app, and even with an evaluation of the individual’s use on the app.

Profitable relationship

These 3 experiences imply that users have the ability to develop a relationship with a faceless technology such as a mobile app through mental ownership.

Once deeply taken part in this sort of relationship with their app, users are then most likely to carry out voluntary contributions for the good of the technology. That can be handy for the neighborhood of other users however eventually is a significant advantage for the business making money from all that effort.

Digital music service Spotify launches in US

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How tech firms make us feel like we own their apps—and how that benefits them (2019, July 16)
recovered 27 November 2019

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