Rewarding Energy Efficiency: Getting Canadians into the Game
NRCan's Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) Social Innovation UnLab (SIU) is working with program colleagues and Carrot Insights to deliver an energy efficiency rewards pilot via the Carrot Rewards mobile app. Our hypothesis: Engaging Canadians on their smartphones and gamifying learning and action will improve awareness and adoption of energy-efficient behaviours. The pilot is delivering results and entering its third phase this year (2018).
An Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) program evaluation in 2015 recommended that OEE do a better job communicating and demonstrating the value of its energy efficiency tools and services, like ENERGY STAR and EnerGuide. Back then, the OEE relied a lot on the marketing efforts of stakeholders, partners, and its own efforts through NRCan's website and social media accounts to reach Canadians on energy efficiency. An opportunity emerged to reach Canadians in more personal and interactive ways.
Along with establishing ENERGY STAR Canada social media channels (Twitter and Facebook) and web content, the OEE wanted to test an approach that was targeted and two-way to have a better understanding of who we were engaging and their perspectives and experiences with energy. In 2016, the OEE established the Social Innovation UnLab (SIU) and one of its first missions was to launch a competitive Request for Proposals for service providers who could host a rewards pilot. Carrot Insights won the contract and our collaboration began.
Why Carrot Rewards?
As noted on its website, "Carrot Rewards is an AI-driven public engagement platform that leverages behavioural economics and nudge theory to motivate Canadians to make better everyday lifestyle choices. Carrot Rewards harnesses the power of the most popular consumer loyalty programs in Canada to maximize its appeal and user engagement. Carrot users earn their choice of Aeroplan® Miles, SCENE®Points, Petro-Points™, More Rewards® Points, Drop points or RBC Rewards each time they interact with the app. The Carrot platform was created in collaboration with public sector agencies, the three leading Canadian health NGOs and the private sector."
With Carrot, the OEE saw a partner that could:
1. Customize the app in collaboration with partners to reflect personal experiences with energy use and efficiency;
2. Create app content and deliver user interactions about energy use and efficiency;
3. Offer an engaging user experience with a variety of functional options to employ;
4. Collect and analyze data and report on the findings; and
5. Roll out the app across Canada and expand in collaboration with provinces, territories and other stakeholders.
The objectives of the pilot include: build and improve knowledge and understanding around energy-efficient practices; identify users’ current perceptions and practices relating to energy efficiency; and provide opportunities for Canadians to demonstrate and apply learning by practising energy efficient behaviours, like fuel efficient driving or home energy efficiency upgrades (aka retrofits).
Partnering with Carrot Insights has significantly improved the OEE's reach, particularly with Canadians in household living and driving contexts. The OEE has also expanded the reach of its social media channels and web content as a result of Carrot users demonstrating their desire to learn more about energy efficiency and its services and tools, like ENERGY STAR and EnerGuide.
OEE's use of Carrot is demonstrating our collaborative model in practice. Within the OEE, the SIU collaborates with program divisions, who have service expertise, content, web and social media channels, and outcomes that they are aiming to improve. We've also engaged other stakeholders beyond the OEE, like NRCan's Communications team and energy efficiency stakeholders (e.g. utilities and retailers) to explore ways of testing rewards to reduce energy demand directly and increase high efficiency product purchases.
New content is introduced each pilot phase that is informed by the previous phases' results. As the Carrot user base grows and partnerships emerge, the opportunity to scale more broadly and deeply exists. Carrot Rewards users have responded favourably to the energy efficiency content and rewards opportunities.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
While we were very much inspired by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), who deserves full credit in co-creating Carrot Rewards, the OEE's use of Carrot Rewards is innovative in several ways: we adapted its use given our unique context and content; it's the first time the OEE has tested an AI-driven public engagement platform that integrates behavioural insights via a mobile app to amplify its impact; it demonstrates OEE going to where Canadians are, which is increasingly on their smartphones, as opposed to expecting them to come to us directly (e.g. to our website); and the pilot's impacts include significantly increasing OEE's reach, direct engagement with citizens, and improved service results. There's been an uptake in energy efficiency stakeholders showing interest in and working with Carrot to advance energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption (e.g. utilities), which is also opening up partnership possibilities.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The pilot is into its third year. Each phase has included engaging users to demonstrate and measure 1. AWARENESS of a particular energy efficiency topics and related services, 2. INTEREST in learning or doing more, and demonstrated 3. ACTION. We've also worked in collaboration with NRCan Communications colleagues to raise awareness of NRCan’s Generation Energy Dialogue and encourage users to share their views and ideas about Canada’s energy future. This year, along with engaging Carrot users with content on energy use in home and on the road, we're running two randomized experiments as part of the Government of Canada's Experimentation Works initiative. One experiment will test how different energy label designs might influence user understanding and another will test different message frames (like cost savings, home maintenance, and comfort) to encourage home retrofit actions, like contacting a home energy advisor.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The OEE learned about Carrot Rewards from PHAC officials and engaged other interested departments, like the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada. The OEE SIU collaborated with program divisions, who have expertise, content, service outcomes and users. For example, the SIU worked with partners on a user research project on energy use in the home to better understand home energy experiences and inform content ideas, priorities, and creation.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Carrot users pick the points that they want to earn as they engage with the content and demonstrate learning and action. They also get to pick the content that they want to learn about. Internal and external stakeholders view Carrot Rewards as a channel to directly engage Canadians and test ways to create value with their content and tools to improve energy efficiency and service outcomes.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Highlights from our pilot include achieving ~32K in app Energy Star® Homes Video views; ~27K in app Net Zero Energy Homes Video views. These results are significant when compared to the baseline of only 100s of views on NRCan's YouTube channel.
In one pilot phase, three rewarded link outs resulted in +760% new Twitter Followers, +2,156% new Facebook Likes, and +2,408% new Facebook Followers. There was also a 27% increase in awareness of Energy Star® (70% to 97%) among users who completed both baseline and follow up offers (n = 22,974). Over 300K of the 380K NRCan's Generation Energy Dialogue participants were reached through Carrot. In one case, we linked out to NRCan's portal and over 150 new ideas were shared within the first 48 hours of delivering an offer. This compares to an average of 5 new ideas created each day prior to the release of the offer. Other out of app conversions included 18K home energy advisor searches by users and 8.6K users taking an on-line ecoDriving course.
Challenges and Failures
The aim of our pilot is to engage Canadians along an awareness-interest-action continuum for energy efficiency impacts. We require partners to directly influence the behaviour change required to reduce energy use in the home or on the road. This presents challenges. It requires 'joining up' policy and service delivery internally and externally. First, it was necessary to build relationships and a shared understanding of the Carrot Rewards potential to get buy-in from program colleagues to participate in the pilot. Working at the federal level often means that other jurisdictions, partners, and service organizations implement services using federal tools, like ENERGY STAR and EnerGuide. Second, working with our program colleagues and their stakeholders, we've opened up lines of communication to explore either partnerships or to welcome those who are in a better position to engage Canadians directly on energy use and reward them for learning and action to reduce it.
Conditions for Success
OEE senior management and program officials were open and allocated resources to testing new ideas and approaches to engaging Canadians on energy efficiency. Carrot Rewards is grounded in behavioural insights. It harnesses the popularity of smartphone technology and loyalty points to reward Canadians for doing positive things that improve individual and collective health and wellness. It has a lot of functionality built into it, including quizzes, goal setting, info-sharing and two-way engagement, geo-mapping and location targeting that can be used to personalize content that Carrot users can choose from. It had established relationships with points providers–creating your own points system is cool...if people actually value it. In this case, Carrot offers points that people are already collecting. Carrot was also willing to to expand its initial focus on health to encompass a broader notion of health and wellness as it relates to people, communities and the planet.
Carrot Rewards is being used across Canada by various federal departments, jurisdictions, and private and non-profit organizations across a number of public health and wellness domains. Energy efficiency stakeholders are also exploring and working with Carrot Insights on pilot projects in their contexts, including as a result of OEE's pilot.
1. There are ways to engage citizens beyond one-way public opinion research or marketing methods. We've piloted the use of a new digital platform and set up the offers so we can track and report demonstrated knowledge retention, learning, and action. We’re learning what resonates with users and their attitudes towards energy use and efficiency. We can engage Canadians in a much more targeted way and know if we're reaching them.
2. Go to where Canadians are. In government, we can sometimes expect Canadians and other stakeholders to come to our website and click through lots of pages and content to find what they're looking for. In the digital age, we have to do better. Using Carrot Rewards has demonstrated a way (there are others) to go to where Canadians are as opposed to assuming they'll come to us.
3. Give users choice of what they want to engage in and how. In our last pilot phase, we started out with a general introductory offer and then followed it by giving users a choice of topics and content to engage with based on their preferences and context: energy efficiency in the home or on the road. It offered a more customized experience. If a Carrot user doesn't own or drive a car, the energy use in the home content would likely be the preferred choice.
4. You may not need an app. If you do, there may be others are better positioned to (help) create it. It may already exist. Recognizing that Canadians are increasingly on the smartphones, we can sometimes jump to the "let's build an app!" idea quite quickly when brainstorming. From a digital innovation perspective, the OEE has a few things going for it, like users, data, and content. To create value we can work with others with digital skills and business models to reach Canadians in engaging ways and deliver services that realize energy efficiency outcomes.
Broadening our energy efficiency perspective is a good thing. The relationship between NRCan's OEE and Carrot Insights has helped broaden the notion of health and wellness to include Canadian's relationship to energy, comfort, and the environment. At the same time, the OEE is pushing its own boundaries beyond the lens of just energy efficiency and seeing Canadians as 'energy consumers' by seeing them in a more human-centred manner.