Lessons from Groupon on behavioural insights and values modes?

I’ve been thinking about the phenomenally successful Groupon and wondering what lessons it holds for UK local government and public services, as we start to use behavioural effects to improve services. This is particularly salient for me, as I’m currently testing a tool that I’ve designed with West Sussex County Council to give officers the chance to employ behavioural theory in a light-touch way; and the more we can explain aspects of our lives and culture in terms of the behavioural effects being used, the more we’ll be able to use these effects to a worthwhile end.

So, what is it with Groupon? On the face of it, there are several effects being employed at once. Commitment and Consistency Effects are at play: if enough people take up an offer, it goes ahead (this, perhaps, is the real innovation). Scarcity effect, so that we feel that the offer is time-limited and perhaps limited by how many people can take it up. Others, too, but this is a short post.

The other thing that has really struck me, though, is what a ‘values modes’ analysis might tell us about Groupon. A massive proportion of the offers I have seen are those that you’d expect to appeal to prospectors, and not settlers or pioneer: services and experiences whose main benefits are a sense of personal wellbeing and status derived from doing something a bit special. Is this simply because these are the type of services suffering right now, who need to create or defend market share aggressively? Or is there something deeper: a match between the behavioural methods being employed and the services being offered, that appeals to certain typologies?

More questions than answers, I guess, but this’ll be food for though when we’re working out how certain behaviours might be encouraged by use of these behavioural effects.

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