Projections currently indicate that personal deliveries in London will double by 2030, with huge increases in petrol and diesel vans to facilitate these. Although electric vans are starting to be used much more, the rate of change is slower than with cars, and even where they are used there is still the basic issue of congestion on London’s streets.
Impact on Urban Health and the Centre for London are both interested in reducing the environmental impact of this ‘last mile’, when parcels are transported from a transportation hub to customers’ homes. There is an ideal behaviour change in which people, who are physically able to, purchase an item online and walk to collect it from a collection point, rather than a van delivering each item to individual properties.
We used our online trial platform Predictiv to run a randomised controlled trial in a simulated online shopping environment to test the best way to support customers to choose collection as a method of getting their parcels rather than home delivery.
What we tested
The graphic below shows the example process for customers who received no intervention. They were taken to the order page for the item, asked to select either delivery or collection (labelled as ‘click and collect’), confirm the specific delivery method, then confirm their order.
Alongside this control group, three randomised groups received one of the following interventions:
- A default, in which the click and collect option was pre-selected.
- An environmental framing, in which click and collect was highlighted as being ‘environmentally-friendly’ and delivery was labelled as ‘bad for the environment’;
- A convenience framing: in which the convenience of the click and collect option was highlighted through a message describing the collection point as only a 5-minute walk away.
Would you collect some items, but not others?
Participants were asked to proceed through this online checkout for three different items:
- a T-shirt
- a laptop
- a set of four pillows
These items were selected for their varying price and size. We were curious to know if people would be more willing to collect the t-shirt because it was light and less expensive, compared to an expensive laptop or a cumbersome set of pillows.
The environmental framing was the best performer, nearly doubling the click and collect choices over home delivery (see the figure below). However, each of the interventions significantly outperformed the control group. The relatively low performance of the default was slightly surprising. This may be because participants may be used to unclicking options they don’t like on online shopping websites and this is easy to do with one click online.
The environment framing may have outperformed the convenience framing because an environmental message may simply be more compelling than highlighting convenience and it may cater to people’s identity as wanting to do what’s right for the environment. There were also individual design elements that may have made the environment framing more powerful (the positive and negative messages were highlighted in green and red respectively).
Of those that said they would click and collect, around 3 in 4 said that they would walk to pick up their parcel, across all items. This increased to 8 out of 10 for the t-shirt, and 7 out of 10 for the laptop or pillows. Some participants reported choosing home delivery for the laptop because of fears that it would not be safe to leave at a collection point or to carry home. However, some wanted to collect the laptop because they didn’t feel safe to have it left at their front door.
Many participants chose to have the pillows delivered because they felt they would be too difficult to carry. Participants had neither of these concerns about the T-shirt as it was both inexpensive and easy to carry.
Interestingly, the majority of participants were supportive of these nudges. Around 3 in 4 thought that the environment and convenience framing messages were informative and should be adopted, and some commented that the environment framing made them think about the environmental consequences of their delivery options, which they may not have done otherwise.
What should happen next?
This was a virtual and fictitious shopping experience, so for confidence in the external validity of these results, they should be tested in a real-life environment to see if the effect sizes hold. But based on these results, highlighting the environmental benefits of click and collect could substantially increase that choice over home deliveries by vans. This could have significant positive consequences for air pollution and congestion in London.
Three potential priorities for making the most of this research could be:
- Encourage the use of the best-performer ‘environment framing’ on click and collect delivery options. This could be combined with defaulting shoppers into this selection.
- Understand more about how distance to travel affects people’s choices. The click and collect network in London is fragmented both by geography and by delivery firms.
- Work with retail and delivery companies to understand commercial viability. This research suggests that initial framing intervention is a small nudge with a big effect, but it would be interesting to know if commercial operators see it in a similar way.