A JOLT for Energy Efficiency

A McKinsey Consulting publication urges utilities to take new tactics to engage U.S. consumers and save energy

Awareness of energy efficiency has risen - nearly 80% of U.S. consumers recognize the benefits according to the researchers - but actions taken by homeowners to tap into the savings opportunities remain tepid. To tackle the disconnect, the authors urge utilities to change the way they approach their customers.   
"In short, we believe utilities need to follow the lead of their consumer-facing peers to improve their understanding of how consumers behave and adopt better ways of engaging them. Only then will utilities make inroads into convincing consumers to play their part in capturing the sizable energy savings that could be available."


Look to consumer attitudes rather than demographics
The article urges utilities to engage with consumers based on their distinct attitudes about energy efficiency. McKinsey researchers identified five distinct segments that show significantly different levels of concern about energy-saving behavior.


Increase the use of rebates & incentives
The article further suggested communicating in a way that includes an emotional appear to the priorities of the five segments. One particularly effective tool - rebates & incentives.
"Our research indicates that utilities have an opportunity to promote adoption of rebates and incentives that encourage energy efficiency on a much broader scale by using this segmentation approach. For example, segment-specific marketing efforts could include details of rebate mechanisms, and approaches to streamline rebates and incentive mechanisms might also be considered. The utility would communicate with segments in different ways and offer each segment different options, be they rebates and incentives or products such as smart thermostats."


Invest to capture high-stakes savings
Adopting a consumer-facing approach will require utilities to invest in marketing and sales capabilities and work with technology partners. But, the potential impact is real. Modest behavioral changes (with little to no impact on consumers lifestyle) could lead to savings as much as an additional 20 percent of residential-power demand.  


Our Takeaway

We see tremendous promise in combining programs like INSTANT REBATES with approaches that segment and target consumers differently.



Four Ways to Transform the Delivery and Fulfillment of Product Offers to Enhance Loyalty

Product promotions continue to be a relevant tool to engage customers and drive sales. Below is an excerpt from a recent article in that shares our experience of serving leading companies with our cloud-based product offer management platform. Here are four areas where we are working with our clients to re-think the delivery and fulfillment product promotions to enhance customer engagement: 


1. Use product offers to help customers make or validate purchase decisions.
Some purchase decisions are easy, others require research. If an offer also conveys specific information about a product feature or attribute, it can help consumers make decisions more efficiently. An example is rebate savings offers for energy efficient appliance models. When standing in the store comparing two refrigerator models, a rebate savings offer of $100 for the higher efficiency model can be the deciding factor. Our clients recognize the value of providing these validating offers to customers, as measured by the incremental sales lift.


2. Present aggregated offers to become a trusted source of offer inventory. 
Remember the consumer who is navigating the digital jungle of retail information? Retailers can minimize that legwork for customers by presenting them with a collection of applicable offers. Imagine a shopper evaluating a product and being presented with product offers from the retailer, the brand, and even another third party such as a financial institution. That customer now feels that he is getting not just the savings, but the value of having all offers presented together in one easy format. He feels more confident that he does not need to go elsewhere for a better deal. Our clients have used these bundled offers effectively for new product introductions as well as to highlight seasonal promotions.


3. Make offers available online, in-store and on mobile platforms.
There should be no doubt that mobile use is drastically altering the retail landscape. The growth of mobile use for shopping is significant. A recent article in Mobile Commerce Daily stated that 29 percent of retailers now see more than 20 percent of their traffic coming from mobile devices, up from just 3 percent a year ago. Consumers crave consistency as they navigate across channels more often. Providing access to the same offers no matter whether on ecommerce sites, through mobile tools or in stores creates a higher likelihood of intersecting the consumer when she is ready to make a decision and ultimately builds a deeper brand engagement.


4. Make it drop-dead easy to take advantage of the offer – make fulfillment instant. 
This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how often an offer is presented in a way that makes it inconvenient or impractical for a customer to redeem. Given the spiraling complexity of the shopping experience, consumers appreciate simplicity. Many of our clients are recognizing that desire and implementing instant offer fulfillment. The process of finding an offer and receiving the savings instantly becomes as simple as purchasing the item, no matter whether online or in store. Gone is the hassle with coupons or claim forms and in its place, customer appreciation.



State Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS) - Why They Matter 

A recent policy brief from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) provides a concise state by state snapshot of these energy savings targets called EERS. These state level commitments are considered one of the key drivers in energy efficiency program spending. And, rebates are a component of that portfolio spending.

To date, 24 states have enacted long-term (3+ yrs), binding energy savings targets (see the map above). These states comprise 67% of electricity sales in the U.S. And, most states are currently meeting or are on track to meet energy saving goals. According to another ACEEE report, 12 states are going further, ramping up policies and programs to achieve aggressive EERS targets.  

Total energy efficiency program spending is projected to doubled to $9.5B by 2025 according to a report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


Our Takeaway

With aggressive EERS targets, program sponsors will be on the hook to drive increased consumer engagement that achieves savings. A 2013 priority will be to transition rebate programs from traditional 'mail-in' style to instant at point of sale, and target an evolving mix of high-efficiency products.  

Also, EE programs and savings targets will become more evenly distributed across the country. Energy efficiency program spending has long been concentrated in a handful of states located in the Northeast and West. EERS policies are driving change with momentum in Midwestern states - with more aggressive EERS driving more spending - and Southern states with new state EERS initiatives launching. Programs that leverage consumer engagement tools (like Rebate Finder) will be well-positioned to meet these regional needs with localized and product specific incentives. 




The Tweets Tell a Story of Urgency for Retailers

Whether about omnichannel strategy or customer behaviors, here are some (curated) tweets from the National Retail Federation's (NRF's) recent BIG show (which was held Jan 13-16). Read collectively, they impart a heightened sense of urgency. Retailers are recognizing the enormous shift necessary to put the empowered consumer at the center and drive success. 
  • ‏@TwitterSmallBiz From 2011 to 2012, conversations about retail and shopping increased over 60% on Twitter. #NRF13
  • @NRFnews Companies today don’t need to choose between their website and their physical stores. They need both. #nrf13 
  • ‏@CRM The great "convergence" of retail- there are no channels anymore, this is about you and the #customer #NRF13
  • ‏@retailgeek Every retailer at #nrf13 is talking about their omnichannel strategy, but few have org structures and kpi’s aligned with strat.
  • @WSLStrategic Shoppers today pause to ask themselves, "Is this a smart use of my money?" #HowAmericaShops #NRF13
  • ‏@karincaifaCNN Touch was everywhere at CES last week. This week seeing touch screens all over #nrf13 as retailers aim for more in-store interaction.
  • ‏@IBMSmrtCommerce From #NRF13: Merchandisers need tools to help customers find/buy products #ecommerce #smartercommerce 
  • ‏@RTouchPoints It's about giving the customer a reason to want to engage with your brand, says @macys exec #NRF13
  • ‏@DeloitteUS Deloitte anticipates #smartphone influence to grow to 19% of total store sales by 2016, amounting to $689 billion. #nrf13

Energy Cost Savings Calculators - A Powerful Add-On to Rebate Finder Tools 

Consumers want to save money and lower their annual utility bill, even as they add energy consuming devices to their homes. Today's efficient appliances, HVAC systems and lighting products all operate with less energy. Just like rebate offers, giving consumers energy savings information - like the this widget - helps activate specific product purchase decisions.

Providing an energy savings calculation alongside (or embedded within) our web+mobile Rebate Finder tools can guide consumers to identify and quantify both the up-front rebate savings as well as the lower annual energy costs on high-efficiency products. 

EcoRebates data already includes energy consumption for over 200,000 products. Combined with our location-aware technology and regional energy cost data, an energy savings calculation is an easy add-on to new or existing Rebate Finder deployment. 

Here are three ways to leverage energy savings calculations and help consumers make efficient product purchase decisions. 

1. Promote Savings Early in the Purchase Process

 Consumers shop first for products, then for energy savings. Energy savings calculations that are contained on web and mobile product pages will be visible during the research phase. Consumers should be able to use a local estimate of energy savings as a tool to compare among similar product (e.g., which of these two HVAC systems has lower operating costs?)

2. Automate and Simplify the Savings Calculation

Energy costs vary regionally and exact savings will change by product specification, features and even usage. But consumers need something simple to guide them. Rather than requiring consumers to input information, energy savings that populate automatically (just as 'Available Rebates' do) can more effectively influence purchases. And, savings are more memorable if they are also translated into a recognizable metric such as equivalent 'trees saved' or 'cars taken off the road'.  

 3. Make info Mobile Accessible 

 Consumers' path to purchase has become more fluid as they rely on multiple devices and formats, including in-store engagement with sales associates. Since energy savings calculations are one piece of information consumers will use to make a purchase decision, it is important to provide it across all accessible formats, especially mobile.