February 27, 2017

Quick, quick, slow.

The pressure we’re under to buy new appliances has a direct impact on how we think about energy efficiency. But we can change that!

Written by
Guy Champniss

At Enervee, we’ve run quite a few experiments now to better understand how and when our unique data-points can influence consumers to buy more energy efficient products. We’ve focused these experiments — in the main — on the effect of the Enervee Score. As a quick introduction, the Enervee Score is unique to our product, Marketplace, and shows a 0–100 relative energy efficiency score for every product in a category. It’s our way of giving the consumer a datapoint that’s both granular (0–100) and dynamic (it’s updated every day) but that’s also intuitive and easy to understand (just aim for 100). We also design it in such a way that it respects key aspects of a decision that’s already been made: if you’re looking for a 55" TV, it’s not right to try and steer you towards a 40" TV which uses less energy. Instead, the Enervee Score allows you to see which 55" TV is the most efficient.

So far, everything points to the Enervee Score working effectively to lead people to make more efficient choices. We’ve seen this across different product categories — from more functional white goods such as washing machines, to more exciting goods such as TVs. In other words, products that may prompt the use of different choice models when we’re deciding (from ‘affect-driven’, to ‘attitude-driven’, to ‘attribute-driven’). Regardless of the choice model, the Enervee Score seems to kick-in and make a positive difference. We’ve also looked at different consumer groups — from regular consumers, to low income consumers. We’ve also looked at self-reporting Republican and Democrat consumers to see if there’s an effect. Again, across all of these variables, we see the Enervee Score work drive us toward more efficient purchases.

It doesn’t seem to matter what the product category is, or the consumer type — the Enervee Score moves us. And in a good way.

If it’s not who or what you buy, could it be about when..?

But one variable we’ve not yet explored, is a crucial one in terms of the buying experience and the decision making model used. It isn’t to do with the product, or the type of consumer. It’s to do with the reason we’re buying the product in the first place.

We’ve recognised for a while that we could segment users of Marketplace based on their reason for buying a product that features on Marketplace. If we think about buying a washing machine, for example, we could be in the market to get one because we’re remodelling our home and that includes the laundry room. Or, it could be because our current machine packed up last night, and we need to get a new one to ensure the kids hit school on Monday in something that’s (vaguely) clean and (loosely) ironed.

It’s not a big stretch to imagine that these two buying contexts — planned and distressed — may have a significant influence on what factors are involved in the decision making process, including how much the energy efficiency of the product is factored into that decision process.

Can the Enervee lead people to buy better, regardless of why they’re buying?

We recognise that buying context could make all the difference in terms of factoring in energy efficiency as a valid attribute in the decision making process. And we recognise that energy efficiency can seem like an abstract, distant concept at best, and that when under pressure to make a quick decision — to get the clothes clean NOW, for example - those distant and abstract notions can quickly take a back seat.

With this in mind, we went into the latest experiments confident that we’d see the same effects; than even when people have to buy now, they can still be encouraged to think about the future.

Does a distressed washing machine purchase send energy efficiency into a spin?

In terms of results, the first thing we see is that people make significantly less efficient choices overall when they’re having to buy in a hurry. In other words, a distressed, fast buy results in lower energy efficiency.

The good news is that we see a positive and significant overall effect from both the Enervee Score and Energy Savings, in terms of influencing more efficient choices.

But here’s the first of two particularly interesting findings from this study.

First, we see no interaction effect between our two Enervee variables. In other words, whether we’re buying because we’re planning to remodel or because the machine urgently needs replacing, has no effect on the ability of either the Enervee Score or the Energy Savings to influence more efficient purchases.

This is a great result for us, and supports our earlier notion — that by making energy efficiency both real, immediate and personal, even within more compressed decision frames, there’s still an opportunity to drive significantly more efficient outcomes.

And here’s the second interesting finding from this study. When we look at the relationship between all three variables (Enervee Score, Energy Savings and Buying Context), we see a 3-way interaction effect. This can be a bit heavy going (stay with us) but what this result tells us is that the relationship between the Enervee Score and Energy Savings, in terms of their influence on our choices, changes with the buying context. In other words, how we use these two Enervee features together, depends on why they’re buying.

Why might this effect exist? It likely goes back to our opening argument, in terms of energy efficiency and its frustrating propensity to be abstract, impersonal and distant. Whilst the Enervee Score does a good job of disabling these shortcomings in the main (born out by the numerous positive effects we’ve recorded), maybe this isn’t enough to push efficiency over the line for when we’re under pressure to make a quick choice. In other words, when we’re up against it, in terms of replacing a broken appliance, having the Energy Savings to financially quantify the impact of a high Enervee Score choice for us personally, makes all the difference. It’s the final step to keep efficiency in that crucial attribute list, when the decision’s being made.

Practically speaking…

We’re aware that a 3-way interaction effect doesn’t make for easy and immediate conversations around using Enervee Marketplace. Sometimes research lurches off in what looks like an esoteric direction. But that’s really not the case here — we believe this final result adds to an important conversation regarding Marketplace and its ability to nudge us all toward making more efficient choices. Specifically, it adds this:

When we think about segmenting consumers on energy efficient purchasing behavior, we must keep in mind that why we’re buying is an important influence on this behavior.

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