Navigant Research Blog

Utilities, Want to Engage Your Customers? There’s an App for That

Paige Leuschner — June 15, 2016

Computer and TabletIn today’s world, there is an app for everything, and the energy industry is no exception. Though the market for energy apps is still in its early stages as utilities and energy-focused vendors of hardware and services mine data from devices like smart meters, smart thermostats, and connected appliances, the number of available apps is growing, and customers now expect them to be readily available. According to a 2014 study conducted by Accenture on digital customer engagement, as energy consumers become increasingly connected through social and mobile channels, they will expect energy providers to be on par with the experience delivered by other service providers.

However, this is not so easy for utilities to do themselves, as the organizational structure of utilities can be siloed and funding for these types of initiatives can be hard to obtain. To answer this call, platform providers in the energy space have begun to shift their solutions to include more mobile-friendly offerings. For example, on June 13, Tendril announced the release of Tendril MyHome, a mobile app targeted at utilities that want to offer their customers a mobile experience. Duke Energy, which has worked with Tendril to execute one of the “world’s largest and most successful behavioral energy efficiency programs,” will be the first utility to offer the Tendril MyHome application to its customers. Tendril will join a list of other vendors in this space also offering a mobile experience for utility customers, including Opower, Bidgely, and C3 IoT, to name a few.

Meeting Consumer Needs

While it is increasingly important for utilities to offer mobile apps, the most important thing for players in this space to remember when engaging customers through apps is that the experience must meet the consumers’ needs. It is not enough to simply offer consumers an app; it has to be a worthwhile offering. According to Nielsen, in the United States, consumers spend more than 30 hours a month using phone apps and use 27 different apps each month on average. This means that energy apps have a lot to compete with, especially in an age where 75% of app users across all industries churn within 90 days. With so many apps for so many different applications, an energy app that isn’t worthwhile to its users will get lost in the mix.

In Navigant Research’s 2015 Energy Apps for Residential Customers research brief, best practices for mobile apps targeted toward utility customers are discussed. These include ensuring the app adds value and provides clear and attainable benefits to consumers, operates consistently across different channels, can adapt to new applications and technologies that will develop over time, and must provide customers with security and privacy, among others. Following these best practices can lead to successful utility customer engagement through these ever-popular mobile applications.

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