Is customer segmentation the next step for Utilities?

Traditionally, in their electricity, gas or heat sales business, energy companies have been developing for a long time a commercial approach by business segment: residential, small businesses, large customers, public clients etc … Such a vision of the market, legitimate to structure sales activities, is so engraved in minds that in many energy companies, it became a marketing segmentation.

At a time when developing energy services is at stake, this segmentation is put to the test: why should all residential customers need the same support to save energy? Why would utilities need to offer the same quality of energy or of the same deployment scheme of electric vehicles to all large industrial customers? Why do communities need to have the same approach to introduce a local distributed production of renewable energy?

The emergence of these new activities puts energy providers on notice to watch their market(s) differently. They can then discover a more complex reality than it appears at first glance: it is not certain that the same segmentation is relevant to all services. Some segmentations may be based on still quite technical criteria, for instance linked to the customer’s energy system while others will be based on behavioral criteria.

For example, a segmentation of small energy users (individuals, craftsmen) for energy efficiency services will mainly take into account their approach to energy savings: in all countries, three groups stand out (but, beware, they are not yet market segments!): consumers driven by environmental considerations, those interested in economic and financial aspects and finally those focused on comfort and ease. Each of these groups should be studied more precisely in the light of the culture of each country to define what will be the market segments to consider.

Obviously, if taking first into account environmental objectives, consumers driven by environmental concerns appear as an immediate target for efforts to save energy while consumers focused on comfort and ease will take much longer to move forward.

Observation, understanding and describing the markets addressed by utilities is certainly difficult because it requires a profound questioning of a part of their culture but it is a must for hope for success in their new activities, and firstly in energy services.

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