Parity Projects commissioned research as part of a behavioural science-led approach to motivating homeowners in their new energy efficiency service. This was the first phase of developing a service for Londoners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes; Parity Projects is also supporting further work by Cosy Homes Oxfordshire and Warmer Sussex.
We are not the first to tread this path, and indeed have ourselves taken part in number of previous Mayor and local authority-backed programmes, but BEIS funding provided the opportunity to revisit what motivates home-owners in the area.
To inform our approach we undertook two initial research projects in the first phase of the project (2018-2019). We asked Icaro to find out consumers’ attitudes to various energy efficiency measures, and the Behaviouralist how best to engage them in moving forward to installation.
We’ve been putting it [new windows] off and off, and doing other stuff to the house we can enjoy. But it’s got to the point now that one more winter and the weather is going to start coming into the house. M, HaringeyIcaro, Retrofit Together consumer focus group, 2018
Icaro asked two focus groups what motivates them to improve their homes, about their interest in certain measures, and their views on key elements of our original proposition – which was to offer consumers a quality-assured retrofit service, backed by local government, and offering bulk discounts where we can negotiate on their behalf. All participants were already considering some relevant home improvements.
- Enjoy the space
- Create more space
- Add their stamp on a home
- Add value prior to sale
- Improve comfort
- Trigger events – family changes and financial
- Trigger problems, like a broken boiler
Interest in Measures
- Level of interest in measures is related to property type and expected time in the home
- High attachment to original features
- Wish to ‘enjoy’ measures
- Preference for the familiar
- Though new heating controls also welcomed
Interest in proposal
- Preprepared packages help consumers understand links between measures
- Group buying welcomed as it builds confidence, with no concern about related delays
- Concern about cost.
- Like the idea of a Retrofit Coordinator
There was some mention of environmental considerations in the focus groups, but very little mention of cost savings as opposed to adding value. Instead the focus groups show the importance of translating energy efficiency measures into enjoyment.
These measures, and others, could further benefit from reframing them as ways of enhancing enjoyment and comfort (as well as being necessary and practical measures). For example, a new boiler can be reframed in terms of e.g. enjoying better water pressure/enjoyable showers; new radiators can be reframed in terms of aesthetic appearance; and insulation can be reframed in terms of enjoying a warm/comfortable home (e.g. with the children/watching a movie on the sofa).Icaro, Retrofit Together consumer focus groups, 2018
This research was followed by the Behaviouralist looking at how behavioural science could inform the tailoring of market materials. A direct mail trial to test the impact of the use of GLA or local authority backing, as opposed to new corporate branding, proved inconclusive but an online trial testing messaging provided more reliable evidence.
The online trial tested four themes ‘Trust’, ‘Environment’, ‘Comfort’, and ‘Price’) against a control condition.
The letter emphasising ‘Trust’ and reliability in the company performed best overall, significantly increasing the stated likelihood that participants would contact the sender, as well as the perceived trustworthiness and value for money of the offering.
However, there were differences in the value placed on the themes, with significant variation across demographic categories, geographic location, and property type. For example, higher income brackets are more influenced by environmental and trust messages, while lower income groups are more engaged by trust and price messaging.
Parity Projects is intending to layer the resultant segmentation over its property data in order to ensure that consumers are provided with relevant and engaging information. Our offer will also incorporate a number of other levers rooted in behavioural science, with evaluation to understand their usefulness:
- Highlighting Trustworthiness
- Our customers will receive advice independent of installers, and the support of an independent Retrofit Coordinator once they have an initial plan in mind.
- Leveraging Social Norms
- Our research participants want to ‘enjoy’ home investments, but don’t see the comfort of a well-insulated home ticking that box. Highlighting that others enjoy their insulated home could help make that more tangible.
- Parity Projects has developed an unparalleled understanding of the London housing stock, and can use this to identify and highlight where home-owners are making their homes more efficient
- Providing commitment devices
- Every customer will receive a whole-house plan which shows them everything needed if the UK is to get to our Net Zero goal. They are able to adapt this to suit their technology preferences and budget. They will not need to commit to any of the measures, but we need to move on from single measures to understanding the relationship between measures both in their installation and their operation.
As this research is part of ongoing trials we will publish the detail on completion of the project. Following a soft launch of the energy efficiency service earlier in the year we will grow it as the Covid-19 pandemic permits – not least because such retrofit services are a way out of the economic and climate crisis.