Why Utility Marketplaces Matter: eCommerce as a CX Incubator
- Jan 5, 2022 3:22 pm GMT
Why should a utility consider a marketplace for their customers in 2022? And, why should utilities with prior investments in utility marketplaces consider revamping them in 2022? After all, most of the current marketplaces don't reach "escape velocity" of transaction volumes that make those sites self-funding.
Consider that a successful marketplace measured by the common standards of eCommerce finds a way to:
- connect with their customers
- develop traffic to the site
- offer content and offers of interest to their customers
- stay in touch with customers to drive repeat visits to the site
- resulting in sales when customers find value in the offers on the marketplace
Sales, in this case, is just the end result of a lot of other important activities for a successful marketplace.
Marketplaces that work demonstrate to their customers that the utility understands the customers' perspective. Multiple perspectives, actually, since a customer base actually behaves more like a lot of different and often changing smaller customer groups or personas. And, demonstrating that affinity for the customer perspective means that utilities have a grasp of those different groups and topics that interest them.
Developing traffic to a marketplace means that the utility earned success in multiple engagement channels attracting the attention and interest of their customers, and bringing those customers into a destination website experience. Solid and steady marketplace traffic results only from a comprehensive program of personalized, relevant and timely outreach to customers in their channel of choice, so utilities with successful marketplaces becomes masters of email, display, social media, video and print depending on content and customer preferences. No "one size fits all" approach works in eCommerce.
Successful marketplaces offer something for virtually everyone, so they include a variety of products and services well beyond energy efficiency. Marketplaces selling mostly programmable thermostats and LED bulb kits don't offer a catalog that appeals to every customer. Can your renters even buy and install a smart thermostat? Customers don't need a lot of bulbs that last 10-15 years, do they? Do these customers have a reason to return to your website? Successful marketplaces offer a range of products AND services, even access to contractor networks, at different price points to be sure that all of their customers can find something of value when they have a need.
But most customers don't buy from a new marketplace on their first visit. It can take three, four, even five visits before customers make their first purchase, so successful utility marketplaces find a way to keep in touch with customers and nurture their interests to develop repeat traffic. That means those utilities found a way to use multi-part campaigns, compelling content, and timely offers to increase customer awareness and trigger "clicks" at just the right time.
Sales result from success in that chain of events that puts a personalized and relevant offer in front of customer so that they visit a modern and intuitive marketplace where those customers find offers of value and make a purchase. And once that purchase gets delivered or installed or activated, customers are far more likely to open another email from the utility, or click on a social message on their mobile phone, or share a review on a website like Yelp or Google to bring more traffic and awareness to the utility marketplace. Happy customers demonstrate success at a series of digital (and legacy) interactions with a brand they trust and value.
So, a successful marketplace becomes a great incubator for a utility interested in innovating their digital customer experience (CX). And, the lessons learned by developing a successful and self-funding utility marketplace pay dividends across the entire business, from customer education to EE program enrollment to digital self-service capabilities. Successful marketplaces are worth the investment because of the lessons they teach utilities about how to engage with customers digitally across the entire customer lifecycle.
That's why we think utility marketplaces deserve a priority at all utilities, and that sales should be an important, but not the most important KPI for those programs. Sales result from staying focused on each critical step along those digital customer journeys. Consider a marketplace for 2022 and see where your utility can innovate your digital customer experience.
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