In a study of 300 people visiting a car wash, researchers found that using a rewards card in a unique way affected how often patrons returned to the car wash. The control group of 150 car wash patrons were given a normal rewards card with 8 stamp spots—the type that you get stamped in each time you visit the business. The promise to the patrons was that they would receive a free car wash if they returned to the car wash 8 times to receive 8 stamps. The other 150 patrons received the same card, but with 10 stamp spots and 2 spots already stamped as a “favor.”
Despite the fact that both groups of 150 people required 8 stamps to claim their free car wash, 79% more people redeemed their free car wash from the group with the two spots already stamped. The head start given by the two free stamps triggered the Endowed Progress Effect, causing the second group to feel more motivated to finish getting the rest of the stamps.
The Endowed Progress Effect states that we have a higher chance of achieving a goal that we have a head start toward, especially when there’s a reward for achieving the goal.
The most direct applications of the Endowed Progress Effect are web page progress bars with 20-30% head starts, sign-up bonuses (such as points when you sign up for a new credit card), “new customer boosts” in a loyalty program, and bonuses upon signing up for an affiliate program. Any kind of head start that encourages a customer or partner to achieve a certain goal, such as coming back to a car wash a certain number of times, can be used to trigger the Endowed Progress Effect.