At the beginning of the project, after a market research and the evaluation of thousands of search requests on Ecosia, we decided
- to develop a browser extension for product recommendations and
- to start with the product category „smartphones„.
In the long run, it is an advantage that a browser extension triggers alternative recommendations not only for users searching on search engines like Ecosia but it can also be used for online shopping on platforms like Amazon, Otto and others. As a result, sustainability information is displayed much closer in time to the purchase decision.
We thought smartphones were particularly interesting because their production and disposal of waste are especially resource-intensive and they are also replaced more often on average than other electronic devices such as PCs. Therefore, we can potentially achieve large resource savings through more sustainable consumption decisions by users. At the same time, we expect an increased search volume of testers, which will help us to improve the functionality of the assistant. To reach a high number of testers, we launched the beta version in February 2021 as „Ecosia Assistant”. We expect the name to boost user confidence and awareness of the search engine.
How does the extension work?
First of all, users need to follow our invitation link to download and install the beta version of the browser extension from the Chrome Store. After the installation, they will be guided through a short introduction explainiang how and when the assistant will work.
Henceforward, a pop-up window will be displayed whenever the test person searches for smartphones in general, for a specific model of mobile phones, or, for example, contracts with mobile phones. The correct intent recognition is based on the elaborate data set of Ecosia as well as other data packages, which were labelled as „smartphone” or „non-smartphone” semi-automated. After successful identification of the search request as a „smartphone purchase intention”, the assistant informs the user about different alternatives to purchasing a new phone and explains the environmental impact of the individual options briefly.
Now, testers can choose one of the following more sustainable options and will be directed to an online shop or repair café that we have tested, or they can get more information by being linked to our FAQ blog. Both the decision for specific shop recommendations and the need for information about individual options are based on the initial user feedback that we gathered in qualitative interviews using a click-dummy at the beginning of the development.
The new assistant will be tested with 1,000 users. In addition to recruiting a larger test group, we are already working on integrating more sustainability information from related product categories into the assistant, such as tablets and laptops.