Energy Customers Want Better Tools to Manage Their Usage

Energy Customers Want Better Tools to Manage Their Usage

Simon Harvey.

Suppliers’ mobile apps concentrate on basic account functions, while spiralling prices have left consumers looking for more sophisticated tools to help them monitor and control how much energy they are using.

Publicis Sapient’s second Energy Supplier Mobile Experience Barometer report has found that energy retailers have a big opportunity to help customers manage the impact of the energy crisis on their pockets by upgrading their mobile apps to include energy management tools and personalized advice.

Our research shows that many people expect their suppliers to help them manage their energy consumption more effectively. But with a few exceptions, companies have yet to capitalize on the opportunity to use their mobile presence to deliver the smart tools, information and services their consumers are looking for.

The Mobile Experience Barometer 2021

First published in 2020, the UK Mobile Experience Barometer assesses the mobile offering of ten UK suppliers, dividing them into two groups – incumbents such as British Gas and Scottish Power and challengers that have joined the market more recently including Bulb and Octopus. The research assesses these suppliers’ mobile presence under a range of headings and aims to offer timely insights into how customers are using their apps, how they are managing their energy consumption and what features and services they would like to see.

UK consumers are well known for having a highly price-driven and transactional relationship with their energy suppliers. They are heavy users of price comparison websites and switch relatively frequently – 55 per cent of our survey respondents have been with their current supplier for two years or less.

But despite their general lack of engagement with energy suppliers, our research also highlights that the UK’s price-conscious consumers have bought into the idea of actively managing their energy use at home. Some 61 per cent agree that it’s important to do this and another 28 per cent somewhat agree. Many of them also believe that their energy supplier should be helping them to use less energy (45 per cent agree, 36 per cent somewhat agree). Mobile apps, with their ability to facilitate immediate, two-way communication with customers and provide compelling energy management tools, are the natural channel through which to do this.

Conclusion: crisis heightens the mobile opportunity

The results of this year’s Mobile Experience Barometer demonstrate that there is significant scope for most providers to improve their mobile offering.

Given the spiralling cost of energy and the withdrawal of cheap fixed tariffs, most customers no longer have the option to save money by switching. This leaves managing their energy consumption better as they only practical way to reduce bills. Customers are looking to their suppliers to do more to help them, and we see mobile apps as the key enablers.

The winners will be the providers who can equip their customers with information and tools to help them to save money. Customers expect more than generic hints and tips on energy saving. They are seeking features such as time-of-use tariffs and contextual information based on their smart meter data – such as breaking down consumption by appliance (as provided by British Gas) or offering comparisons with similar households – along with timely, actionable advice.

They also want more integrations with third-party apps such as Alexa or Google Home, as well as energy management apps such as Hive or Nest that give them greater control over their energy consumption. With their focus predominantly on basic account-management functionality, most energy suppliers are failing to grasp this opportunity to provide consumers with the intelligent, value-added services they want.

Finally, we believe their generally poor performance on brand personality illustrates a further opportunity: to use more distinctive brand personality to differentiate their offering in a market where switching based on price will be a less powerful trigger for consumer choices, at least until the energy crisis is behind us.

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