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Three Reasons Why Your Utility Marketplace Keeps Emailing You

Apr 01, 2020

Connectivity 6

If you regularly clean out the marketing messages in your inbox, you might have noticed promotions from your utility about light bulbs, power strips, and even voice assistants. Traditionally, residential and small business customers have not viewed their utility as a technology retailer; however, as grid operators strive to become the utilities of the future, they’re beginning to offer utility online energy marketplaces.

If you haven’t seen utility marketplace promotions yet, be on the lookout—they’re coming. Guidehouse Insights, a Guidehouse Company, predicts that utility online marketplaces will generate $118.2 million in revenue across Europe and North America by the end of 2020. These marketplaces are gaining traction as utilities take steps to become a customer advisor through the energy transition.

Utility Online Energy Marketplace Revenue by Region, World Markets: 2020-2029

Utility Online Energy Marketplace Revenue by Region, World Markets: 2020-2029

(Source: Guidehouse Research)

So, why are grid operators testing their hand in the retail market?

1. Utilities Want to Be Your Ally

Utility online marketplaces improve customer engagement and satisfaction. Happy customers are more likely to view their utility as an advisor through the energy transition. They will also trust utility rate-coaching, device adoption, and program participation suggestions.

When residential and small business customers make decisions about energy management technologies, they likely want to understand device specifications and may feel more confident seeing such information posted on a utility marketplace page. Installation instructions, rebates on certain products, and connections to local service providers may all strengthen customer views of their utilities as allies during the energy transition.

2. Utilities Want to Get to Know You

As online marketplace solutions providers operate utility online marketplaces—and often white label them with utility branding in North America—the utility can use the information collected from each purchase to engage with improved relevance. The more data points collected about each customer, the better the utility can target marketing. For example, if a customer buys an approved smart thermostat through an online marketplace, the utility then knows to target that customer for demand response (DR) programs.

Targeted marketing may boost program cost-effectiveness since utilities may not need to blanket entire customer segments with promotions. Instead, they can use insights provided by the marketplace and other programs like in-home or online energy audits to suggest relevant actions to their residential and small business customers.

3. Utilities Want to Enroll You in Demand Side Management Programs

A growing number of utility online marketplaces are integrating demand side management program enrollment at the point of sale. Where instant rebate offerings are more widespread, some utilities are enrolling customers into DR programs at the time of device purchase. Using the above thermostat purchase example, with simple verification measures (such as address, email, or phone), that same customer may be able to pre-configure their account for DR participation once they install their new thermostat. This integration reduces utility needs to market the program to that customer separately, and customers can earn additional savings on top of any instant rebates.

Marketplace operators and solutions providers do not often view retail giants as their competition, despite the loss of some sales to these companies. This is because utilities recognize the ability of their online energy marketplace to offer services beyond traditional e-commerce applications. While barriers to the deployment of marketplaces may impede rapid marketplace growth, in 2020, utilities are motivated to operate marketplaces for a variety of reasons. From goodwill toward customers to achieving explicit targets, all signs indicate that marketing messages from your utility will keep coming with improving relevancy.