How 80% of the Swiss population will download the COVID-App

To date, just under 2.5 million Swiss have downloaded the Swiss Covid app. That is half a million less than the federal government had planned and 4.5 million less than would be possible. How is it possible that in such an extreme emergency situation so few people care about health in society? We at Enigma are convinced that with the right method and communication, 80% of the population in Switzerland would install the Swiss Covid App.

If less than 20% of the population participate in smartphone based tracing, only 4% of the encounters can be detected. But why is it that an app, which can be installed in a minute and anonymously registered, is not downloaded on every smartphone in Switzerland? Why does the virus spread so much better and faster than the associated Covid app? The problem clearly lies in communication and service design.

People are not “picked up” enough. Sometimes there is a feeling in the population that they have to give personal and sensitive data to the state. There is a diffuse fear of state snooping and persecution, so that because of the app, the police suddenly come by when people are partying. The fact that these fears are unfounded is not yet widely accepted. Mistrust and ignorance are still widespread in many social classes, especially among the younger generation, which is actually digitally-affine. But how are people supposed to know better before they have downloaded the app? It is precisely in this area that those responsible have not yet done enough. And it may also be that those responsible have done the wrong thing.

In a multi-million dollar campaign, you should look at the methods of communication rather than the volume. In communication, the call for app downloads is communicated instead of their effective benefit. The benefit is not “the tracing will work better”. No, the benefit promise should be: “The app can make us faster than the virus. This brings us to the next problem. The way tracing is done is not thought through to the end. The physical collection of contact data in locales, different digital ways to provide contact information and finally uncoordinated data collections from everywhere must be laboriously processed by the contact tracers. The fact that these processes are slow does not require a deeper understanding of digitization.

No wonder that a Swiss population, and especially young people, who are expected to play an active role in society, is asking themselves about the benefits. Yes, after the benefit and not after the functionality. Functionality is a matter of course – one might think. So we identify 3 problem areas:

  1. The service design of contact tracing
  2. The app functionality and its integration into the concept of contact tracing
  3. The lack of communication about the benefits, instead only the appeal to download

As a performance-driven agency, we are challenged daily to get the right message across to the right target group at the right time. For the app download, as it has been communicated so far, unfortunately none of this happens. Based on the previous requests in the main issue of the Tagesschau, one could assume that every person would have to be bombarded with the communication. Problematic is the media break. From the spoken word in a TV show to the download click, it is a path with obstacles. Many people are with the mobile device or tablet before the TV. Studies show that simultaneous communication in the classic format, accompanied by a digital campaign, achieves significantly better results: Thanks to clever targeting – which means sending different messages to different target groups – attention can also be drawn and a concrete desired action can be achieved.

At Enigma, we use the Morpheus model for such purposes, where we use A/B testing to determine target groups, identify their expectations and attitudes, and then show them targeted messages on selected channels. The segmentation into target groups is not based on models of classical market research, but on behavioral, socio-demographic and artificial intelligence driven information that shows the highest probability of download for a given target group. And it is possible to place targeted ads on Google for people looking for symptoms of Covid or for search queries such as “How is Coronavirus transmissible” and “Coronavirus risk factors” up to “do masks protect against Coronavirus?

In this way, individualized, understandable, behavior-based messages can be delivered to the right people. And if the added value of the app reaches the different target groups with the appropriate media mix, downloads will increase massively. However, this does not solve the problem with the service design for the tracing process. With the fact of a longer lasting pandemic we would do well to get this process under control. It is a pity that Switzerland has not yet seized the opportunity of an exemplary digitalized covid tracing.

It is as usual! An app alone does not solve the problem. What is needed is a self-explanatory guide for the users and a well-considered methodology on how digitization can really be lived and bring benefits.