How simple was the past energy world! The energy utility’s catalog often boiled down to one or two rates of electricity, gas or heat.
In recent years, changes in energy systems and the opening of markets to more competition have forced suppliers to differentiate themselves. The first page of their web site is rich in teaching: the way in which the suppliers guide residential consumers towards the information of their choice, the way they structure their data, are often revealing their DNA, their culture and their vision of the energy world.
A fluid-focused approach: SWM
For the Stadtwerke in Munich, the supply approach remains structured by fluid. This approach is maybe dictated by SWM’s multi-activity structure: electricity, gas, water, heat, mobility. It also reflects an internal organization made up of specialized departments that do not emanate from any transversal initiative.
In the electricity section, for example, the approach is very pragmatic: tariffs, green electricity, photovoltaics, energy saving advice are all topics about which SWM talks about electricity and only about electricity.
This structuring presupposes that most consumer choices are made outside of SWM: for example, the photovoltaic section is visited by the consumer who, with regard to its objective (green electricity, cheaper electricity, electricity shared with its neighbors) will have already compared several solutions and chose photovoltaics.
Customer relations first: GEG (Grenoble – France)
The GEG home page focuses on managing the contract with the customer. In addition to a section devoted to the rates (normal, green, student, online), you are guided through pages concerning your situation or your contract or even very basic advice and help, listing the daily actions to save energy and money.
GEG’s focus on customer relations is fully consistent with its position of local energy company, with high market shares to defend.
But will a close relationship with its customers be enough to let GEG position itself in profound changes in the energy systems in which consumers aspire to take an increasingly larger share?
A quasi-activist supplier: SIG (Geneva)
Another local energy company, the Services Industriels de Genève immediately displays a desire for proximity (“SIG accompanies you every day”) and addresses, like GEG, various aspects of the relationship with the customer.
In addition, SIG propose to its customers “to better consume” and displays a quasi-militant positioning in favor of energy savings and green energy, accompanied by a comprehensive bouquet of offers for residential customers.
Such positioning is very likely to have an influence on the demand and makes the energy specialist appear as the essential partner of many Genevan individuals in the field of energy.
Ecology, economy, proximity: Enercity
Enercity, Hanover’s multi-fluid supplier, has a rich positioning. The customer proximity is divided into several themes: economic benefits to customers, comprehensive services and advice, including even rare opportunities offered by energy providers such as the ability to pay via Bitcoins.
The entire offer presented to individuals is ecological (energy efficiency and use of renewable energy) and economic.
Enercity is clearly trying to project its customers into a different future: the benefits of a locally based energy company are clear, but will all customers find their way into such a comprehensive offering?
All-round services: British Gas
In addition to energy-related offers, Bristish Gas places particular emphasis on services: highly product-oriented services (efficient products, maintenance, repairs) and Smart Home offers, including Hive, one of the most popular and interesting offerings in Europe.
British Gas is representative of the incursion of many utilities into the field of services, sometimes far from their historical bases. British Gas’s presentation is very product-oriented: will all consumers know how to link these products to their needs?
All previous energy suppliers have obviously enriched their offer and are exploring new business fields. The following examples are, in addition, making efforts to speak the language of their customers. They refer to their main needs and try to clarify their answer.
A supplier in tune with the times: innogy
Innogy speaks directly to its customers in a younger and less conventional language: it boasts electric vehicles, a real alternative now, the comfort accessible by intelligent control in the housing, the ability to produce its own energy etc …
In short, it promises digital, smart and secure housing and sits halfway between technology and some of its customers’ expectations … a more subtle way to address different profiles of decision makers.
All profiles are not targeted: is it a wish or the sign that Innogy is moving towards a more comprehensive marketing approach?
A provider that targets market values: Group e (Switzerland)
Finally, Groupe e’s site, another very local supplier, offers a perfect example of a supplier aiming to develop a strong local presence and complete support for its customers.
It clearly targets three important market values: heat, comfort and efficiency.
This site combines a certain classicism of the approach that suits a professional image, serious and a professional marketing approach, worked in detail.
These few sites, taken (almost) randomly on the web, show the heterogeneity of offers and communications made to consumers. They show a world of energy in motion, still far from what is necessary to achieve all of its objectives.
And, if you know how to speak to the customer is a decisive asset, it is not enough to win the future battle of energy.
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