Tap, tap, tapping into our more generous selves

Published: 30 July 2019

Can contactless technology be used to drive behaviour change?

If we think everyone else behaves a certain way, we tend to follow suit. If we see lots of people giving to charity, going to the gym, or even cycling to work, we tend to act in the same way.

In a recent survey in the US, 51% of marketers said that new tech leading to changes in behaviour will be the biggest trend in marketing over the next 12 to 18 months. While new tech is certainly something to look out for, using existing technology in new and innovative ways can also encourage behaviour change.

The adoption of contactless card payments by charities is one example of a new use of existing technology to drive behaviour change. Several UK charities have equipped homeless people with contactless card readers to make it easier for passers-by to give money. York Minster has even begun using the first contactless collection plate.

Both instances have seen a surge in charitable donations since introducing the technology. The reason for this increase can be explained using the behaviour change EAST principles. EAST is a set of four principles for effectively applying behavioural insights: to make them easy, attractive, social and timely. A quick breakdown of these principles can help shed some light on how contactless card readers are so effective in driving behaviour change.

Make it easy

The effort required to perform a given action is often the first stumbling block. Reducing the ‘hassle factor’ in an action we want someone to perform therefore makes it far more likely they’ll go through with it. In the case of contactless, rather than fishing for change, we hardly need to break stride while tapping a contactless charity collection point.

Make it attractive

We’re much more likely to engage with something that draws our attention. The Helping Heart contactless jacket, where donations are given by tapping a card reader built into the jacket, has helped boost the number of donations to homeless individuals wearing them. This novel way of donating has succeeded in catching the eye of the public and even national media.

Make it social

If we think everyone else behaves a certain way, we tend to follow suit. If we see lots of people giving to charity, going to the gym, or even cycling to work, we tend to act in the same way. Contactless plays on this tendency toward group behaviour. Think of it this way, you’re more likely to notice someone deliberately walking up to a card reader and removing their card from their wallet or purse, than you are to spot them dropping a couple of coins out of their pocket.

Make it timely

Research shows that we are more likely to change our behaviour during ‘windows of opportunity’, where our surrounding environment or circumstances divert from their usual course (starting a new job, for example). With a contactless collection plate, York Minster are tapping into the communal and charitable feelings many people experience in a religious space, while at the same time making it easier for them to donate.

Linking emerging technology with the strategic application of behavioural principles can certainly provide a potent force for good, for marketers in all types of different industries. Using contactless is just one of many ways to use technology to change behaviour. If you’re interested in some of the others, read our blog: Three of the best: Top tech to boost your comms campaign

Sam Price

Junior Consultant

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