November 2, 2015

Retail Energy: 5 Non-Traditional Ways to Acquire Customers

This is a five part series on solving Retail Energy problems using Advanced Data technologies and Analytics

There are over 1000 Retail energy providers in the US, and the number is growing every day. 
Add to this, power is a no-brainer. Consumers don't care what brand of power they are using at home. It has no fendi or Armani tag attached to it.
In a scenario like this, marketing and customer acquisition becomes very competitive. There are only a few finite ways to acquire and retain customers. 
Big retailers have a lot of resources to spare for marketing and advertising. But even though these guys are richer, smaller ones are getting a lot smarter. One of their ways is to pull in all the data from various ecosystems, and milk it to the maximum.
If you are looking for non-traditional solutions to improve customer acquisition, here are 5 ways to do it.
  • Using Demographics & Real Estate information to plan better strategies:
Most of the REPs have a specific targeted strategy. Some of them target prepaid customers, some of them target high income customers, some of them focus on small commercial exclusively. But most of this planning is done on excel sheets with some hypothesis, and a limited dataset. Imagine if you could lay out all your prospects on a map, with their publicly available demographic information, how much more effective your strategies would become. Obama's second presidential campaign was so focused on utilizing data to the max as compared to Mitt Romney, the results are here to see.
  • Think Customer service quality:
Of all the marketing channels available, the least expensive and most effective strategy is Word of mouth. If service quality is good, people will flock to you. Think xaomi or one plus. The company spends zilch on marketing, and highest on the quality of its phone's components. They get sold out within one day of release.
Understanding and responding to customers' problems proactively is key to increase satisfaction. Textual and Voice analytics empowers customer service reps to be more receptive, and empathetic towards customer problems.
  • Stay one step ahead of competition:
Innovative strategies are very important in a saturated market. One of the REPs I was talking to give away free thermostats to people, and control peak demand response by sending out signals to thermostat sensors, without much hassle. The reason why I call this innovative, is because this is a small company doing it, and not a big one. The rise of IOT technologies has broken the monopoly of a few companies in this space. If a fraction of marketing spend is utilized for this, the cascading word-of-mouth will be of immense value, not to forget, the actual savings in customer acquisition cost.
  • Utilize online channels to the max:
This is one of the often ignored and sometimes frowned upon way of acquiring customers. Some industry veterans are very openly against competing crazily on online channels. But, here's the truth. Online is here to stay, and it is a great way to acquire customers rapidly without spending thousands of dollars on marketing.  This is a price game, but here's the secret, it’s also a speed game. Whoever is on the first page gets the most customers. To do that, you have to respond in real time. Big data technologies can accumulate data from multiple external online channels and provide REPs real-time access to invaluable competitive information.
  • Strengthening your online enrollment pages:
Do you know the biggest reason why people choose one website over another? One app over another? One product over another? Laziness. We don't like to fill lengthy forms, we don't like to navigate complex pages, we don't like pages that lag. Imagine a customer is trying to enroll on your webpage, and suddenly it crashes. Wouldn't you want to be informed about it before he drops off? Wouldn't you want to beef up your infra just to support that one guy? We did this experiment with one of our customers. We dug into customers' browsing and behavior data, analyzed the patterns, and provided inputs to change the website to suit majority's needs. Their conversion improved by 20% in six months.
Most of these problems were solved using advanced data technologies, coupled with analytics. The investment to solve these problems nullify when compared to the returns it provides.
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