5 Ways the Electric Industry Should be Marketing to Consumers
The ongoing disruption to the electric industry has created both opportunities and challenges for energy marketers. New technologies, bigger data, and increasing deregulation means energy providers must reevaluate their marketing strategies to remain competitive and optimize growth opportunities.
However, many marketers are trying to make sense of the most effective marketing strategies to implement into their communications strategies. With digital channels, social media, and mobile marketing, which channels can drive the most impact for utility marketers?
Here’s a look at 5 strategies that tend to have the most impact in utilities and energy marketing.
There are over 4.35 billion email accounts today. This figure is predicted to reach 5.59 billion by 2019 which is a growth of more than 26% (Radicati Group, 2015). With the growth of smartphones and mobile devices, approximately 34% of consumers are constantly checking their email throughout the day (BlueHornet). Without a doubt, email is a great, low-cost way to communicate to existing customers and reach out to potential prospects.
Email is an ideal channel to inform customers or prospects about new offers, energy efficiency programs, paperless billing, and any number of other applicable cross-sell or up-sell offers. For example, a targeted email campaign for paperless billing may be sent to consumers who are environmentally conscious or a campaign about bundled services to save costs to younger consumers with lower incomes.
Email should also be used in other ways beyond informing consumers about new offers. If you continuously send emails simply promoting your offers, your customers will start unsubscribing. Emails can be used for educational purposes, such as tips to lower energy bills, safety information, or how to conserve energy around the house. Email should also be used to inform consumers about outages or service interruptions, or to promote social media pages. With energy choice and the uncertain future of deregulation, email is an ideal channel to focus on building loyalty and providing a better customer experience.
Although many may believe that direct mail is a bit outdated, this channel still has many advantages. Outreach programs and marketing strategies should encompass both offline and online channels to cater to different preferences. Additionally, The CMO Council reported that 79% of consumers act on direct mail right away, compared with only 45% who deal with email as soon as it is received.
Like any other strategy, best practices on how direct mail should be used are constantly changing. Direct mail in 2016 is about providing relevancy. Marketers are more determined than ever to reach consumers with messages that are relevant to them, their needs and their habits. For example, a direct mail list can be segmented beyond demographics with data on customer preferences and past behavior. While this may mean developing more direct mail pieces, it can also mean providing the right content that the consumer is more likely to take action on.
Beyond the quarterly newsletter type of piece, direct mail should also integrate with other digital channels. Direct mail may encourage a consumer to go to website, landing page or social channel. Also, a lack of interaction with an email marketing communication could trigger the sending of a direct mail piece.
As more consumers use social media platforms on a daily basis, they expect the companies with whom they do business to be there as well. Utilities must incorporate a social media presence into their overall engagement strategy to drive a better customer experience. Social media is becoming a primary source of contact for many utilities. Consumers use social media sites to check the status during outages, ask service-related questions. They will also head to a provider’s site for education on topics such as energy efficiency. In markets where consumers have a choice between energy providers, some utilities have been able to reduce customer turnover by as much as 20% (Accenture).
However, establishing a social media presence means commitment. Research by Conversocial found that among the top 20 utilities companies only 34% were responding to customers through social outlets compared to 70% of other industries and average response times were over 5 1/2 hours. Consumers use social media as an instant channel to get their questions answered. Not responding in a timely manner will do more damage than good, especially considering that it social channels are a public forum which other customers or prospects are also monitoring.
Utility companies should use social media as a proactive channel of engagement instead of just reactive. Posting a contest, YouTube video, or other interactive content increases customer engagement and enhances consumer experiences.
New Mover Marketing
Reaching out to new movers and pre-movers should encompass every utility marketer’s strategy. Essential services such as utility hookups are first on the list when moving. A great way to appeal to new movers is by creating a “Welcome to the neighborhood” offer. Whether it’s a discount, a giveaway, or other offer, this will create a favorable association with your brand in new movers’ minds.
In deregulated markets, be sure to reach out to both new movers and pre-movers. A new mover is categorized as a consumer who is already in their home, but a pre-mover data source includes consumers with pending home sales. This allows targeted outreach at the precise moment movers are making decisions before they leave their current home. Movers are 5x’s more likely to become long-term customers if you reach them first. Additionally, 70%-90% of spending decisions are made before the mover has left their current residence and 85% of pre-movers use the first vendor that contacts them for home services, regardless of their satisfaction with their current provider.
Mover marketing is also a valuable strategy for energy providers in regulated markets. During this transition time, new movers are more likely to respond to special offers, sign up for paperless billing, or enroll in energy efficiency programs.
Today, 68% of U.S. adults have a smartphone and 45% own a tablet (Pew Research Center). According to the research, “Smartphone ownership is nearing the saturation point with some groups: 86% of those ages 18-29 have a smartphone, as do 83% of those ages 30-49 and 87% of those living in households earning $75,000 and up annually.”
Consumers check email and visit websites on mobile more so than any other device, thus emails and websites must be mobile optimized. If they are not, most consumers will simply delete the email or leave the website. Users also expect mobile sites to work quickly and efficiently. According to Google, 58% of mobile users expect mobile sites to load as quickly as or faster than desktop sites. Mobile friendly and responsive design will ensure your customers are receiving the most optimal experience.
Utilities are also beginning to realize the potential of mobile in other areas. For example, mobile can be used for a range of customer service applications such as outage alerts including rapid communications with customers in critical situations, savings advice, high bill alerts, and usage information.
In an increasingly competitive and uncertain marketplace, a marketing strategy should include a multi-channel approach to reach customers and prospects with targeted messaging across the channels they prefer. Those providers who develop a customer-centric mindset through data, analytics and technologies will thrive in the evolving electricity landscape.
Contact us to learn more about how the V12 Data Cloud allows clients to seamlessly integrate their own 1st party data and V12’s 3rd party data to find new audiences, manage existing customer relationships, and execute highly targeted, omni-channel campaigns.