A Journey of Passion and Impact in Education

A Journey of Passion and Impact in Education

Since its introduction as a master thesis topic for at Rotterdam School of Management in 2016, NudgeLAB has turned into an educational platform. With 75 completed theses, NudgeLAB continues to inspire students to have positive impact on themselves, society, and the environment.

Areas of inspiration

Within NudgeLAB, students are encouraged to design their own thesis topics, provided they meet three criteria. Firstly, the topic must revolve around behavior change, an underlying principle of NudgeLAB’s mission. Secondly, students must conduct experiments to test the effectiveness of their nudging strategies in altering consumer behavior. Lastly, the platform emphasizes selecting a topic that genuinely ignites the students’ passion and commitment. NudgeLAB has witnessed a notable focus on health and sustainability. Students pursue topics that seek to foster positive change for themselves, others, and the planet.

Figure 1 Categories of thesis topics 2016-2023, in number of theses and % of total

The thesis topics span across various categories. Food and nutrition (30 theses) and fashion (18 theses) stand as the most prominent themes. Within the ‘consumer electronics’ category (6 theses), projects center on hearing care. They are conducted in partnership with WS Audiology, the author’s employer from 2018 to 2023. The “Donation and Charitable Giving” category is multifaceted. It reflects students’ endeavors to support charitable causes like Ronald McDonald House and the Dutch Food Bank. It also covers initiatives to assist artists through platforms like Patreon.

Healthy Nutrition

A closer look at the topics within the Food & Nutrition and Fashion categories reveals a fervent emphasis on healthy nutrition and sustainable fashion choices. Students in this category explored ways to discourage meat and dairy consumption. They also promote the consumption of organic and seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Figure 2 Thesis topics in Food & Nutrition, in # and % of theses

Sustainable Fashion

Fashion topics displayed a broader spectrum of creativity and innovation. The students delved into effective label strategies directing consumers towards sustainable options, e.g., eco-friendly brands and fabrics, fair labor conditions, and a commitment to eliminating child labor. They explore concepts like integrating new and preowned fashion items in mixed store concepts. Finally, they promote alternative collection and delivery options to mitigate the ecological impact of fast fashion.

Figure 3 Thesis topics in Fashion, in # and % of theses

Inspiring Positive Behavior on the Fly

NudgePoints, the critical touchpoints in a consumer’s decision journey, are fundamental to NudgeLAB’s approach. These moments, such as weekly grocery shopping or browsing for a new outfit downtown, provide ideal opportunities to engage with consumers and encourage positive behavior change.

Nudge points in Food & Nutrition

In the food and nutrition domain, NudgeLAB predominantly focused on supermarkets, with a particular interest in exploring online replicas of these stores. While the virtual representations offered valuable insights into food choices, they fall short in capturing factors like traffic and floor plan effects. Restaurants, bars, and online food ordering platforms present intriguing prospects for understanding how nudges can influence healthier and more sustainable choices in out-of-home settings. The menu flow and structures of these platforms proved invaluable in inspiring healthier and planet-friendly alternatives.

Figure 4 NudgePoints in Food & Nutrition, in # and %

Nudge Points of sustainable fashion

In the realm of Fashion, students honed their focus on Online Fashion retailers like Zalando, epitomizing the fast fashion culture. The primary objectives were persuading retailers to offer an extensive array of visibly sustainable alternatives and encouraging consumers to adopt more responsible fashion habits, encompassing purchase quantities, sizes, and delivery preferences.

Figure 5 NudgePoints in Fashion, in # and % of theses

Fieldwork Approach

NudgeLAB projects employ three distinct fieldwork approaches, each designed to gather data on consumer decision-making and the impact of nudges at NudgePoints: experimental webstores, field experiments, and surveys.

Figure 6 Fieldwork approaches, in # and % of theses

Surveys served to replicate behavior at the point of sale, either statically or dynamically. Static surveys measured behavior change at a single point of sale, while dynamic surveys spanned across multiple touchpoints, gauging the impact of the flow on purchase behavior. Qualtrics survey software was the platform of choice, facilitating the efficient conduct of these surveys.

Experimental webstores engaged students in creating their webstores, replicating point-of-sale scenarios to measure behavior change in response to nudging strategies. NudgeLAB’s own server infrastructure, powered by commercially popular platforms like WordPress and WooCommerce, facilitated these experiments. Although most students had no prior experience building webstores, they were typically able to set up their online platforms within two weeks. Recent trends showcased students venturing beyond single platforms, exploring traffic across various online platforms to gain broader insights into the consumer journey.

Field experiments involved students implementing alterations to the interior design or layout of actual brick and mortar stores or food establishments to observe their impact on consumer decision-making. This approach demanded significant commitment from both the location management and the students. Managing field experiments proved challenging, with data control and retrieval presenting additional complexities. For instance, one student investigated the effect of nudges on waste separation, requiring strict adherence to health and safety measures due to the hazards associated with waste disposal. Other students explored altering traffic flow at counters or shelves, but this posed potential challenges concerning labor conditions and commercial performance. The Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns limited the number of field experiments conducted.

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