Online citizen participation provides clarity on the efficacy of policy changes

Online citizen participation provides clarity on the efficacy of policy changes

Populytics studied how different measures change people’s online buying behavior. Dutch people are increasingly ordering goods via the Internet. This has positive effects but also negative ones. The government wants to reduce the negative effects and stimulate conscious buying behavior. Therefore they not only want to know which measures work but also which people will accept.

A discrete choice experiment as an online participation tool. How does it work?

For this study, we used discrete choice experiments (DCEs). In a DCE, participants make choices between two options that differ on a number of characteristics. This gives us detailed insights into how different characteristics influence participants’ choices. For this study, for example, we looked at price, return mode, available information about the product, and CO2 emissions from transportation. A total of 2,519 people participated.

When is a DCE useful to do?

DCEs are useful to use when you want to know more about why certain options appeal to people and others not. This is because participants always make a choice between two policy options. As a result, you can see in the results of a DCE what the importance is of the different characteristics in the policy options. Wondering if a DCE fits your problem? Please contact us via

What results do you get with a DCE?

With this DCE, we got the following results, among others:

  • An obligation to pay a portion of the return costs causes people to order online more consciously.
  • Allowing people to return up to 5 products for free per year will have little effect on how many products people return.
  • People do not have strong likes or dislikes about certain policies.
  • The effectiveness of a measure determines how much the measure is  accepted.
  • From this follows the recommendation to get as much clarity as possible on the extent to which a measure or combinations of measures result in positive social effects.
  • Our research showed that the payment of return costs in particular was an effective measure.
  • Because the obligation to pay return costs can lead to the loss of customers, we recommended that the Ministry consider introducing an obligation to pay return costs at the collective level.

Want to know more about DCEs and online participation tools? Read about the DCE we did for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management here. Or contact us at

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