Energy Marketplaces Can Drive Smart Home Appliance Shopping

Gautam Aggarwal, CMO of Bidgely, evolving energy analytics for utilities with the power of data and artificial intelligence.

Rising popularity in energy-efficient appliances and smart home products, such as smart thermostats and voice-activated light switches, has led utilities to ramp the development of online energy marketplaces in an effort to sell such products directly to consumers. Marketplaces promise valuable revenue sources for utilities, with the potential to increase global utility revenue from $118 million to $468 million in the next 10 years, according to research firm Guidehouse Insights. But traditional marketplaces so far have yet to deliver on that promise. 

Why? Traditional utility e-commerce sites struggle to compete against the brand recognition and loyalty of Amazon and the Home Depot and often fail to offer more than a limited catalog of products. In today’s world of business-to-consumer (B2C) sales and engagement, relying on generic, one-size-fits-all marketing is insufficient.

Amazon and other major brands have forever changed customer expectations by harnessing the power of customer browsing habits and purchasing behavior to tailor recommendations and greatly improve a customer’s overall experience. Utility marketplaces now must evolve in sophistication to provide a smarter way of shopping, capable of competing against the big-box retailer shopping experience.

While utilities have made strides in increasing customer satisfaction through personalization, more effective marketing is still needed to further drive engagement within their marketplace. How, then, can utilities become top of mind for smart home and energy-efficient appliance shopping?

My company, Bidgely, works with utilities to target customers with personalized marketing content similar to techniques used by Amazon. We help them capitalize on what utilities have that Amazon doesn’t: a household’s actual energy usage. By using data-driven artificial intelligence (AI) analytics to gain insights into energy behavior, utilities can gain a clear advantage over retailers when it comes to motivating customers.  

Targeted Marketing Through Personalization

Through AI-powered segmentation, utilities can create individual energy profiles for each household based on a series of characteristics, including real-time energy consumption and appliance type, and unique features, like electric vehicle (EV) charging or pool pump usage, that allow for more accurate customer targeting. By using these granular, appliance-level insights, marketers can create tailored marketing communications for their customers. 

Generic notifications about a utility refrigerator rebate program, for instance, can offer little to no value for customers without context into the individual customer’s current refrigerator efficiency. Arbitrary messages like this lack actionable guidance on why a customer should make the purchase and also have the potential to create distrust.

Instead, utilities should look to hypertarget their interactions to first make customers aware of their actual household’s energy usage by appliance, and then educate them to understand what affect upgrading or purchasing a new smart home appliance will have for them. The utility is now in a favorable position to not only send customers directly to their marketplace but also provide relevant purchasing recommendations.

Many utilities are already collecting immense amounts of customer data through smart meters. They can either work with in-house teams to convert that data into actionable insights or, if they’re strapped for resources, look to work with a third-party AI provider to lead these customer interactions, integrating these offerings into a utility’s existing customer relationship management (CRM) strategy.

A Smarter Way Of Shopping

It is important to recognize the journey doesn’t end once the customer reaches the marketplace. For utilities to achieve recurring and impactful revenue, marketplaces need to support the convenience customers have come to expect and motivate them to follow through with the purchase. Successful marketplace experiences that intelligently personalize the customer journey to explain the reason behind each product offering will ultimately drive higher cost-per-click to cost-per-acquisition conversions. 

Part of this journey includes giving consumers the freedom to purchase products from multiple partners within the marketplace, like the Home Depot and Amazon. 

Currently, customers who shop at the Home Depot may receive an appliance manufacturer’s rebate but remain unaware of available utility rebates on the same product. Customers who shop the utility marketplace receive the utility rebate but may miss out on the manufacturer rebate. Be creating a “smart” utility marketplace, you can present both discounts together while allowing customers to comfortably choose between retailers based on their shopping preferences and best value.

End-To-End Service Provider  

Marketplaces are a critical component for increasing a utility’s annual revenue as well as reaching mandated decarbonization goals. By using advanced customer targeting, made possible by AI-driven personalization, you can effectively reduce the cost burden of traditional advertising to promote rebates and product promotions while simultaneously delivering customer offerings based on their unique appliance-level energy-savings potential. 

By providing a smarter way of shopping, utilities can be transformed from a static energy provider into a dynamic lifestyle provider.

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