Applied behavioural economics

Genesis Analytics has the first specialist team of behavioural economists in Southern Africa.

Behavioural economics studies how contextual factors affect human decisions. As specialists in human behaviour and decision-making, we help businesses grow and become more profitable by effecting large-scale customer behaviour change using behavioural economics.

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Expertise Areas

Insights

Our clients seek, first and foremost, to understand human decision-making. They are interested in the choices their customers, staff and patients actually make, and how they will actually behave, rather than how run-of-the-mill focus groups and surveys predict they will behave.

Behavioural economics poses awkward, long overdue questions for research methods predicated on traditional conceptions of human behaviour. Awareness need not be driven to increase usage, nor knowledge improved to increase treatment compliance. These facts expose the flaws in traditional insights processes.

We focus on being action-oriented and specialise in two key proprietary behavioural research methods:

1.      Decision mapping: Detailed mapping of how people make decisions, throughout a lifecycle of interactions.

2.      Choice preference research: A testing method for evaluating what people actually choose, as opposed to claimed preference (such as with conjoint).

Given our mix of backgrounds and projects, we have also advised on behavioural insight requirements for people tracking technology, behavioural data analysis, experimental economics, behavioural segmentation, and ethnography.

Some of our clients also benefit from keeping on top of emerging issues in behavioural economics.  We thus curate and write original content for organisations, hinging on media and frequency preferences.

Choice and behavioural design

Behavioural economics represents a new tool with which to approach old business and public health challenges. Its particular appeal is that it targets small changes that have disproportionate results on the environments we work in.

In the business environment, our work has delivered a 146% increase in self-service usage, 38% increase in on-time payments, a 44% increase in insurance sales, and a 155% increase in retention, to name just a few.

In the public health space, our work with the National Department of Health and its implementing partners used behavioural economics to increase medical male circumcision uptake (MMC) by South African men. Conducted in both call centre and social mobiliser channels, the intervention endeavoured to increase MMCs by 92 400 a year; with its ultimate impact being the potential aversion of 9 240 new HIV infections a year.

Anywhere organisations interact with their customers or patients offers an opportunity to nudge them towards a specific set of behaviours. For this reason, we are channel-agnostic and have worked in call centres, branches, with apps, websites, in marketing (ATL, BTL, direct, etc.), through intermediaries, and more.

All of our work is rigorously tested in a pilot of some sort. Some call it A/B testing, others call it running an RCT; we call it prototyping. Borrowing from engineering, prototyping is testing a near-finished product or service to understand impact, bugs and issues. What this means for clients and stakeholders is that if, during prototyping, a new design delivers a 23% increase in sales, or reduces a social ill by 35%, it will.

This means that we know with confidence that across channels, sectors, and clients, the ROI that we deliver will be anything between 4x and 19x.

Choice architecture build

In many of the channels in which we operate we are able to take the design all the way to completion. In others, specialist technical skills are required for taking the design over the line. App builds are a case in point; we aren’t developers.

Our first recommendation is to work with the preferred vendors of our clients. If that isn’t possible, we have a range of suppliers we keep on books for this purpose.

Behavioural economics shines a light on oft-neglected areas that don’t necessarily have technical providers in the market. We therefore have in-house expertise outside of our core proposition in the following areas:

1.    Call scripts: Whether paper-based or digital, we have a solution that can be implemented within your environment.

2.   Conversation tools: Conversation tools are “decision structures” that, in most cases, look and feel like brochures. Our insight is that brochures are often used in face-to-face interactions to structure the discussion. By changing the brochure we can change the conversation in a way that nudges people towards the intended behavioural outcomes. In the past this has included sales discussions, retention calls, or cross-sell in intermediated environments.

3.   Forms: We love forms, largely because they are typically so underthought and neglected. We have proven that they represent powerful mechanisms for influencing behaviour. One of our recent engagements showed that simple changes to application forms could increase cross-sell by more than 40%. In almost every commercial decision (appointment bookings, sales, cross-sell, up-sell, retention, etc.) there is a form that can be used to influence behaviour.

Roll-out support

The true commercial and social value from changing human behaviour only comes at scale. As a result we spend a lot of time making sure that the prototyping will scale well, and that the change-management process is handled effectively.

We often leverage internal change-management and training teams, or where those don’t exist, we handle the process ourselves.

In the first case, our testing team takes clients on the prototyping journey so that when the results are finalised they can execute on roll out, without our help. Alternatively, clients sometimes ask us to support, which then involves trainers, change managers, and project management support.

Either way, behavioural change is effected across the organisations and stakeholder environments for maximum commercial and social impact.

Capacity building

We offer training in behavioural economics and often full capability building to core clients.

For clients at the start of the journey, they have typically read or heard about behavioural economics, and being curious, want to develop a foundational knowledge of how to apply it in their context. They might want to attend a public training session that involves multiple firms across multiple sectors, or they might wish to have a more targeted training approach that narrows in on their sector, firm, and behavioural challenges.

To clients who are further along the journey, they want to find a way to internalise behavioural economics within their business. They are keen to develop an internal capability, and with our help, are able to achieve this within a fairly short time.

We thus offer:

1.      One-day training workshops: Running on a continuing basis, our training workshops are open to clients across sector and firm. The training covers basic theoretical foundation, public examples, and some proprietary case studies.

2.      Bespoke training:  If you prefer the anonymity of a closed session, or want a deeper process to embed content specific to your environment, we tailor our training interventions to your needs.

3.      Capability building:  Designed specifically to build institutional capacity to deliver on a behavioural economics agenda. This takes the form of equipping existing staff or building an internal team from scratch. Depending on your needs, we can deliver an end-to-end service from strategy setting, to job specs and recruitment, to and onboarding and coaching.

Projects

Improving retention and retirement decision-making

Project name:
Increasing the preservation of benefit outgo _ Extension of work with forms

Service:
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Financial Services Strategy

Area of Expertise:
Behavioural change
Prototyping

Client:
Global insurance provider

Date:
2015 - ongoing

Country:
South Africa


A large global insurer commissioned the Applied Behavioural Economics team to redesign its client-facing documents, resulting in better customer decision-making and large increases in retention rates.

 Through the course of the engagement, the Genesis team adapted and tested various policy cancellation and disinvestment documents to incorporate key behavioural nudges.

In a rigorous pilot it was shown that the new client-facing documents increased client retention by 24%, resulting in material benefit to the customers (better financial wellness) as well as our client (increased average policy/investment terms).

Building internal behavioural team at large European bank

Project name:
Assessing the ability of BE to move the dial in the branch network of an Eastern European bank _ Building value through behavioural economics Phase II

Service:
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Financial Services Strategy

Area of Expertise:
Capacity building

Client:
Large European retail bank

Date:
2015 - 2017

Country:
Croatia


Genesis was commissioned to build a fully functional internal behavioural economics capability at a large European retail bank. 

The first phase was an assessment. In the second phase, over the course of six months, the Genesis team upskilled internal staff members, facilitated executive training, and piloted the approach in the marketing & communications, branch, and contact-centre teams. 

Overall, the work delivered on the ambition of building an internal team. Further, the pilots demonstrated multiple successes, building internal buy-in, including a 76% increase in financial product sales through the contact centre, a 42% increase in primary account sales in branches, and more than doubling online product sales.

Nudging customers to use more cards and less cash

Project name:
Nudging Customers to Swipe their Mastercards More Frequently

Service:
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Financial Services Strategy

Area of Expertise:
Behavioural analysis

Client:
International payments processing corporation

Date:
2016

Country:
South Africa


The Applied Behavioural Economics team assisted an international merchant bank in building a rigorous, research-supported, behavioural change framework for increasing bank card use as a payment instrument among South African consumers. 

The project team surveyed a representative sample of consumers using a metaphor elicitation technique (a surveying method that’s grounded in the principles of cognitive neuroscience). 

This method was instrumental in uncovering the psychosocial barriers to bank card use that the targeted segments are confronted with in instances where POS devices are an available option. 

This work was done to support the client’s financial inclusion-related objectives.

Nudging customers into branches to increase sales

Project name:
Nudging branch customers

Service:
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Financial Services Strategy

Area of Expertise:
Behavioural change

Client:
South African financial services provider

Date:
2015 - 2016

Country:
South Africa


A large South African retail financial services provider retained Genesis Analytics to assist with meeting its branch foot traffic and sales objectives by using behavioural insights.

The team set about designing and producing behaviourally enhanced store-front and in-branch marketing material with a view to establishing and maintaining a simple and consistent ‘conversation’ between the branch and the customer. The conversation escalated in detail, from an initial introduction to the products on offer at the branch, to a deeper conversation about the details of each product.

The intervention resulted in a 16% increase in foot-fall and a 9% increase in sales in less than two months.

Nudging South Africans to save for their retirement

Project name:
Improving rates of customer retention at a South African insurer _ Voluntary withdrawals

Service:
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Financial Services Strategy

Area of Expertise:
Behavioural change
Prototyping

Client:
South African financial services provider

Date:
2015 - 2016

Country:
South Africa


Genesis Analytics worked with a global insurance provider’s outbound call centre to encourage more South Africans to save adequately for retirement by avoiding early withdrawals.

By imbedding behavioural economics concepts into these conversations, the client saw a 140% increase in the value of retirement benefits conserved over the course of a six-week pilot period.

The team was then retained to roll out these learnings across the contact centre, resulting in a 155% increase in the value of retirement benefits conserved. 

Funds retained increased from R250-million annually to R600-million, realising considerable value for the client and delivering a 19-times return on investment.

Helping customers avoid too much debt, profitably

Project name:
Optimising the debt management solution using behavioural economics

Service:
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Financial Services Strategy

Area of Expertise:
Behavioural change

Client:
South African financial services provider

Date:
2017

Country:
South Africa


A long-term client approached the Applied Behavioural Economics team at Genesis-Analytics to help promote uptake of its debt-management proposition, resulting in a 14-fold improvement in sales.

Through a rigorous data process the client determined that much of its customer base was in considerable debt, but failed to understand its situation and take appropriate action.

Using key insights from behavioural science, such as the intention-action gap, the team segmented the base and worked across multiple communication channels to land a behaviourally informed message to targeted customers. This involved leveraging behavioural insights in SMSes, emails, and conversations in a contact centre.

As measured against a control group, customers who were interested in the proposition (leads) increased by 361%, while the sales conversion rate increased by 216%. Together these results, and others, resulted in 14 times more sales.

New way to manage difficult conversations with clients

Project name:
Advice conversation blueprint

Service:
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Financial Services Strategy

Area of Expertise:
Behavioural analysis

Client:
South African financial services provider

Date:
2017

Country:
South Africa


The Applied Behavioural Economics team was asked to assist a client in managing difficult conversations. As a result of a new business rule, financial advisers/intermediaries were being forced into challenging discussions with their customers. 

The team used behavioural and experimental economics to test how best these conversations could be handled.

Through a rigorous testing process, the team determined how advisers and intermediaries could be trained to handle these challenging situations. Further, behavioural principles were used to successfully influence the way customers perceived these discussions.

Following the positive results of the test, an executive decision was taken by the client to go ahead with the implementation of the proposed strategy.

Leveraging behavioural insights to step-change sales

Project name:
Behavioural economics capability in analytics

Service:
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Financial Services Strategy

Area of Expertise:
Behavioural change
Prototyping

Client:
Large South African bank

Date:
2016

Country:
South Africa


Genesis Analytics showcased the value in using behavioural economics with insights from data science to increase short-term insurance sales. The outcome was an increase in sales of between 89% and 100%.

Contact-centre scripting and messaging were redesigned to tailor conversations to each customer based on internal customer-level data. These communications aimed to decrease information overload by leveraging behavioural techniques such as herding, priming, framing and exclusivity.

Following a successful pilot, the Genesis Analytics team was retained to leverage behavioural insights across all contact centre teams.

Improving the onboarding of customers

Project name:
Optimising the onboarding of customers to increase digital channel usage, reduce missed payments, and achieving up- and cross-sell objectives

Service:
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Communications and Media

Area of Expertise:
Behavioural change
Prototyping
Digital

Client:
Large home entertainment provider

Date:
2014

Country:
South Africa


During any onboarding phase of the customer journey, certain norms and expectations are established. Genesis was retained by a multimedia conglomerate to assist in changing customer behaviour using the principles of behavioural economics. 

The project team piloted a new approach to onboarding, which led to a 47% reduction in missed payments and a 25% increase in upselling of certain products, as well as a more than doubling of self-service use.

Protecting sex workers in Mpumalanga

Project name:
Protecting sex workers in Mpumalanga

Service:
Behavioural Science
Applied behavioural economics

Sector:
Health

Area of Expertise:
Behavioural Science

Client:
The US Centers for Disease Control

Date:
2011 – 2016

Country:
South Africa


For this project we conducted extensive research in the Gert Sibande District in Mpumalanga, which showed that many young women engaged in commercial sex work and transactional sex. This is as a result of very high unemployment levels among women in the area. It is also probably the reason why HIV infection levels in this area are among the highest in the country.

The team designed a peer-education programme and clinical services to reach sex workers in the district. We focused on taverns, since these seemed to be where sex workers found their clients. The sex workers also went on a course to explain to them how to reduce their risk of contracting HIV.

The programme is considered a best-practice example of working with key and vulnerable populations. A magazine produced for the sex workers as part of the programme has proven so popular that it is now distributed by the Department of Health throughout the country.

We showed that using innovation, combined with a respectful and engaged approach to the target audience, could result in a ground-breaking programme in this very difficult area.

Meet the Team

Areas of Service Expertise

  • Insights
  • Choice and behavioural design
  • Choice architecture build
  • Roll-out support
  • Capacity building

Related Sectors

Introduction to our work

Projects

Project

Improving retention and retirement decision-making

A large global insurer commissioned the Applied Behavioural Economics team to redesign its client-facing documents, resulting in better customer decision-making and large increases in retention rates.

View Project
Project

Building internal behavioural team at large European bank

Genesis was commissioned to build a fully functional internal behavioural economics capability in a large European bank.

View Project

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Leading the team

Neil Lightfoot

Partner (Applied Behavioural Economics)

Neil Lightfoot
Partner (Applied Behavioural Economics)
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​Sarah Magni

Principal

​Sarah Magni
Principal
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