4 ways your consumer is changing your biz—with or without you

We managed to sneak a slightly early peek at the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s (SGCC) most recent “2017 State of the Consumer” report being released today during their symposium “Beyond the Grid: Connecting Tomorrow’s Consumer.” (This annual symposium is happening in conjunction with the DistribuTECH conference in San Diego this week.)

After reading through all the details, we have a few suggestions on what the report teaches us all (and how utilities can prepare a little bit better for the coming consumer-centered universe).

You need to offer more stuff.

Admittedly, the SGCC put it more tactfully with the phrase “consumer interest transcends technology availability,” but the bottom line is very much the same: They want more things, more options, more offers, more services. They want more. Period.

You’ll hear: “My cousin who lives in Baltimore gets a personalized home energy report. Why can’t I?” You’ll get emails that say: “My aunt in California has rooftop solar. I want that.”

And they don’t care to hear that you don’t offer those things or can’t offer those things or aren’t set up to offer those things. Whatever the good, solid, technical reasons that you can’t offer services such as home energy reports or rooftop solar, it won’t much matter to consumers. If you can give them what they want, they’ll see you positively. If you can’t, you’ll be labeled as “behind the times.”

You need to talk better.

The SGCC report lays it out this way: “Understanding how to best convey Smart Grid-enabled offerings to various consumer segments—and the role various stakeholders play—is key to helping unlock consumer demand.” In other words, it’s really all about how you communicate with your consumer. Market often, and market well—because how you market matters. In an earlier SGCC report “The Empowered Consumer” (referenced within “2017 State of the Consumer”), the researchers tested different time-of-use (TOU) pricing programs. While pricing itself was, of course, a factor in consumer popularity, the association also notes that the rate favored nearly two-to-one over the other choices was labeled “discount,” while the other two were labeled “premium.” And that simple example leads us directly to our third point.

You need to show them the money.

“Consumers have a strong desire to save money,” the report directly states, and we all know that to be true, since we are all consumers at the end of things. If my utility sent me a note that said, “Hey, if we did this, we could save you money. Do you want us to?” I’d of course say, “Yes, please.” As would you. So, no, this isn’t a surprise to anyone, really, but we often don’t give this assumption the respect it deserves.

In another SGCC reported cited within (“Consumer Pulse Wave 5”), the association pointed out that over 85% of those surveyed were excited about the smart grid, in part, because they believed that technology would help them save that all important money.

And, in the previously mentioned “The Empowered Consumer,” the top response to perceived benefits of the smart grid was, at 72%, bill reduction.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. didn’t lie.

You need an attitude adjustment.

Now, don’t get too excited. We’re not actually talking about your own attitude. We’re talking about your customers’ varied and various attitudes (about money, about green energy, about time-based pricing, about usage reports, etc.) and how well you understand and segment those attitudes to your advantage.

While all consumers love to save money, beyond the wallet, reasons for participating in utility programs vary. There’s the group that wants better control over their home. There’s the group that just wants everything involved in their utility use to be easier and more convenient for them and their crazy schedules. Do you know the difference between those groups, and what drives each? And are you adjusting and adapting your marketing to those segments or just giving it lip service?

According to the SGCC report, this is where targeting comes in. Aim that awareness campaign around the environment at those green champions. Push the ease-of-use and simple set-up at the technology cautious. Throw all the “this stuff is so darn cool, let’s play with it” ads at the group SGCC labels “movers and shakers.” And keep things super simple for the people like me (those A-OK with the status quo).

But, without knowing the consumer attitude toward you and your products (whether baseline power delivery or exciting options in rooftop solar), your offerings are being buried in a mountain of other generic advertising that we all get every day from both our physical and digital mailboxes. And, without targeted segmentation, those offerings get no more attention than that “welcome to the neighborhood” dentist ad that keeps showing up every month, even though you’ve lived in that same darn spot for the last five years. It’s all filed away between used coffee grounds and broken egg shells never to see the light of day again.  

To read more about this latest report (and previous ones, too), check in with the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative online at http://smartgridcc.org/.  Thanks again to Patty, Nathan and company for letting us take an early look at the “2017 State of the Consumer” report (and for letting us use their report’s lead art here).



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