Carrot Rewards: A Healthy Living and Public Engagement Platform for Canadians
Carrot Rewards is a platform promoting healthy living and public engagement that leverages behavioural economics, mobile tech and the power of loyalty programs to motivate and educate users to make better everyday lifestyle choices for themselves, their families and the planet. Created in collaboration with public sector agencies, leading Canadian health NGOs and the private sector. With over a million downloads, Carrot is driving sustainable positive behaviour change on a population scale.
What problem the innovation solves or what opportunity was taken advantage of?
The cost of healthcare in Canada is increasing at an unsustainable rate. A large portion of this upwards drive in healthcare costs is due to the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions among Canadians. Regular physical activity (PA), defined as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure”, has undisputed health benefits, however most Canadians fail to meet the recommended PA guidelines. Even though it has been proven that moderate intensity PA, such as brisk walking, reduces the risk of many chronic, non-communicable diseases, Canadians still fail to meet these guidelines.
It is widely accepted that preventative healthcare methods must be adopted. Behavioural changes like increasing physical exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and reducing stress can lead to a reduction in the prevalence of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.
What the innovation is:
The Carrot Rewards app was developed as part of an innovative public-private partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Government of British Columbia, the provincial founding partner to reward Canadians with loyalty points for engaging in healthy behaviors such as walking and learning about their health & wellness.
Carrot’s free incentive based platform offers users rewards for engaging in a variety of wellness promotion activities in the app. Examples include rewards for achieving daily step goals and for consuming content (surveys, quizzes, informational videos and more) related to a wide range of wellness topics including physical and mental health.Carrot is used by a number of other partners to engage Canadians in other policy domains such as financial literacy, environmental awareness & civic engagement.
The Carrot Rewards app includes many proven behaviour change techniques such as goal setting, self-monitoring, identifying barriers (i.e. not enough time to exercise), facilitating social comparison (i.e. inviting friends to Step Together Challenges), biofeedback (i.e. feedback using a smartphone) and graded tasks (i.e. set easy to perform tasks and increase difficulty). The following behavioural insights are also implemented in the app: accessing public health resources (i.e. directing users to informative tools such as helplines and videos), shaping knowledge (i.e. by delivering micro-learning quizzes and surveys), goals and planning (i.e. allows users to create action plans, problem solve, identify barriers and set trackable health goals), feedback and monitoring (i.e. can monitor personal walking behaviour and receive immediate feedback), social support and comparison behaviour (i.e. allows users to connect to friends to challenge or collaborate to achieve a common goal) and external rewards (i.e. users engage in external programs utilizing the motivation of loyalty programs). The combination of these behavioural change techniques and insights allows the app to facilitate an environment for users to achieve and sustain behaviour change.
Who benefited from the innovation?
In contrast to traditional promotion platforms, the Carrot platform enables clear and precise evaluation of behavioural impacts from campaign. The rewards offered to Canadians for participating in the Carrot app are in the form of everyday popular loyalty points providers, such as Aeroplan, Scene, RBC Rewards, Petro Canada, More Rewards and Drop Loyalty points. The diversity and popularity of reward options contributes to Carrot’s relevance for any demographic segment that the public sector would like to reach, including the sedentary population.
How is the innovation envisioned for the future?
Carrot plans to expand nationally in Canada in November of 2018, launch in the United Kingdom in 2019 and is planning to expand to other markets including Australia, Mexico and in select regions in the U.S.
Carrot is based in Toronto and employs approximately 30 specialists in behavioural economics, consumer loyalty, technology, marketing and business development. Total headcount is expected to double over the next 12 months. In the next 5 years, the business is projected to grow to 20+ million users in 10 countries.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Similar health and wellness tools have been developed and rolled out in various forms, but typically to closed populations such as employee wellness programs and insurance products. This program is unique in two ways; in that it has a direct reach to a broad range of users through the ubiquity of mobile technology, and secondly, that it rewards users with popular loyalty rewards they already collect such as Aeroplan Miles and SCENE Points. This makes the program appealing to a broad range of users, particularly those who are not typically inclined to participate in wellness programs. Health-risk behaviour change campaigns have been delivered through a variety of mechanism including mass marketing techniques. Various health behaviours have been targeted to address population health problems - there is potential in testing new ways to reach Canadians.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Carrot Rewards is currently launched in three provinces across Canada: British Columbia (BC; March 3rd, 2016), Newfoundland and Labrador (NL; June 14th, 2016) and Ontario (ON; February 17th, 2017). The Steps program has been running since June 14, 2016 and rewards users with points (equivalent to CAD $0.04/day) for reaching individualized step goals, as tracked by a built-in smartphone accelerometer (e.g. Health Kit, Google Fit) or wearable activity monitor (e.g., FitBitTM ).
Carrot is about to cross the million registered users’ milestone in these provinces and are averaging 1,200 new downloads a day.
Peer-reviewed papers that evaluate the effectiveness of our innovation, including one on our first 3 months and one on our steps program, have been published.
Carrot continues to approach new partners with new ways of harnessing the engagement power of our platform to continue to help users make better lifestyle choices for themselves, their families and their planet.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Carrot Rewards partnered with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the governments of each province it is currently launched (British Columbia Ministry of Health, Newfoundland & Labrador’s Ministry of Children, Seniors and Social Development and Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care), the BC Healthy Living Alliance, Diabetes Canada, the YMCA and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. These partnerships have helped shape the development of the platform, content and knowledge disseminated.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Carrot helps citizens make better everyday lifestyle choices for themselves, their families and the planet. The platform incentivizes positive behaviour change on a mass scale. Carrot helps their unique partnership ecosystem, that includes both private & public agencies, to deliver an impactful message and encourage healthier lifestyles to an engaged audience. It does so by harnessing the power of loyalty points and combining it with the ubiquity of mobile phones and behavioural economics.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
In a relatively short amount of time, Carrot Rewards has become one of the most popular wellness app in Canada, with over a million downloads, over half a million monthly active users, and a third of a million daily active users. It is also the world’s first national wellness rewards platform, has been voted Canadian App of The Year, has been acknowledged as a Top 10 North American Engagement Program in the 2018 Bond Brand Loyalty Report and is a recent winner of the 2018 Startup 50 Ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies.
Carrot has tracked over a trillion steps, and had over 20 million micro-learning quizzes and surveys completed by users. The app had an install and uninstall rate of 36% in its second year of activity, which is far less than the health app industry average (89%).
Carrot's results have been published in peer reviewed journals that show that we have seen a 20% increase in physical activity in the lesser-active population of Carrot.
Challenges and Failures
Being a private technology start-up, Carrot Rewards was able to move at a quicker pace than the partnership allowed. Another difficulty in the partnership was that Carrot Rewards did not have any pre-existing framework to follow, since they were the first technology start-up to partner with PHAC. In terms of evaluation, it was challenging to know exactly how much information was required for reporting. These challenges were responded to by the development of a robust reporting process that was beneficial for partner relationships as it was able to be agile and tailored to their needs.
Conditions for Success
For the innovation to be a success it was necessary to have champions or advocates in the workplace of our clients and partners who understand the importance of leveraging technology and behavioural science to help with sustained behaviour change. These innovation champions believed in the potential and had to work hard to see it through the ideation phase all the way through to launch and beyond. Also, having a culture that supports experimentation, innovation, creativity, and collaboration helps set the stage for a company's value and motivation to be at the forefront of a wellness initiative. It's essential to have a team with diverse background expertise (scientist, marketers, partnerships, development) and think outside the box in order to optimize available resources. The innovation should be developed to solve a relevant problem in a unique way and have the potential for scalability across different sectors and policy domains.
Over the course of 3 years, we've been able to replicate the innovation in various provinces (British Columbia, Newfoundland & Labrador, Ontario), each of which have differing health and wellness needs and realities. Similarly, we've been able to replicate across different sectors and agencies where we've started our focus as a health app to expand to broader wellness topics such as consumer health, financial literacy, environment literacy and more. Lastly, we've expanded the initiative from an exclusively government focus to a private sector setting. Most recently, we're exploring the opportunity for international expansions.
The constantly changing environment of today’s technology organizations makes it imperative for partners to have flexible decision-making and adapt their goals from initial plans. Carrot Rewards benefitted from being associated with the Public Health Agency of Canada to increase their credibility, which helped Carrot Rewards to gain trust for subsequent partnerships and future users.
Another key to the success of the partnership, and in turn the innovation, was that PHAC was committed to experimentation and facilitated the partnership with Carrot Rewards; real change was attainable because there was a sense of open-mindedness and leadership who supported the app and was committed to its success.
A multi-sectoral team comprised of individuals from business, academia, health and technology sectors is imperative to make the innovation run smoothly and effectively. Another lesson learned was the importance of ensuring to build time and flexibility and shared understanding into partnership arrangements. Finally, it is important to keep in mind the organization you are working with and understand their limitations (i.e., speed in implementing changes to the agreement) and ensure any expectations on either side are aligned with the nature of companies from that sector (i.e., not expecting all organizations to act like a private company).
One of Carrot’s most novel campaigns was the Flu Campaign which used mobile “push” notifications and geo-location technology to encourage vaccine uptake and awareness for BC users. Of eligible BC users, 38% (30,538/80,228 users) completed the Flu Campaign quiz. Users were eligible to participate in the full campaign with the location-triggered “push” notifications if they resided in a participating city. Of these users (n=21,469), 41% (n=8,766) clicked on the in-app map to locate the nearest sponsored pharmacy and 78% of these users enabled their smartphone’s “location” feature allowing the push notifications to be sent. Over the course of the four-week campaign, 21,509 push notifications were sent to users with an average of 1.3 notifications per participating user.
This is one of many possible examples of the unique power and potential of the Carrot platform for influencing positive behaviour change on a population scale. This innovation deserves to be recognized and celebrated!