Researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU Munich) in Germany and the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands have investigated how the sales of rooftop PV systems may be boosted by message framing, a communication theory that presents certain information or a product by using a “framed” message in order to elicit persuasion of the message receivers.
Message framing consists of a series of techniques that helps the receivers interpret what they see or what they are being told and is commonly used to send a message to a specific audience while advocating health perceptions and behaviors.
“Our study primarily examined how retailers can boost solar panel demand,” the research's lead author, Dominik Bär, told pv magazine. “However, fostering solar panel installation involves considering the broader market context. A combination of public policies, financial incentives, and effective communication strategies, like those explored in our study, are critical in encouraging private households to invest in green technologies.”
The research group presented the approach in the paper “Message framing to promote solar panels,” published in nature communications, where it explained that message framing refers to a kind of communication that typically provides a scalable and cost-efficient approach to induce certain behavioral responses.
The scientists also explained that previous literature tended to create an opposition between economic gains and environmental concerns in convincing consumers to buy a photovoltaic system and opted, instead, for a strategy using both arguments. “We propose messages designed to promote a serious commitment of retail consumers to adopt solar panels by targeting themselves or the environment,” they stated.
Loss vs. earnings
The group explained, for example, that messages focusing on self-interests should take into account the opposition between cost savings and additional earnings, and said that the concept of savings is associated with the idea of avoiding a “loss,” which may trigger stronger behavioral reactions compared to the idea of “earning” something.
“We thus test whether the following two messages promote solar panels: (1) Self-Save: “Save on average € 813 per year” and (2) Self-Earn: “Earn on average € 813 per year,” the academics explained.
CO2 emissions vs. green power
The researchers also investigated the opposition between a message seeking to convince consumers to buy a PV system to reduce CO2 emissions, which they said is intended to avoid environmental harm, and another one inviting them to produce clean electricity, which emphasizes a positive environmental achievement.
“Previous research showed that preventing a negative environmental outcome may be a stronger incentive to adopt environmentally friendly behavior but again outside of large-scale investments,” they also explained.
The team tested these arguments with the support of an undisclosed “leading” online retailer from the Netherlands during a study period of 14 days. The company's website showed visiting customers one of four messages in a call-to-action box.
Through their analysis, the researchers found that all proposed messages effectively promote solar panels with a 3.8% higher rate of customers committing to solar panels compared to the two weeks before the experiment.
They also found that the Self-Save frame achieved the highest rate, followed by the Self-Earn frame at 4.17%. The Environment CO2 nd Environment Green frames achieved 4.12% and 3.98%, respectively.
“Our study primarily examined how retailers can boost solar panel demand,” Bär said. “However, fostering solar panel installation involves considering the broader market context. A combination of public policies, financial incentives, and effective communication strategies, like those explored in our study, are critical in encouraging private households to invest in green technologies.”
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