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Holiday Shopping Season and Utility Marketplaces

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Mark Wilkinson's picture
SVP Products, Ibex Digital

Helping utilities and their customer experience teams transform customer journeys,  decode customer insights  and enhance revenues for nearly 15 years.  At Ibex, I lead the teams delivering...

  • Member since 2019
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  • Nov 28, 2022

Holiday shopping season perplexes a lot of utilities about the performance of their marketplaces.  Black Friday tends to favor “bricks and mortar” retailers.  Customers don’t consider their utility a small business, leaving utilities out of Small Business Saturday.  Cyber Monday overwhelmingly favors the big online retailers and brands.  These factors tend to crowd out the utility marketplace resulting in lackluster sales for the period.

Don’t get caught up in the hype.  Most of the success during holiday shopping season gravitates towards just a few retailers that turn massive numbers on really low margin at the cost of months of planning and a lot of risk if they don’t have just the right products to sell.  Utilities don’t need to get caught up in the chaos to have a successful holiday shopping period on their marketplace.

Remember, success on a utility marketplace depends on offering a diverse catalog that appeals to a wide variety of customer interests and developing enough awareness and traffic to bring your customers back for a second, third, or fourth visit to make a purchase.  Success depends more on engagement to build customer lifetime value, not a few good days of sales at the holidays.

It’s always a good time to offer the old standards like smart thermostats and energy efficient bulbs, but remember to expand the catalog to include offers that appeal to your renters or customers not as interested in EE goals.  Consider adding some of the latest smart home tech like voice assistants including Google Home® and Amazon’s Alexa®, along with smart plugs and streaming cameras compatible with those platforms.  Renters interested in smart tech can’t usually install a learning thermostat, but still like the option to control lights with their phone or voice assistant or use a streaming camera to check on pets or family when they are at work.

Your goal is to capture customer interest for your new offers and invite return traffic with a post-holiday email campaign or addition of a special offer in the January bill.  Repeat traffic supports stronger sales on a utility marketplace and builds long term performance trends better than a quick (and expensive) burst of holiday traffic that competes with massive eCommerce and retail brands.

And, it’s a great time of year to bundle offers if your platform supports it.  Consider a smart learning thermostat paired with three free months of Surge Protection to protect all of the expensive consumer electronics customers get around the holidays.  Even better, try bundling a demand response program with the sale of a thermostat where available to help customers achieve their energy efficiency goals with the purchase on your marketplace.  Bundling a program with a purchase shows customers that the utility understands their needs and makes it easy to achieve those goals.

Holiday shopping season offers utilities a great opportunity to capture customer awareness and interest in an expanded set of offers and special values only available as a utility customer.  Worry less about sales and more about building customer traffic and opt-ins so that your follow up campaigns nurture the repeat traffic required for real (and profitable) marketplace success.  Happy Holidays.


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