Engaging energy consumers on their terms, with relevant, personalized communications, services and experiences is the promise of digital marketing. When done effectively, it can help shape meaningful relationships with consumers while also providing substantial positive business outcomes for energy retailers through increased sales, loyalty, and ultimately transforming consumers into brand advocates.
The essential principles of customer service are timeless, but consumer expectations are not. Customers have always wanted a friendly, efficient and reliable service, but with the development of new technology and an everchanging mindset, expectations have increased. Research reveals that nearly nine out of ten online consumers use search engines to help inform their purchasing decisions. And 84 percent will consult social media before they shop online. And this interest in digitally available information and experiences to support decision making is likely to increase. In fact, consumers’ expectations are being set by their interactions with other services providers such as Netflix, Amazon and Uber. Consumers are now expecting similar digital service from their energy providers. Accenture’s New Energy Consumer research finds that nine out of 10 energy consumers want an effortless experience and more than 80 percent of energy consumers are willing to buy more products and services if personalized.
But are energy providers delivering? Our research reveals that 41 percent of digital consumers say that digital experiences with their energy provider are more difficult compared to other types of provider. Over a third of energy consumers still struggle with their digital experience. The increasing retail environment is becoming highly competitive, with switching increasingly becoming the norm. New players are emerging to address the changing energy landscape of renewables and distributed energy resources, offering consumers new products and services. As energy retail companies continue to expend their offerings to meet these disruptions, their marketing capabilities will need to improve to stay competitive. As in other service industries (banking, telecom), energy retailers—in particular CMOs—must start today to leverage the full range of digital marketing levers to enhance their customer experience and offerings to remain relevant for their customers.
Successful digital interactions are personalized and must consider the changing context of the consumer. That means offering relevance not only in the type of content and marketing message delivered, but doing so at the appropriate point in the customer life cycle. The ability to engage more dynamically enables a new basis for dialogue, allowing energy providers to make offers and suggestions that are contextually relevant. A customer, for example, may be looking to move to a new house. It’s an ideal opportunity to suggest a new product or service that can make that process easier or more rewarding. Getting the timing right is critical to making a positive impact, and that means understanding the customer on their terms.
Of course, data drives all, including both internal and external data from sources such as web scraping and social media. The question is: how to enrich data with insights available from other external sources to create a more personalized view of each customer and anticipates their needs. And equally important is the ability to create a holistic engagement approach to the consumer that transcends the traditional silos of marketing, sales and customer service operations. By creating a flow of data and insights across those boundaries, energy retailers can start to shape the new experiences consumers will value at the “moments that matter”.
It’s not possible to achieve all this from day one. Starting small, but thinking big is critical. Improving the online experience and making better use of available approaches such as SEO and personalized landing pages should be the departure point for a wider transformation, underpinned by a digital marketing platform to develop advanced marketing capabilities. Taking inspiration from outside the industry to investigate the art of the possible is also critical. But above all, utilities need to start thinking about digital marketing as much more than a standalone tactical initiative. Instead, they need to approach it as a strategic play that extends across the enterprise, embraces the whole customer life cycle and offers a basis for real competitive advantage. For energy retailers, experience is the new frontier.