Beneficial Electrification: Here's What Customers Really Care AboutPosted to Questline in the Utility Management Group
image credit: Questline
- May 11, 2021 5:00 am GMTMay 10, 2021 11:02 pm GMT
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In today's connected home, energy customers have more control than ever before. From the EV charging in the garage to the smart thermostat adjusting the AC — and every LED in between — consumers have the power to reduce their energy use and make their homes more comfortable with the swipe of a smartphone app.
But beyond the novelty of turning up the heat without getting out of bed on a chilly morning, do customers really see the benefits of beneficial electrification? Or, more to the point for energy providers, do customers understand the potential of connecting their smart homes to the smart grid?
In fact, it appears that utilities have some work to do to close this knowledge gap. According to a new report from the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC), consumer education and engagement are essential to realizing the promise of beneficial electrification and advanced technologies such as AMI.
Looking at electrification from the customer's perspective
SECC’s study of consumer attitudes found strong interest in new technologies like electric vehicles, electric appliances and other household tools. The research suggests that more customers would adopt these technologies if they were provided with education framed around their unique motivations.
In other words, it's not enough to extoll the general benefits of electrification (although that's important, too). Utilities must also show how this technology specifically benefits their customers.
This approach is at the heart of content marketing: understanding customers' interests, identifying their questions, and then providing educational content that speaks directly to their needs and concerns. Utilities don't need to "sell" electrification to customers; they can help customers discover those benefits on their own with supportive, educational content.
The key to success with any content strategy is the focus on customer motivations. We all know that electrification and AMI technology will make the grid more reliable, support demand response capabilities and help utilities meet decarbonization goals. But those things don't motivate customers. Customers expect the grid to be reliable — they don't see it as an added benefit.
Instead, utilities' educational content should highlight the benefits that do motivate customers. They want to learn how to make their homes more comfortable and convenient, how to save a little money, and how to reduce their environmental impact.
Reach the right customers with segmented messages
Of course, not every customer has the same motivation for adopting new electric technologies. Some customers want to reduce their carbon footprint and would respond to a green message. Some are more concerned about saving money and would be motivated by efficiency measures that will reduce their energy bill. Other customers just like playing with new gadgets — or driving high-end, high-performance EVs — and cost is not a concern.
Just as important, customers' ability to take advantage of technologies may be affected by their living situation and income. Some homeowners can afford to upgrade their HVAC or buy new appliances, while other homeowners will be looking for less expensive ways to save energy. Renters, meanwhile, aren't going to replace their home's insulation at any price, but they might benefit from portable devices like advanced power strips and smart speakers.
That's where customer segmentation comes in. A successful content strategy will speak to different groups of customers with specific, targeted messages. By identifying their motivations, and further creating segments around characteristics like homeownership, you can ensure that the right information reaches each group of customers. That way you will not only build engagement with educational content the customers find relevant, you can better motivate them to take action.
Making the connection from smart homes to the grid
Your energy utility customers may be aware that switching to an electric induction stove uses less energy. But do they also know how this switch will benefit them personally and help cut home expenses? It's not enough to just educate customers on the technical benefits of a new technology. Customers want to know how their daily lives will be impacted.
By providing educational content that speaks to the personal motivations of different customer segments, energy utilities can accelerate the adoption of new technology and demonstrate to customers how they would benefit from a connected, smarter energy lifestyle.