A new report, “Consumer Platform of the Future: Industry Insider Perspectives,” looks at the current state of these digital platforms, which include online marketplaces, and data tools for tracking energy usage. Co-authored by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) and the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), the report also covers future trends that industry experts see in this area and the key components that will make these solutions successful.
“Our consumer surveying on digital platforms has indicated that about half of all U.S. consumers are interested in using a platform for energy management,” said Patty Durand, President and CEO, SECC. “This new white paper provides detailed information, sourced from a wide range of industry experts, that electricity providers can use to successfully roll out a platform of their own that effectively meets these consumers’ needs and wants.”
Based on 16 interviews with energy industry leaders – including electricity providers, technology vendors and consumer advocates – the new report aims to share knowledge and lessons learned with other industry leaders as they plan and implement their own consumer platforms.
Platform vs. portal
The report clearly defines the difference between a consumer platform and a customer portal, explaining how these distinct but interrelated tools are commonly structured, and details how two utilities are using them to more actively engage customers in their energy use.
“The message here is clear: utilities have to go where their customers are – which, increasingly, is online,” said Sharon Thomas, the SEPA Research Analyst who was lead author on the report. “They’ve got intense competition, from Amazon, down to the local restaurant that lets you order online. It’s no surprise that the energy industry leaders we interviewed for this report identified quick and easy access to information as the No. 1 must-have for utilities’ digital platforms for their residential customers.”
Interviewees also share their perspectives on the key features that make a digital customer engagement tool successful. In addition to easy access to information, other must-haves include clear and easy-to-understand information on options and recommendations, and better control of home energy use.
The report identifies some of the challenges utilities and solution providers face with wider adoption of digital tools for customer engagement and proposes solutions and recommendations for each. The most pressing concerns here include working within existing regulatory rules and figuring out the most compelling interests for a range of consumers.