An online product marketplace offers new opportunities for utilities to engage with their customers.
The term ‘marketplace’ is gaining various meanings in today’s energy panorama, from a platform offering services to consumers to one where the energy efficiencies of devices and appliances can be compared. [Engerati-Building The Energy Services Marketplace and Appliance Energy Efficiency Platform To Boost Customer Engagement]
For many consumers, however the term may be more likely to bring to mind an online store, such as Amazon, where products can be bought. And this is what the US company Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) has now launched in what seems to be a pioneering step in today’s energy market.
The concept of a utility selling appliances isn’t new. Back in the 1960s UK consumers could buy a cooker from their electricity board and for example the go ahead Colombian municipal utility EPM has long run an appliance marketplace. But in the changing energy market – and regulations permitting – it appears to be an obvious opportunity for a utility looking to broaden their customer services and grow new revenue opportunities.
ComEd’s marketplace, which is run on the Simple Energy platform, offers a “curated set of competitively-priced energy management products.” The almost 50 products to date include smart thermostats, connected home products such as Nest cams and smoke detectors and doorbells and locks, lighting products, advanced power strips and water saving products such as showerheads.
According to ComEd, the marketplace is unique in offering instant, point-of-purchase rebates, integrated customer support and end-to-end fulfillment. For example, with just a few clicks, ComEd customers can get up to $100 off smart thermostats such as the Nest Learning Thermostat or ecobee3, or up to $30 off recommended six-packs of LED light bulbs from popular brands such as Phillips and GE.
"The launch of ComEd marketplace is a key step to building a premier, trusted customer experience," says Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd.
In the near term, the service should enhance the customer experience by “simply and effectively providing our customers with new ways to manage their home energy use,” she continues. “Over time, the marketplace is expected to evolve as a platform where customers can transact with the company and with other parties for a wide range of energy-related products and services.”
ComEd views the marketplace as “a major step forward in the creation of the ‘utility of the future’,” and describes it as the latest enhancement made in the company’s efforts to deliver innovative and convenient solutions for customers. Earlier this year, an automated way for customers to report outages via Twitter was introduced, claiming to be a first-of-its-kind in the industry. Last year, ComEd announced a new customer Preference Centre that gives customers the option to choose how they would like to receive communications from the company. Also in 2015, ComEd eliminated the $2.50 processing charge for using electronic checks and provided customers with the option to securely store their payment accounts in their virtual wallet for future use.
ComEd isn’t the first utility to launch a marketplace of this type. Other utilities which have introduced online product marketplaces or stores with Simple Energy over the past year include Xcel Energy, Orange & Rockland Utilities and Georgia Power.
According to Simple Energy, more than 2.5 million households have access to an online marketplace through their platform.
The marketplace can also be coupled to a range of online tools on energy usage and efficiency to promote consumer awareness and knowledge.