To improve efficiency and reduce costs, government agencies provide more and more services online. Yet, sometimes people do not access these new services. For example, prior to our field experiment intervention, Ontario spent $35 million annually on infrastructure needed for in-person license plate sticker renewals. In Canada’s most populous province, only 10% of renewals occurred online. Our intervention tested variations in messaging mailed with sticker renewal forms that encouraged consumers to renew online. We changed text and color on the envelope to try to make the benefits of the online service more salient. In addition, changes to text and color on the renewal form itself emphasized either consumer gains from online renewals or losses associated with in-person renewals. Each intervention increased use of the online service when compared to the unaltered messaging. The combination of salience and gain framing achieved the highest number of online renewals: a 41.7% relative increase.
Default options significantly influence individuals’ tendencies to comply with public policy goals such as organ donation. My co-author Scott Hawkins and I extend that notion and explore the role defaults can play in encouraging (im)moral conduct. Our findings support a more nuanced perspective on the implication of the different types of costs associated with default options and offer practical insights for policy, such as taxation, to nudge honesty.