Nudges are becoming increasingly popular in everyday life, from the way products are placed on store shelves to the design of workout spaces and equipment.
In this blog post, we will explore examples of nudges in retail, technology, health and wellness, and finance to see how they are used to influence our behavior.
We will also discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks of nudges, and encourage readers to consider how they are used in their own lives.
Definition of nudges
A nudge is a subtle change in the environment that encourages individuals to make certain choices without limiting their freedom to choose.
These nudges can be in the form of physical cues, social norms, or defaults that guide people’s behavior in a certain direction.
Nudges are based on the idea that small changes in the context of a decision can lead to big changes in behavior.
They are often used to promote healthy and sustainable choices, but can also be used to influence consumer behavior in marketing or politics.
Power of nudging
Nudges can be more effective in influencing human behavior than straight communication for a number of reasons:
Nudges are subtle and non-intrusive: Nudges are often designed to be unobtrusive and to work with the natural inclinations of people. This means that they can influence behavior without people even realizing it, making it less likely that they will resist the change.
Nudges take advantage of cognitive biases: Nudges are often designed to take advantage of the cognitive biases that people naturally have. For example, people are more likely to take an action if it is the default option, or if they see that others are doing it. Nudges can leverage these biases to make it more likely that people will make a certain choice.
Nudges make it easier for people to act: Nudges often make it easier for people to take a certain action. For example, by simplifying a process, providing a reminder, or making a healthy option more accessible. These small changes can make it more likely that people will take action, even if they had previously been unwilling to do so.
Nudges are adaptable: Nudges can be adapted to suit different situations and different people, so they can be tailored to the specific needs of a particular population.
Nudges are less confrontational: Nudges are less confrontational than traditional forms of communication such as lectures, billboards or advertisements, and therefore, they are less likely to cause resistance or pushback.
Examples of Nudges in Everyday Life
Examples of nudges in retail
1. Placement of items in a store
The placement of items in a store is a common nudge used to influence consumer behavior. Retailers use this tactic to make certain products more visible and attractive to customers, with the goal of increasing sales.
For example, products that are placed at eye level or at the end of aisles are more likely to be noticed by customers. This is because these locations are known as “prime real estate” in a store, as they are in the customer’s line of sight. Retailers often use this tactic to promote new or high-profit items.
Another example is the use of placement to influence the order in which customers shop. Retailers often place items that they want to sell together near each other, such as placing bread and butter together or placing breakfast cereal near milk. This makes it more likely that customers will purchase these items together.
Retailers also use placement to influence the amount of time customers spend in the store. Products that are placed at the back of the store require customers to walk through the entire store to reach them, which increases the amount of time they spend in the store, and thus, increases the chance of them making additional purchases.
2. Use of scarcity and social proof in marketing
The use of scarcity and social proof in marketing are two types of nudges that are used to influence consumer behavior.
Scarcity is a nudge that is used to create a sense of urgency around a product or service by making it seem like it is in limited supply. This can be done by using language such as “limited time only” or “while supplies last” to create a sense of urgency and make customers feel like they need to act fast in order to take advantage of the offer.
For example, a clothing store might use a sign that says “limited time offer: 20% off all winter coats” to create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to purchase winter coats before the sale ends.
Social proof is a nudge that is used to make customers believe that others are buying a particular product or service. This can be done by using testimonials, reviews, and ratings, or by showing how many people have purchased a product. Social proof can increase customers’ trust in a product and make them more likely to buy.
For example, a restaurant might display a sign that says “over 500 satisfied customers” or “4.5-star rating on Yelp” to create social proof and make customers more likely to dine at the restaurant.
Another example of social proof is when an e-commerce site shows the number of people who are currently viewing an item or how many have purchased it, this can make customers believe that the product is in demand, hence increasing the chances of them buying it.
3. Use of loyalty programs and rewards
Loyalty programs and rewards are nudges that are used to encourage customers to continue doing business with a particular company. These programs use rewards, such as discounts, points, or special perks, to incentivize customers to make repeat purchases.
For example, a coffee shop might offer a loyalty card that rewards customers with a free coffee after they have purchased a certain number of coffees. This nudge encourages customers to continue coming back to the coffee shop to make purchases, in order to earn their reward.
Another example is a retail store that offers a rewards program that rewards customers with points for every purchase they make. These points can be redeemed for discounts on future purchases, this nudge encourages customers to continue shopping at the store to earn points and save money on future purchases.
Many credit card companies also offer reward programs, where customers can earn points for every purchase they make using the card, these points can be redeemed for discounts on future purchases, travel, or cash back. This nudge encourages customers to use the card for their purchases, rather than using cash or another card.
Loyalty programs and rewards can also be used in the form of tiered loyalty programs, where customers can achieve different levels by reaching different purchase milestones. These levels can offer exclusive perks and discounts, this nudge encourages customers to continue purchasing to reach the next level and access to the exclusive perks.
Nudges in technology
1. Default settings on devices and apps
Default settings on devices and apps are a type of nudge that is used to influence user behavior in technology. These settings are the pre-selected options that are automatically applied when a device or app is first used or when a new feature is introduced. They are designed to make it more likely that people will take a certain action or make a certain choice.
For example, the default setting on a mobile phone is often to have the phone lock automatically after a certain period of time. This nudge encourages users to lock their phone, providing security to the device.
Another example is when an app prompts users to enable push notifications, by default the option is usually turned on. This nudge can be used to encourage users to keep the push notifications on, which can increase engagement and keep users informed of new content or features.
Default settings can also be used to encourage users to share their data or location with an app. For example, when users install a new app, the default settings may ask for permission to access the user’s location and personal information. By defaulting to the “Allow” option, the user is more likely to share their data with the app.
2. Push notifications and reminders
Push notifications and reminders are a type of nudge that is used in technology to encourage users to take a certain action or complete a certain task. These notifications are messages that are sent to a user’s device, and are designed to remind them of something that they need to do or to inform them of something new.
For example, a calendar app might send a push notification to remind a user of an upcoming appointment. This nudge encourages the user to check their calendar and ensure that they are prepared for the appointment.
Another example is a news app that sends push notifications to inform users of breaking news. This nudge encourages users to open the app and read the latest news.
Push notifications can also be used to encourage users to engage with an app more frequently. For example, a social media app might send a push notification when a user has received a new message or a new friend request. This nudge encourages users to open the app and respond to the message or accept the friend request, which increases engagement and keeps users active on the app.
Reminders can also be set on devices, for example, on a smartphone, a reminder can be set to remind the user to charge their device when the battery level is low. This nudge can be used to encourage users to keep their device charged and ready to use.
3. Gamification of tasks and activities
Gamification of tasks and activities is a type of nudge that is used to make certain tasks or activities more engaging and enjoyable. This is done by incorporating elements of game design, such as points, levels, rewards, and competition, into non-game contexts.
For example, a fitness app might use gamification to encourage users to exercise more by allowing them to earn points for completing certain activities, such as going for a run or taking a yoga class. These points can then be used to unlock new levels or rewards, such as virtual medals or badges.
Another example is a productivity app that gamifies the task of completing a to-do list. The app assigns points to each task, and users can compete with friends or family to see who can complete the most tasks in a given period of time.
Gamification can also be used to encourage environmental behavior, for example, an app could gamify recycling by giving users points for each item they recycle, and users can compete with friends or family to see who can earn the most points.
Nudges in health and wellness
1. Use of reminders and goal-setting tools
The use of reminders and goal-setting tools is a type of nudge that is used to encourage healthy and wellness behaviors. These tools are designed to help people stay on track and achieve their goals by providing reminders and support.
For example, a fitness app might use reminders to encourage users to exercise by sending notifications or alerts at specific times of the day. This nudge reminds users to take a break from their work and do some physical activity.
Another example is a habit-forming app that uses reminders and goal-setting tools to encourage users to form healthy habits. The app might send reminders to users throughout the day to remind them to drink water, take a walk, or eat a healthy snack.
Reminders can also be used to encourage users to take their medication on time. For example, a medication reminder app might send notifications to users at specific times of the day to remind them to take their medication.
Goal-setting tools can also be used to help users set and achieve their health and wellness goals. For example, a weight loss app might allow users to set a weight loss goal and track their progress over time. The app might also provide users with a personalized meal plan and exercise routine to help them achieve their goal.
2. Design of workout spaces and equipment
The design of workout spaces and equipment is a type of nudge that is used to encourage healthy and wellness behaviors by making exercise more inviting and accessible. This can be done by designing workout spaces and equipment to be attractive, comfortable, and easy to use.
For example, a gym might use natural light, plants, and soothing colors to create a comfortable and inviting workout space. This nudge can encourage users to spend more time at the gym and to enjoy their workout experience.
Another example is a park that has outdoor workout equipment like pull-up bars, parallel bars, and balance beams. This design nudge encourages people who pass by the park to use the equipment and engage in physical activity, rather than just passing by.
The design of workout equipment can also be a nudge, for example, gym equipment with digital interfaces that display workout data can make the workout experience more engaging and interactive. This nudge can encourage users to spend more time on the equipment and to use it more frequently.
Another example is designing workout equipment that is easy to use for people of all ages and abilities. This can include equipment that is adjustable for different body types and that is easy to use for people with mobility issues. This nudge can encourage a wider range of people to use the equipment and engage in physical activity.
3. Use of social support and accountability
The use of social support and accountability is a type of nudge that is used to encourage healthy and wellness behaviors by providing people with a sense of community and accountability. This can be done by connecting people with others who share similar goals and by providing opportunities for people to share their progress and receive feedback.
For example, a weight loss app might use social support by allowing users to connect with others who are working towards the same goal, such as losing weight. Users can share their progress, ask for advice, and offer encouragement to others. This nudge can increase motivation and help users to stick to their goals.
Another example is a workout class that allows users to track their progress and share it with others. This nudge can increase accountability, making users more likely to attend class and to work harder during class.
Many online communities also use social support and accountability to encourage healthy and wellness behaviors. These communities can be focused on specific goals, such as weight loss, fitness, or healthy eating, and they allow users to share their progress, ask for advice, and offer encouragement to others.
Nudges in finance
1. Automatic savings and investment plans
Automatic savings and investment plans are a type of nudge that is used in finance to encourage people to save and invest more money. These plans work by automatically transferring money from a person’s account into a savings or investment account, without the need for the person to actively make the transfer themselves.
For example, a bank might offer an automatic savings plan that automatically transfers a certain amount of money from a person’s checking account into a savings account each month. This nudge encourages people to save more money without having to actively think about it.
Another example is a retirement savings plan, such as 401(k) or 403(b) which is an employer-sponsored savings plan, that automatically deducts a certain percentage of an employee’s salary and invests it into the retirement account, unless the employee opts out of the plan. This nudge encourages people to save for their retirement, even if they may not have thought about it or feel they can’t afford it.
Some investment apps and robo-advisers also use automatic savings and investment plans, by allowing users to set a regular contribution schedule and automatic rebalancing of their portfolio. This nudge can make it easier for users to save and invest, without having to actively think about it.
2. Design of banking apps and websites
The design of banking apps and websites is a type of nudge that is used to influence how people interact with their finances by making certain actions or information more prominent or easily accessible. This can be done by using design elements such as layout, color, and language to guide users towards certain actions or information.
For example, a banking app might use design elements such as large buttons and bold text to make it easy for users to find and use the app’s mobile deposit feature. This nudge can encourage users to make more deposits using the app.
Another example is a bank website that prominently displays information about the bank’s savings account options and interest rates on the homepage. This nudge encourages users to consider opening a savings account or switching to a different one with a better interest rate.
Some banking apps and websites also use design elements to encourage users to manage their finances more regularly. For example, a budgeting app might use a colorful and easy-to-read interface to make it easy for users to track their spending and stay within their budget.
3. Use of behavioral economics in financial education
The use of behavioral economics in financial education is a type of nudge that is used to help people make better financial decisions by understanding how their behavior and emotions can affect their decision making. This can be done by using insights from behavioral economics to design financial education programs that take into account the cognitive biases and emotional factors that can influence financial decisions.
For example, a financial education program might use behavioral economics to teach people about the importance of saving for retirement by highlighting the impact that emotions such as present bias and loss aversion can have on retirement savings decisions.
Another example is a financial education program that teaches people about the importance of budgeting and managing their money by highlighting the impact that cognitive biases such as overconfidence and the sunk cost fallacy can have on spending decisions.
Some financial education programs also use behavioral economics to teach people about the importance of diversifying their investments by highlighting the impact that emotions such as fear and greed can have on investment decisions.
In addition, some financial education programs use behavioral economics to teach people about the importance of financial literacy and financial planning by highlighting the impact that cognitive biases such as optimism bias and the planning fallacy can have on financial decisions.
Nudges are a powerful tool that can be used to influence behavior in various areas of life, such as health, wellness, finance, and technology. While nudges can be effective in encouraging people to make positive changes in their lives, they can also have drawbacks. Therefore, it’s important for readers to be aware of how nudges are used in their own lives, and to make informed decisions about how they interact with them.