Dark patterns vs Growth hacking

I came across an article and related study via a few various places over the past week. If you have not seen it yet, or don’t want to click though – essentially, in February 2019, researchers at Princeton University analysed ~53k product pages from some of the most popular e-commerce sites online and discovered widespread use of “dark patterns” – so basically techniques employed to “manipulate” and “deceive” shoppers.

What was interesting to me was the fact that this list includes things like:

  • Activity Notifications
  • Countdown Timer s
  • High Demand Notifications
  • Limited Time Notifications
  • Low-Stock Notification
  • Pressured Selling

Now, most of the articles you will find on “growth techniques” or the more annoying “growth hacking” term will tend to include suggestions that using methods like these will help drive “growth” – but to me – seeing these listed out here as dark patterns makes me thing of my college Dave Martins post – Don’t Growth Hack – as he explains:

Growth for the sake of growth has never been a good LONG-TERM business strategy. Growth for the sake of growth may appear to work wonders in the short-term, but long-term it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Long-term, growth should be centered around people not numbers or percentages.

I would argue that all of those items in the list above are short-term revenue growth drivers – and while they may make you more money in the short term they will do more damage to your brand and user experience in the long run.

As Dave says in his article too:

Instead of having your north star be growth, what if instead you focused on the success of your users as your primary objective?

I strongly believe that focusing on your users, and actually working to solve their needs will lead to sustainable long-term growth.

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