Habit Formation and Customer Loyalty in B2B Marketing
Mike Darnell
June 2023

Habit Formation in B2B Marketing – Video summary

For the full article scroll below.

A couple of weeks ago we started, what i’m hoping will become a HABIT, on our blog and started a glossary of behavioral design terms, starting with Choice Architecture. This post is dedicated to the next term in the series – Habit Formation.

Definition – What is Habit Formation?

Habit Formation refers to the psychological process through which repetitive behaviors become automatic responses to specific cues or triggers. In the context of B2B marketing and sales, understanding habit formation can be a powerful tool for driving customer engagement and loyalty.

By consistently delivering positive experiences and meeting customer needs, businesses can establish habits that lead to repeat purchases and long-term relationships. This can be achieved by creating a seamless customer journey, providing exceptional service, and consistently delivering high-quality products.

To leverage habit formation effectively, B2B professionals should focus on two key aspects:

  1. Identifying and understanding the cues that trigger desired behaviors in customers, such as specific situations, needs, or emotional states.
  2. Implementing strategies to reinforce positive habits, such as personalized communications, loyalty programs, or targeted reminders.

By leveraging habit formation, B2B marketing and sales professionals in the industrial and manufacturing sector can cultivate long-term customer loyalty and drive repeat business, ultimately leading to sustainable growth and success.

A History of Habit Formation

The concept of habit formation has been explored by several influential researchers in the field of psychology. One of the earliest contributors was Edward Thorndike, who conducted experiments in the early 20th century that laid the foundation for understanding the formation of habits. Thorndike’s research on operant conditioning, specifically the law of effect, demonstrated how behaviors that lead to positive outcomes are more likely to be repeated.

Building on Thorndike’s work, B.F. Skinner further advanced the understanding of habit formation through his research on operant conditioning and reinforcement schedules. Skinner’s experiments, such as his seminal work on the Skinner box, revealed the role of rewards and punishments in shaping habitual behaviors.

In more recent years, researchers like Wendy Wood and Charles Duhigg have made significant contributions to the study of habit formation. Wood’s research on automaticity and habit formation has shed light on the cognitive processes underlying habitual behaviors. Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit” has become a landmark resource, combining research findings with practical insights on how habits shape individual and organizational behavior.

These researchers, among others, have collectively deepened our understanding of habit formation and its implications for marketing and consumer behavior. Their key research papers and publications provide valuable insights into the development and application of this concept in various contexts.

Habit Formation – Case Studies

Consumer Goods – Procter & Gamble (P&G)

P&G, a multinational consumer goods company, successfully leveraged habit formation in their B2B marketing efforts. They focused on building habits among their B2B customers by streamlining the ordering and replenishment process. P&G introduced an automated ordering system that allowed customers to easily reorder their products with a single click, eliminating the need for manual order placement.

By simplifying the ordering process and making it a habitual behavior, P&G increased customer convenience and reduced friction in the purchasing journey. This resulted in higher customer satisfaction, improved loyalty, and increased repeat orders. P&G reported a significant increase in order frequency and a substantial improvement in customer retention as a direct outcome of their habit-forming strategy.

Source: “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.

Consumer Electronics – General Electric (GE)

GE, a renowned industrial conglomerate, utilized habit formation in their B2B marketing to drive adoption and usage of their industrial products. They implemented a proactive maintenance program, offering customers predictive maintenance services that continuously monitored equipment performance and provided timely alerts for maintenance and repairs.

By integrating this habit-forming program into their products, GE helped their B2B customers develop a habit of regular equipment maintenance, leading to improved operational efficiency, reduced downtime, and cost savings. This resulted in increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, with customers reporting significant improvements in equipment reliability and overall performance.

Source: “Creating a New Habit: What’s the Return on Investment?” by Jason Cao, Jessica Wang, and Aimee St. Amant, GE Digital.

Construction and mining equipment – Caterpillar Inc.

Caterpillar, the construction and mining equipment manufacturer, successfully applied habit formation principles in their B2B marketing strategy. They developed a customer loyalty program called “My.Cat.Com” that provided personalized product recommendations, maintenance tips, and online equipment management tools.

By consistently engaging customers through personalized content and value-added services, Caterpillar fostered a habit of regularly visiting and interacting with their online platform. This habit increased customer loyalty, facilitated cross-selling opportunities, and allowed Caterpillar to gather valuable data for future marketing initiatives. The ROI reported by Caterpillar included improved customer retention rates and increased revenue from repeat purchases and service contracts.

Source: “Building a Winning B2B Loyalty Program: Lessons from Caterpillar” by Adrian Cernat, IXI Services.

These case studies highlight how manufacturing companies like P&G, GE, and Caterpillar have successfully leveraged habit formation in their B2B marketing efforts, resulting in improved customer satisfaction, loyalty, and tangible business outcomes.

Habit Forming and Culture

Collectivist and Individualist societies exhibit distinct differences in terms of habit formation due to variations in cultural values and social norms. In collectivist societies, such as many Asian and African cultures, the emphasis is on group harmony, social cohesion, and the collective well-being. Individualist societies, like those prevalent in Western countries, prioritize personal autonomy, self-expression, and individual success.

Understanding the cultural context is important for effectively applying habit formation strategies in B2B marketing. Tailoring marketing messages and experiences to align with the values and social norms of the specific society can significantly enhance the success of habit formation efforts, but we must note that while general observations hold true for cultural contexts, an endless amount of variation exists between individuals.

Habit Formation and Collectivist Culture

In collectivist societies, habit formation can be successfully applied in a B2B marketing scenario by focusing on building habits that align with communal values and group norms. This can be achieved by emphasizing the benefits of cooperation, loyalty, and long-term relationships with suppliers and partners. For example, a manufacturing company could leverage habit formation by establishing habitual buying behaviors among business customers who prioritize maintaining strong relationships with trusted suppliers. By consistently delivering exceptional service, providing customized solutions, and fostering a sense of partnership, the company can cultivate habits of loyalty and repeat purchases within the collectivist culture.

Habit Formation and Individualist Culture

In contrast, in individualist societies, B2B marketing can leverage habit formation by appealing to personal benefits and individual goals. Emphasizing the advantages of efficiency, innovation, and competitive advantage can resonate with individualist values. For instance, a manufacturing company could focus on habitually positioning their products or services as tools that empower managers in target client organizations to reach their role related KPIs, such as improving quality, boosting productivity, or reducing operational costs.

Habit Formation FAQs

1. How can I effectively leverage habit formation in B2B marketing?

To leverage habit formation in B2B marketing, focus on two key aspects. First, understand the cues that trigger desired behaviors in your customers. Identify the specific situations, needs, or emotional states that prompt them to engage with your products or services. Second, implement strategies to reinforce positive habits. This can include personalized communications, loyalty programs, and targeted reminders. Consistently delivering exceptional experiences and meeting customer needs will help establish habits that drive repeat business and long-term relationships.

2. How long does it take to form a habit in the B2B context?

The time it takes to form a habit in the B2B context can vary based on several factors, including the complexity of the behavior and the frequency of repetition. While some habits may form relatively quickly, others may require more time and consistent reinforcement. Research suggests that it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for a behavior to become automatic. Remember to be patient and consistently provide positive experiences to help solidify the desired habits among your B2B customers.

3.How can I measure the success of habit formation in B2B marketing?

Measuring the success of habit formation in B2B marketing can be challenging, but it is possible to track certain indicators. Key metrics to consider include customer retention rates, repeat purchase frequency, and engagement levels. Additionally, qualitative feedback and customer surveys can provide valuable insights into the habitual behaviors and attitudes towards your brand. Regularly analyzing and monitoring these metrics will help you gauge the effectiveness of your habit-forming strategies and make informed decisions for further optimization and improvement.


The process of habit formation through which repetitive behaviors become automatic responses, holds immense potential for B2B marketers. By strategically leveraging habit formation, businesses can cultivate customer loyalty, drive repeat purchases, and create lasting relationships.

The case studies of successful habit formation applications by manufacturing companies have demonstrated the tangible benefits that can be achieved. From streamlining ordering processes to promoting proactive maintenance programs, these companies have capitalized on the power of habit to enhance customer satisfaction, improve operational efficiency, and generate positive returns on investment.

It is crucial for B2B marketers to consider the cultural context in their habit formation strategies. Collectivist and individualist societies require tailored approaches that align with their values and norms. Understanding cues that trigger desired behaviors and implementing reinforcing strategies will contribute to the formation of positive habits in both contexts.

By incorporating the principles of habit formation into their marketing efforts, B2B professionals can create seamless customer journeys, foster loyalty, and position themselves as trusted partners. Continuously refining and optimizing habit-forming strategies will enable businesses to adapt to evolving customer needs, drive sustainable growth, and stay ahead in the competitive industrial and manufacturing sector.


  1. Verplanken, B., & Wood, W. (2006). Interventions to break and create consumer habits. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 25(1), 90-103. Link to the article.
  2. Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2007). A new look at habits and the habit-goal interface. Psychological Review, 114(4), 843-863. Link to the article.
  3. Gardner, B. (2015). A review and analysis of the use of ‘habit’ in understanding, predicting and influencing health-related behaviour. Health Psychology Review, 9(3), 277-295. Link to the article.
  4. van der Linden, S., Haberstroh, S., & De Bruin, R. H. (2019). Habit formation in the realm of sustainability: An integrative review. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 2171. Link to the article.
  5. Wood, W. (2019). Good habits, bad habits: The science of making positive changes that stick. Macmillan. Link to the book.

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