Yes, Consumer Engagement is Important to Utilities. But What Next? Part I

Published: Thu 07 Nov 2013
A blog entry by Sasha Bermann

Contributed by:

Sasha Bermann
Chief Dissemination Officer
VaasaETT

Sasha Bermann's Blog

An Ideal Scenario

Have utilities ever imagined this: Their consumers will join their service team, answering other consumers’ questions, or producing content for utility’s marketing, or giving the best ideas for launching new products and services.

In the energy industry, although the call for consumer focus is relatively new compared to other industries because of the history, consumer engagement is no longer a buzzword. Simply by searching on Google, you can find numerous talks about the importance of engaging consumers for energy industry, especially in the cases of smart meter and smart grid. However, in this blog, I’d like to focus on the practicality and explore realistic models that utilities can actually use to not only engage consumers, but also to bring consumers on board to truly embrace utility brands.

Looking at other industries, a great number of consumer-oriented companies have been increasingly adopting crowdsourcing to engage their customers creatively and innovatively. This includes limited edition designs such as Nike iD, new product designs Fiat Mio (watch video here), and business solutions GE Ecomagination Challenge (watch video here).

Looking at other industries, a great number of consumer-oriented companies have been increasingly adopting crowdsourcing to engage their customers creatively and innovatively. This includes limited edition designs such as Nike iD, new product designs Fiat Mio (watch video here), and business solutions GE Ecomagination Challenge (watch video here).

It has been proved that value co-creation is a great way to engage customers at a whole new level. In practice, there are three ways to engage consumers with the concept of co-creation. Before moving on to that, some of you might ask that the above mentioned brands are quite consumer-oriented, and there is no evidence that co-creation would work in energy industry. The answer is “Yes, it works.”

Home of the Future with E.ON

As a pioneer in adopting open innovation, E.ON kicked off an intuitive online platform and a crowdsourcing initiative to support a five-part documentary on TV. It is called “Home of the Future with E.ON” where a UK family sees their home transform into a home of the future.

 

Each TV episode explores different aspects of the family’s life, such as work, leisure and wellbeing. Over thousands of contributors’ submitted their ideas, discussed and voted on which ideas get reviewed by an expert panel. New products and services ideas are not only popular and practical, but are also used by E.ON to further develop innovative services and products. This project demonstrates how E.ON used a co-creation initiative to engage consumers and eventually benefit from it.

In part 2, I’ll go into more depth about this crowdsourcing and value co-creation trend and discuss how utilities can benefit from it. I’ll get into explaining how to become more efficient and scale social efforts (e.g. three models of using crowdsourcing to co-create products, services and experiences).

References:

http://nikeid.nike.com/nikeid/index.jsp

http://www.fiatmio.cc/en/

http://challenge.ecomagination.com/home

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/home-of-the-future

http://www.innovationmanagement.se/2012/02/24/five-co-creation-examples-e-on-coca-cola-mtv-tata-group-and-heineken/