What to consider when implementing Digital Nudging

Evaluate the status quo

1. Flexible corporate design
Identify design guidelines, digital assets, or toolboxes for brand design which must be adhered to when designing communications platforms or activities. If the platforms can be modified, they provide an opportunity to integrate nudging principles directly into existing toolboxes, assets, or design guidelines.

2. Design affinity
Often standardized platforms would not allow digital nudges to be tailored to the goals or characteristics of certain individuals or groups. Focus on platforms or services which are (partially) designed by you, by internal IT providers, or which are commissioned from external agencies.

3. Consultant role
Different competencies and roles of corporate communications within in a company influence whether learning about digital nudging is currently relevant for them. Even if digital nudging can’t be applied directly by communication professionals themselves, they might consult other stakeholders on digital communication initiatives.


Setting the scope

4. Cultural differences
Individuals from different regions or cultures might differ in their cognitive characteristics, perceptions of design, and interpretations. Communications professionals could start by focusing on local rather than international digital environments.

"And of course, you have to take into account that the nudging that I’m developing for the Western world probably doesn’t work the same way in China. The best example is that in China, red is the color of luck while green has no such connotation. … In Arab regions the direction of writing is from right to left, which really impacts the effect of the interface."

5. Convergence
Communication professionals should consider the platforms and devices on which users encounter nudges. Nudges need to have a design which ensures a coherent user experience across different interfaces. Therefore, it is important to check whether and how effective nudges are for different interfaces and devices.





"One challenge is definitely the know-how. I know my communication skills but I’m not a psychologist and I lack knowledge about the psychology of my stakeholders and how nudges would affect them.

I would need an expert who is not only familiar with the psychological effects, but also understands the business strategy and could advise us. This would allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of nudging and potentially build competencies inhouse." 

Wolfgang Brunner, Senior Manager Digital Comms Strategy, Clariant


Nudging in practice

6. Ethical issues
While digital nudges are often used for pro-social goals or goals which are generally considered desirable, selecting these goals can be problematic. Communication professionals should aim to provide individuals with opportunities to explicitly state their own preferences and goals and allow them to give feedback on implemented nudges.

"I’d discuss with my head of communication whether it’s ethically and morally justifiable for us to influence our customers in one way or another. But I think this is an extremely important topic. It’s about brand, i.e., trust, and I think you can also damage your brand if you don’t behave responsibly." 

7. Top down or bottom up
Several interviewees suggested adopting a bottom-up approach by starting with local information sessions and experimenting with nudges on small scale projects. The top-down approach might be particularly interesting for corporations in which communications are decentralized. If every department has its own communications group, it might be more challenging to establish a new method for designing communications initiatives and clarify related questions.


More about Digital Nudging: 


Download detailed report

Key findings of the study

  • Potential: The study suggests that communication professionals see digital nudging as an interesting and promising method to increase the effectiveness of communication activities. Learning about digital nudging could be useful even if the method can’t be applied by communication professionals directly.
  • Application possibilities: Most interviewees hadn’t yet implemented digital nudging themselves. But the interviewees identified the following applications as particularly promising:
    • Supporting digital transformation
    • Encouraging learning and development as well as knowledge sharing
    • Increasing compliance behavior, especially regarding cybersecurity
    • Improving employees’ health and well-being

  • Challenges:  The applicability of digital nudging depends on whether the organization uses digital platforms that allow for customization, if there is leeway regarding corporate design, and whether ethical concerns can be sufficiently addressed.



The methodology of the research project involved two main parts:

1.) Literature Review of publications primarily from the fields of behavioral economics, information systems, and human computer interaction were reviewed. The review focused on the theoretical foundations of digital nudging, models for developing digital nudging, and empirical evaluations of digital nudging applications.

2.) Semi-structured interviews with 13 professionals in corporate communications and adjacent areas (e.g., marketing, human resources) from 11 different companies were conducted via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Here are some companies, which participated in the interviews, e.g.: 

Research background

How can we make digital communication more effective?
This was a question in mind identifying digital nudging as a key trends of the Communications Trend Radar 2021, a research project conducted by the Academic Society for Management & Communication. The study describes five key trends from society, management and technology that will influence corporate communications in the near future.


Research team

The research was conducted by: 

  • Stefan Stieglitz is Professor and head of the research group for Digital Communication and Transformation at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
  • Sünje Clausen, M.Sc., is a research associate at the chair for Digital Communication and Transformation at the University of Duisburg-Essen.