Two differences between offline and online retailing environment are particularly relevant for this study:
- First, in online settings, consumers typically face large assortments and can easily switch between stores against limited time costs. Even more so than in offline environments, consumers are motivated to avoid information overload and simplify choice.
- Second, in contrast to offline retailing environments, information space is very limited online. Online retailers have to cope with limited screen space and provide information in a smart and efficient manner.
Based on these key differences between online and offline retailing, this research specifically investigated (1) how the current (full) energy label could be simplified/reduced to be more suitable in settings with limited information space without sacrificing effectiveness, and (2) when the energy efficiency information should be first provided in the selection process.
Based on the findings, the policy recommendations of this study are:
- Use labels in the online environment – the study has shown that if an energy label is displayed, especially in the early stage of choice-making, it is more likely that consumers choose energy efficient products.
- Research further the ways to optimise the energy efficiency label by exploring designs specific for the online environment.
- Given the rising importance of the online channel not just for buying, but also for finding information and making choices before offline purchases, design labels, including energy labels, in such a way that it also maximizes the effectiveness of the label in the online environment.
- Increase attention to energy efficiency and target groups with low environmental concern.
- Conduct further research into consumer understanding of online labels.
- Promote availability of listing/sorting products by energy efficiency.
Data: the study was conducted among over 11,000 consumers in 10 EU countries. The study included an experiment and a questionnaire. In the experiment, respondents took part in a simulated shopping trip across web stores selling refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, and light bulbs. Energy information was varied between-subjects. The post-experiment questionnaire assessed relevant background information (e.g. socio-demographics) and factors that could potentially explain differences between consumers in responses to energy efficiency information (e.g. sustainability attitudes). The data set collected through the experiment is available below