CARROT points are good for your health

A new app is leveraging Canadian’s passion for loyalty programs to motivate new health outcomes, and it’s getting noticed.

There’s nothing like instant gratification for achieving a means to an end. That’s the thinking behind CARROT Insights, a unique rewards-style program that isn’t about booking flights or getting free merchandise – at least not directly.

Carrot is a new gamification platform for mobile phones that rewards people for various levels of engagement related to their health and wellness, whether it’s taking a survey, watching a video, buying a healthier food item, or measuring walking steps. With each action, they can collect rewards from a selected partner of their choosing.

A driver of the first green awards program for Air Miles, the company’s CEO, Andreas Souvaliotis, is no stranger to loyalty points programs. By combining Canadians’ love of loyalty programs with their addictive engagement with cellphones, he devised a way to deliver content that would motivate people to address important health issues.

Sarah Richard, VP marketing and product, Carrot co-architect

“When Andreas left Air Miles, he wanted to do something similar for a broader audience, and take loyalty points to a mobile platform,” said Sarah Richard, Carrot co-architect and VP marketing and product. “Canadians are far ahead of the US in collecting loyalty points. According to Yahoo research, 90 percent of Canadians own a loyalty card, and the average Canadian has four loyalty cards in his/her wallet. Andreas saw that ‘addiction’ as an agent for change and behavioural motivation.”

The rationale is simple and it works, she added. “The biggest challenge with exercise is that the cost you pay today will not reap benefits until much later in the future. Points bring that benefit closer and offset the cost paid in the present. It’s easier for people to ignore what they need to do to be healthy; but we are creating an extra motivator that delivers instant results.”

Since Carrot launch in March 2016 in BC (and in Newfoundland & Labrador three months later), the company has been logging some impressive conversion numbers. Within 90 days of the launch, 1.75 percent of the total population in BC and 3.5 percent of the population in Newfoundland & Labrador downloaded the app.

“Carrot was the most downloaded health app in Canada its first week of launch in BC,” said marketing associate Justin von Etzdorf. “We now have 49.3 percent of active users returning each month compared to 32 percent on Spotify; and averaging over 100 sessions per user per month compared to an average of 12.5 visits for other health and wellness applications.”

The main reason Carrot has been successful is the unique partnerships it has forged, he explained. “A major strength is that we have been able to work with the provincial and federal governments. Traditionally they don’t work together as partners; but from concept to execution, they have been working side by side with us. That’s because we put together a platform that is focused on making Canadians healthier.”

The Federal Public Health Agency, whose multi-sector partnership portfolio is designed to encourage government, non-profit and privates companies to work together to drive health outcomes, was the foundational partner. A contract was awarded to Carrot in January of 2015, and development was completed by October. “We engaged a third party firm – TWG [The Working Group] in Toronto – who assembled a team and developed the first iteration of the platform for us,” Richard explained. “All the product management, design work and team members would have taken us a while to assemble, so we opted for a trusted, well established agency that was able to deliver robust process. We then migrated development in-house in the summer of 2016.”

“The Agency provided the original funding,” Richard said. “Once we had the original federal contract and the health ministries on board, we could approach the non-profits and points providers.” The ecosystem now includes several NGOs (Heart & Stroke, Canadian Diabetes Association, YMCA) and one private sector partner (Sun Life Financial) as well as its points program partners (Cineplex Scene, Aeroplan, Petro-Points and More Rewards).

Another important selling feature for Carrot is that the data collected is being analyzed to produce evidence-based results. Carrot has an in-house insights team that is now  in the process of quantifying the efficacy of a program for educating potential new partners on how well it is working. The data is also being used to generate unbiased research papers in partnership with third party academic institutions. “A research component was included as part of the original contract, including an ROI evaluation,” Richard explained.

Now that Carrot is starting to see results from the data that is now coming – it is able to work with other provinces, she added. There is no shortage of offers; a number of potential partners have approached them to participate, including other government departments. “They want to be involved in health and wellness. We’re looking to see what else we can do.”

The underlying principle for any new addition to the program is that it must drive positive behaviour changes, whether these are related to a person’s health, financial literacy or other aspect of life. Those overall benefits are what keep their partners in synch, von Etzdorf said. “The act of getting more people walking for example has huge long-term benefits in terms of preventative care. That translates into huge cost savings for governments down the road.”

Health and wellness are only the beginning as their ecosystem grows, he added. Next on the drawing board is financial literacy. “There’s no limit. We can get into different issues like climate awareness. The sky’s the limit in terms of topics.”

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