This quote from a utility client usually induces a chuckle. But it well sums up the state of the utility sector. A perfect storm of circumstances has forced utilities to start thinking like marketers—not just engineers. In 2014, that means they need to find ways to influence those not-so-faceless “meters” to buy things like e-billing, conservation programs, rate plans, service contracts and energy management services.
In fairness, this has always gone on to some degree, but the marketing practice in the utility sector hasn’t traditionally been a sophisticated one. From my position as Practice Leader of the energy sector at Environics Analytics, I have the benefit of interacting with several utilities who now see the writing on the wall.
The coming avalanche of smart-meter data, competition, rising rates, conservation requirements and consumer demand for tools to help manage costs—all mean that utilities must think about how to gain consumer insight to influence the right people in the right way so their marketing efforts can be efficient as possible. What I’ve observed is that there are substantial gains to be made from target marketing in the utilities sector.
Here are some reasons why:
- Little target marketing has been done. When you go from nothing to something, the gains can be impressive.
- The “sell” is inherently values-related. Marketing energy and its associated services tug at many of the values-oriented strings we offer in our social values data used for marketing: price sensitivity, environmentalism, risk aversion, community-mindedness and competitiveness with peers.
- Good data. Utilities have extensive customer data, including usage information. Overlaid with property attributes, demographics, segmentation data, social values, customer satisfaction and weather—to name a few—this powerful mix of data can really drive effective, targeted marketing and be very measurable at the back end
You can see a few examples about how different values and characteristics affect their purchase of energy-efficient appliances. Just check out my series of tweets that identify the behaviour of one neighbourhood in several markets across the country. Here are a couple of the infographics to give you an idea.
And there’s more to come. In the next part of this blog, I’ll discuss some implications of data-driven analytics in the utilities sector. What’s the value of data-driven analytics to producers and consumers? And are customers motivated by environmental factors or price? As our data have shown, the first step in transforming meters into customers is understanding exactly who those customers are.
Join us for a free webinar to hear Cory Slinger, Manager of Market Development at Horizon Utilities, share how his company used data-driven analytics to enhance their peaksaver PLUS® program response, by doubling their customer conversion rate. The approach Horizon used could be applied to a whole range of customer communications. Register at environicsanalytics.ca/utilities