Adventure

Using curiosity to redesign travel and bring out our inner explorer

How German firm srprs.me have artfully navigated that difficult balance between too little information and too much…

Nuggets in this story

Curiosity Effect
We're driven to seek missing info that closes our knowledge gap

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Autonomy Bias
We have a deep-seated need to control our situations

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Certainty Effect
We crave clarity over chance and make costly sacrifices to get it

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I want to share with you a great story of how to effectively combine different behavioural principles to reimagine whole business models from the ground up.

Though we at Coglode are party to much of the positive impact of low-cost nudges in improving outcomes, much less attention has been placed on how a solid understanding of behavioural principles can help you create entirely new experiences that unlock all sorts of positive emotional outcomes.

I'll do this by looking through a behavioural lens at how German travel company srprs.me ("Surprise dot me") have reimagined travel.

At its core, the company aims to bring back the childhood wonder of travel. It does so by heavily restricting choice and, more importantly, vital information about your destination until you're at the airport!

Behavioural mechanics at play

The srprs.me model utilises one core behavioural principle:

Curiosity Effect

And two supporting behaviours:

How it works

1. Triggering curiosity with the information gap

At the core of srprs.me lies the fact that when booking a trip with them, you don't know where you'll go, though srprs.me do.

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This 'information gap' in the curiosity literature lies at the core of the experience, which keeps us excited and engaged from the moment we book up until we arrive at the airport weeks or months later, when our destination is finally revealed.

However, applying the Curiosity Effect alone wouldn't necessarily make for a good experience. In some cases, it can actually lead to a very bad one. I'll explain how sprs.me avoid such experiences by using two supporting behavioural principles: Autonomy Bias and Certainty Effect.

2. Providing a small amount of control for preferences

Naturally, we all have travel preferences and places we've already visited or would prefer to avoid for one reason or another. So, when booking, travellers are given a little albeit important amount of autonomy in the process.

Beyond dates and number of travellers, options to select regional locations are shown, as well as the ability to exclude certain cities.

Providing this level of control can take some of the discomfort out of handing over the choice of what, in being a holiday, is intended to be a positive experience.

It's important to mention that even exercising full autonomy with the choices presented doesn't remove the core mechanic of not knowing.

However, there are some aspects of travel we can't control, no matter how much autonomy we're given...

3. Counterbalancing curiosity's dark side

Did you know that curiosity is actually a form of low-level anxiety? We're curious because we're evolutionarily-hardwired to remove the threat that comes from closing the information gap on what we know and what we know we don't.

A rustle in the bushes whilst out camping? What was that?

"Police - Do not cross" tickertape in our neighbourhood? What happened in that house?

Such information gaps are helpful for us to close. Doing so may well reduce perceived threat levels and therefore anxiety felt.

Back to srprs.me, despite not knowing where you're going, there are some things that, if similarly left undisclosed, would induce a novel form of anxious discomfort that couldn't be easily remedied.

Before you travel, what's the one thing you need to do before you go?

You need to pack.

And how will you know what to pack if you don't know the weather?

Enter srprs.me with a healthy dose of certainty. About a week before travel, customers are sent an email with updated weather conditions for their mysterious trip. Ah, it's raining? Better pack that umbrella!

This small piece of information is crucial for preventing playful curiosity from turning into indecision, panic and ultimately a bad experience. Who wants to turn up to -13c Oslo in November with only a couple of t-shirts anyway.

Why curiosity matters

In a world where there are so many options that quickly overwhelm, curation and delegation can reduce analysis paralysis, the fear of missing out and the feeling of making 'wrong' choices.

Moreover, there is beauty in not knowing, in leaving things to chance. As children, there is so much we do not know, where adventure meets us each day. It is wrong to think that as adults, we can't create those same feelings.

We really can.

Srprs.me is by no means perfect but in carefully balancing the behavioural mechanics of their travel experience, they navigate the needs we have as responsible adults that plan ahead accordingly, and the inner child that is so desperate to come out and adventure into the unknown once or twice a year.

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