July 12, 2016

Is this the quickest, simplest way to get people saving energy?

New research shows a simple, but detailed, scoring of every appliance drives everyone to change their purchase choice for the better.

Written by
Guy Champniss

As a consumer, buying energy efficient products should be the most obvious thing to do. Saving energy means saving money, so even if you’re not environmentally inclined, surely we are all financially inclined to save where it’s easy?

Plus, we’re constantly met with survey after survey that reports rising consumer concern and commitment to buy energy efficient for environmental and social reasons.

So why does this apparent growing intent, together with clear information regarding energy consumption, fail to deliver the swathes of energy efficient purchases that represent the increasingly obvious choice?

One could argue that consumers are just not aware of the opportunity to either save money or buy efficient, in which case cut-through awareness raising and education campaigns should be the answer.

But those have been tried (over and again) with no material impact. So it’s not a question of knowledge or awareness, but likely something more nuanced within the actual decision making process when we buy.

Dissecting that process reveals a range of influences on our decision making that may explain why energy efficiency fails to make the cut: temporal discounting, status quo bias, lack of feedback, and ‘satisficing’ (where a ‘good-enough’ decision is the right decision), to name but a few. In short, there are a host of reasons drawn from behavioral science as to why consumers may tend to be inattentive toward the analysis and benefits of energy efficiency — the problem of ‘rational inattention’.

We are not claiming for a moment to be the first to speculate on these various causes of inattention that leads to such a poor return on energy efficiency programs. But we are in a position with Enervee’s Marketplace platform to be able to test hypotheses regarding consumer propensity to buy energy efficient products and to potentially tease out specific barriers, influences and opportunities that could lead to more of us making the obviously better choice. In short, we are in a position to hopefully make energy efficiency more…efficient.

Enervee’s Marketplace presents two key pieces of information to encourage more energy efficient buying behaviors. First, it allows visitors to see a quantification of energy efficiency, in the form of projected financial savings over the lifetime of the product in question (‘Energy Savings’). Visitors can also personalize this information through confirming their tariff and specifying just how much (or little) they’ll likely use the appliance, compared the typical amount. When the visitor enters their details, the energy savings figure updates in real time, providing concrete and personalized feedback for the user. Second, every product that appears on Marketplace has an Enervee Score.

Enervee Score scale
The Enervee Score: a simple-to-read score between 0 and 100 that points the way toward the highest levels of energy efficiency

As a 0–100 number, the Enervee Score instantly tells the user how that product compares on energy efficiency to others products in its category; the higher the score, the more energy efficient that choice. The motivation behind the Enervee Score has always been to make it as simple and as intuitive as possible to make not just an energy efficient choice, but the most energy efficient choice; just aim for as close to 100 as you can.

Considering these two features of Marketplace, we set out to test whether they could disable two of the potential culprits identified from behavioral science research that are likely causing consumers to fail in making energy efficient choices: energy savings quantified to act as a feedback mechanism, and the Enervee Score as a decision tool that would recognize the lighter-touch, ’satisficing’ approach to decision making.

The results were both encouraging and surprising.

Firstly, when consumers see the Enervee Score for products, they consistently choose more efficient products — both as their first purchase choice, and on average across their top three preferences.

In other words, the presence of a simple-to-read Enervee Score leads to significantly more efficient purchase preferences, regardless of consumer profile.

In addition, with respect to the other measures we picked up (in terms of perceptions of the Marketplace and pro-environmental attitudes) these results were also revealing.

First, there was no significant difference in terms of how consumers perceived the Marketplace across the four conditions. That’s to say, including the Enervee Score and Energy Savings does not make the platform more ‘pro-energy saving’ or pro-environmental from the consumer’s perspective.

This is crucial, since it lends support to the argument that these measures could be introduced — and could influence consumer choice — without it becoming an obvious energy efficiency play for the provider, and with all the potential negative reactions that could trigger from mainstream audiences. Energy efficiency hiding in plain sight.

Second, we did not see any significant differences in levels of pro-environmental consumer attitudes across any of the conditions. Again, this is important, in that it supports the argument that we saw the effects in terms of better choices, not because we happened to have a bunch of environmentally aware consumers in one of our groups, but from the inclusion of the Enervee Score itself.

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