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French citizens nudged by BVA and the French Tax Administration

The French Tax Administration is taking up on the Nudge mania. BVA, a leading Market Research Institute in France, has initiated the French Secretariat-General for Government Modernization, SGMAP, into a Nudge strategy aiming at encouraging taxpayers to use online institutional services.

The first Nudge approach led by the French Government

The SGMAP, a department of the French Government responsible for the modernization policy, which motto is to start seeing things from the user’s point of view, asked the BVA Nudge Unit to help him identify Nudges encouraging French taxpayers to adopt digital habits (online tax payment, informative questions …).

A ‘Nudge’ is a low-cost and accessible change, inspired by behavioral insights, that accelerates adoption of expected behavior. The tax returns notice has been redesigned making online tax return process easier and presenting the benefits of digital declaration first to break natural barriers (habits, technology fear, salience, etc.). The main Nudge was to switch the payment default choice from paper to digital.

This innovative Nudge methodology applied to 2014 campaign generated a 10% increase in online tax return and doubled adoption growth rate versus same 2013 period. Knowing that the level of online tax returns is very low in France (33%) compared to the average observed among OECD, this is considered as a big success by the French government. This behavior change generated 400 tons of paper saved, doubling last year's figure (Ministère des finances et des comptes publics, 2014). Using the soft power of Nudge for the first time, the SGMAP and the BVA Nudge Unit have succeeded encouraging citizens to pay tax returns online.

An innovative approach awarded

This initiative received the recognition by peers for the innovative research approach and the results obtained. Indeed, the SGMAP and BVA just received an award from a Marketing Community in France (Trophée Or Marketing). In September, the SGMAP and BVA will present a case study entitled "French Government: Nudge Me Tender - How to turn ethnographic insight into more efficient policy making" to the international market research profession at the ESOMAR Congress. They were also part of the European Nudge Network Conference in Copenhagen last June.

Creation of the BVA Nudge Unit

BVA started to take an interest in Behavioural Economics and Nudge from 2006 in order to complement its methodological approaches and to develop new ones. The company is convinced that market research insights can inspire operational and efficient Nudges using an analytical framework. Based on partnerships with leading researchers on Behavioral Economics such as Dan Ariely (Duke University,, Paul Dolan (London Business School), Hilke Plassman (Insead and Ecole Normale Supérieure), and following numerous experiments, BVA has developed a unique and distinctive expertise.

This led in 2013 to the creation of the BVA Nudge Unit, a cross-functional department combining two areas of expertise: Behavioural Economics and sector expertise. BVA is the first Research Agency to launch a Nudge Unit. This unit aims at helping clients to design, test, and implement innovative strategies intended to fast-track behavioural changes desired among citizens, users or consumers. Applicable to all sectors (public policy, health, sustainable development, banking, consumer goods, etc.), these strategies are used in conjunction with the tools normally available to institutional players or brands, and consequently promote patient observance, reduce fraud, encourage sustainable practices, create preferences, etc.

Designing this original process required two previous years of method refinement and optimization, in order to incorporate all academic knowledge into simple and usable propriety tools and capitalize on agency behavioral and ethnographic expertise.

At a time when media-based marketing ROI is strongly challenged, looking at Nudges as a way to make every touchpoint behaviorally effective is an interesting, alternative route to explore for brands.

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