Utility consumers are definitely not alike; spanning the spectrum of age, orientation, needs and preferences. With utilities rolling out smart meter initiatives that support grid optimization, many consumers are still unaware of what it is, what it means, and why they should care. Recent research shows that 48% of consumers asked were unfamiliar with the term "smart meter” and 51% said they’d never heard the term "smart grid.”
Although overcoming this gap in understanding may seem daunting for utilities, the same research from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative found that once consumers learned more about both terms, they were supportive. This presents a valuable opportunity for utility marketers and customer service professionals to generate acceptance for smart grids by focusing communications on educating consumers about energy management, dynamic pricing, and demand response.
Creating messaging that consumers will find relevant is based on segmentation; the ability to group consumers by preferences and needs. The best way to gain an understanding of the preferences and needs of your utility’s customers is consider what you already know about them and present a short survey to uncover missing data.
Start with demographics and smart meter data. Smart meters provide foundational information that can be used to inform and direct program offerings, such as patterns of energy usage, peak usage patterns, time of use, and more. Billing and payment trends will also provide valuable insights.
Once you have those baselines, design a survey to discover your customer’s interest in the following three topics to create a segmentation strategy. The example questions beneath each topic should demonstrate how the answers can help you develop content and communications with higher relevance for specific segments.
- Do you believe global warming is real?
- Do you think more needs to be done to help people avoid wasting energy?
- How important is it to you to protect the environment for future generations?
- Do you know what a smart-grid does?
- Would you participate in a time-of-use (ToU) program?
- Do you know how smart meters can be used to impact the environment?
- Do you take measures to save money on your electric bill?
- Do you know that energy management can save you money?
- Is your electric bill pushing your budget comfort zone?
By scoring the answers, you will be able to create a segmentation program with three tracks of messaging that address the consumer’s highest interest area. It is evident from the variance in the topics of the environment, education and economic concerns, the same messaging will not appeal to all of your customers.
When you review your smart meter data in correlation to the survey answers, you should be able to discover patterns that will provide insight to the combination of messaging and program offers that will have the highest impact on customer response.
For example, if you see a pattern of lower energy use, on-time payments and an affirmative answer to environmental questions, those consumers may be more receptive to information and programs designed around conservation, sustainability, and "green” messaging.
Focusing communications on a consumer value proposition applied to consumer segmentation raises a consumer’s willingness to respond which provides utilities with the opportunity to influence change and the adoption of your smart meter and smart grid programs. Relevance, driven by segmentation is a key strategy utilities can use to encourage behavioral change and energy savings.