Utilities Use Gamification to Engage Customers

Utilities are spending more on gamification to keep their customers engaged so that business and energy goals can be reached.
Published: Mon 17 Feb 2014

By 2014, worldwide utility IT spending for gamification tools, applications, and services will increase to approximately US$13.5 million, rising to US$65 million in 2016.

This is according to IDC Energy Insights, whose research shows that by 2016, 60% of progressive worldwide energy retailers will use at least one gamified application to engage more effectively with their customers.

Not child’s play

Video games have become increasingly interactive and engaging. With the development of social media, smartphones and interactive web technologies, games have moved quickly into the mainstream. While popular games may come and go, is it clear that gaming is big business.

It therefore makes sense that games can represent a significant tool for addressing many challenges that face energy providers. The availability of more granular energy usage data and the ability to easily control consumer energy devices, energy management and conservation are well-suited to gamification in the energy sector.

Combined with the rollout of smart technology, gamification offers a powerful avenue to create an excellent consumer experience and encourage conservation behavior.

Customer Engagement

Customer engagement is becoming increasingly important as it is key in assisting the utility to improve energy efficiency. While technology is assisting the utility to transform from a traditional establishment to a modern one, it is up to the utility to help the customer change his or her mindset.

This subject is covered in our article Changing the Customer’s Mindset. Customers are also expecting utilities to become more innovative as the digital world develops across all industries. By being innovative, the utility will create a positive brand reputation and improved customer responsiveness. This was discussed in our article Utilities Should Invest In Their Customers.

Changing dynamics

Gamification has the potential to change the dynamics of customer engagement, rewards, recognition, and customer loyalty.

Behavioral change programs are a vital component of a sustainable energy strategy, serving as a good value proposition for utilities and other energy players.

By adopting characteristics that are familiar to large portions of the population, including some demographics that are often harder to engage through conventional communication programs, gamification has the potential to provide a positive outcome.

Some examples of gamification include:

  • The Gaming for Good initiative, a partnership between Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and PSFK, asked people to design innovative gaming applications to address sustainability and climate change challenges, generating more than 60 entries from around the world.

  • British Gas’s EnCon CITY© demonstrates the benefits of conservation by teaching players how energy is consumed and where it might be wasted.

  • Danish energy firm Vestforbrænding and advertising agency Anew created a pizzeria whose output depended on the amount of energy being saved by local residents. Consumers were first sent information on steps they could take to reduce energy usage, and energy consumption was then measured over a period of time. The less energy consumers used, the more free pizzas were available at the pizzeria.

  • San Diego Gas and Electric and Simple Energy launched the San Diego Energy Challenge in which consumers could compete against each other to reduce their energy consumption during the summer months, when air conditioners, pool pumps and other seasonal devices can put significant strain on the energy system.

"With all the hype surrounding gamification, some of which is rightly deserved, it remains to be seen how well these mechanisms work over the long term or the level of appetite and patience that audiences will have when faced with a plethora of gamified applications vying for their attention," said Adam Ajzensztejn, senior research analyst, IDC Energy Insights, EMEA. "However, it provides an interesting avenue for further investigation and research."

Further Reading:

IDC-Business Strategy: The Role of Gamification in Utilities’ Consumer Engagement