Written by Linda Hauns.

What do the behaviours of recycling, organic food shopping, good password management, and public transport usage have in common? They are all vastly influenced by the frequently overlooked factor of convenience. Individuals’ value judgements and their considerations of convenience impact their behaviour from waking up in the morning to going to sleep at night.

Social marketers recognise that behaviour change interventions go far beyond providing information and advice and must also consider the complex influences of personal attitudes, the desire to change, and finally action, i.e. change in behaviour. Out of the many principles driving behaviour, “making it simple” or “making it easy” can have remarkable effects on decision-making.
Particularly, health-related social marketing interventions frequently utilise convenience as a driver for behaviour change. From encouraging healthier food consumption in school cafeterias, to accommodating the organic food shopper – convenience is a key component in behaviour change strategies related to healthy behaviour or food choices. Interestingly, perceived convenience can also stem from routinisation, rather than saving time or energy.

Behaviour change specialists are well aware that human behaviour is often inconsistent with their attitudes and beliefs, with a particularly large gap regarding environmental issues. For example, consumers with a high degree of convenience orientation are much more likely to waste food in their households. Similarly, convenience has been found to be one of the most crucial factors in stimulating household waste separation.

Consistently being bombarded by stimuli and choices, the individual has less time than ever to spend on decision making and preferably chooses the option that reduces cognitive load – which becomes plainly obvious when it comes to password management for instance. The security-convenience trade-off is the perfect example of a situation where convenience trumps other considerations. Although users are aware of the risk and negative consequences of bad password-management, they trade security for convenience when selecting a password, as secure passwords are associated with the loss of that convenience.

With more governments and cities around the world trying to facilitate and encourage their citizens to adopt a sustainable lifestyle – will the sustainable option, e.g. taking public transport, be chosen based on environmental values, or will it come down to convenience? Panellists discussing the Singapore Smart Nation journey at the East-West Centre’s International Media Conference argued for the latter.

Consumer behaviour-based social marketing campaigns often focus on reducing barriers that are associated with a higher degree of difficulty and effort required by the individual. From recycling to riding a bike instead of taking the car – the sustainable or healthy option is usually more difficult than the status quo. Here we can learn from behavioural economics, that ‘nudging’ refers to the approach of making the desired behaviour easier, rather than removing the alternative option. This could be as simple as having dedicated carpool lanes or asking customers “paper of plastic straw?” rather than requiring them to go out of their way to choose the sustainable option.

Any successful behaviour change intervention must begin by mapping the behaviour of the target audience, including motivation and values as part of that process. People’s desire for convenience may be the one barrier frequently overlooked in an overcomplicated behaviour change model. Sometimes we must go back to basics and consider the seemingly obvious.

How may your target audience’s behaviour be influenced by convenience orientation?

References

Aschemann-Witzel, J Giménez, A & Ares, G 2018, ‘Convenience or price orientation? Consumers characteristics influencing food waste behaviour in the context of an emerging country and the impact on future sustainability of the global food sector’, Global Environmental Change, vol. 49, pp. 85-94, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.02.002

Australian Public Service Commission 2018, Changing behaviour: A public policy perspective, https://www.apsc.gov.au/changing-behaviour-public-policy-perspective.

Bernstad, A 2014, ‘Household food waste separation behavior and the importance of convenience’, Waste Management, vol. 34, no. 7, pp. 1317-1323, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2014.03.013

Eufic 2014, Behaviour Change Models and Strategies, https://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/motivating-behaviour-change.

Hjelmar, U 2011, ‘Consumers’ purchase of organic food products. A matter of convenience and reflexive practices’, Appetite, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 336-344, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2010.12.019

McKenzie-Mohr, D & Wesley Schultz, P 2012, Choosing Effective Behaviour Change Tools, http://media.cbsm.com/uploads/1/BECC.pdf.

Tam, L Glassman, M & Vandenwauver, M 2009,’The psychology of password management: a tradeoff between security and convenience’, Behaviour & Information Technology, vol. 29, no 3, pp. 233-244, https://doi.org/10.1080/01449290903121386

Tham, I 2018, Use convenience to spark behavioural change for sustainability, https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/use-convenience-spark-behavioural-change-sustainability.