Utilities target behavioral groups to help sell DR, efficiency

November 9, 2020

Utilities are segmenting consumers into behavioral groups to market DR, energy efficiency, pricing and green programs related to smart grid and restructured power markets, experts at a recent Demand Response Coordinating Committee (DRCC) webinar on consumer engagement said.  The benefits of doing so are immense as utilities seek to get back into the business of knowing their consumers, event participants stressed.

“Utilities thought they got out of marketing 10-15 years ago,” EcoAlign President Jamie Wimberley said.  But targets for meeting state renewable, clean energy, efficiency and cost targets have driven utilities back into the business.

“You have to make people aware of your offerings … and make sure they stick to the program,” Wimberley added.

DTE Energy has taken data from the scores of pilots it is running to target segments of consumers in its marketing, said Trevor Lauer, VP, marketing and renewables for DTE Energy.

BC Hydro has found great success in segmentation – categorizing customers based on traits for a given issue or program – by using focus groups, said Linda Dethman, principal at the Cadmus Group, who has worked with the Canadian utility.

“It was like a therapy session,” she said of the focus groups.  A percentage of customers at first detailed how interested they were in various programs but some then later confessed their best intentions did not make them change the way they used power.

BC Hydro has collected the data from consumers to such an extent that people who fall into its “true believer” segment now act as energy ambassadors, hosting energy cafés with other customers to discuss the best ways to use energy.  “BC Hydro has had success in these personal relationships,” Dethman said.

People taking part in new energy programs, mainly keyed to smart grid DR offerings, can be divided into distinct motivational types, Wimberley said.  His firm's research shows 41% of consumers act on new energy programs for cost reasons, 20% are value buyers, 19% are environmentalists, or “greens,” 10% are traditional consumers and 10% are technology enthusiasts.

Cost-conscious consumers are mostly men and value-driven ones mostly women, Wimberley said.

IBM and Accenture have other ways of describing consumer segments.

IBM's utility consumer survey classified 31% as passive ratepayers, 26% energy epicures (not interested in conservation and with no real budget concerns), 22% frugal goal seekers and 21% energy stalwarts (having specific goals from their use of energy).

Accenture had more segments: skepticals (21%), pragmatics (21%), cost-conscious (17%), pro-active (16%), indifferents (13%) and eco-rationals (12%).

No matter how segmented, a utility will end up with a lot of similarities when describing customers when matched with other utilities or industry players, Dethman said, adding that ultimately there will be unique characteristics from their research,.

“In the Northwest [of the US], five or six utilities have gone together on segmentation,” finding consumers can be placed into the same segments, but the sizes in each segment differ, she said.

Residential consumers care most about the value they are getting out of a power management option.  C&I consumers see it as a cost issue, but the individual will go as far as paying more for being in a green power program even if they are segmented in the frugal category, Wimberley said.

© 2010 Modern Markets Intelligence Inc..  IMPORTANT: This article was reproduced from the November 9, 2020 issue of Smart Grid Today with the limited permission of the owner.  To view the full story on Smart Grid Today’s website, please visithttp://www.smartgridtoday.com/public/Utilities_target_behavioral_groups_ltbrgtto_help_sell_DR_efficiency.cfm?sd=31

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