How to Motivate the E.E. Customer: Financial vs. Non-Financial Benefits

Posted by Energy Wire on January 29, 2015 at 10:45 AM

When we look at the top trends impacting energy efficiency marketing, the conversation around the customer benefits and motivation always rise to the top. The message for so long has been “Lower your energy bill” or “Save energy, save money.”

But the conversation is starting to shift. We’re now hearing more and more that the “non-energy side of energy” is where the real motivation lies. 

And this makes sense. Customers are not thinking about “energy.” (In fact, Accenture reports that people spend, on average, only nine minutes a year interacting with their utility.) Customers are too busy balancing all the ways they use energy to think about their consumption of energy.

We need to engage customers with a message that resonates. We need to focus on the benefits of energy efficiency that customers actually care about.

Eighty-eight percent of participants in our consumer research stated that the non-financial benefits of energy efficiency would motivate them to make improvements and/or upgrades to their homes. (88%!!)

Interestingly, we also heard that most participants are not even aware of non-financial benefits like increased comfort, reliability, control, safety, air quality and health.

UCLA has also published a study showing people who regularly received communications on how much money they could save made virtually no change. While customers who received messages focused on environmental benefits caused them to cut their energy use by 8%. (And 19% in households with children living in the home!)

At the recent BECC conference, we listened to George Loewenstein discuss the emotional state of the industry (or lack thereof); he talked about how emotions reprogram us fundamentally, and that real changes are only made through emotional reactions. So, why is the industry largely talking to customers in an unemotional way?

As E.E. marketers, we believe in a balanced conversation. We need to hook customers with the emotional drivers (those non-financial benefits) and support them with rational arguments.

Rational arguments include financial incentives and manageable costs. But we have to be careful here…

Where does the promise of a lower bill stand when rates are inevitably going up? When a customer invests in energy efficiency and her bill goes up six months later regardless, you’ve got a customer who was sold a bill of goods that was never delivered. Sure, you can say… “But your bill would be even higher had you not undergone the E.E. upgrades” but you sold them a lower bill, not a lower baseline.

Ninety-two percent of participants in our consumer research also stated that the lack of an energy and cost reduction guarantee as one of their top three barriers to participation. When making a rational argument, we have to provide something quantifiable. A blanket statement of “save on your bill” is not enough. On average, how much can they save? How long will it take? What is the payback timeline?

Motivating customers in a low-interest category is hard. But, how did car insurance companies do it? We’re not suggesting you put a camel in your next ad, but we are suggesting this:

#1 - Get the attention of your customers through the emotional, personal benefits of energy efficiency. Focus on the things that they actually care about.

#2 - Support with rational arguments like financial incentives and manageable costs that they can trust. Guarantee these benefits so customers know they can trust it.

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NEW E.E. CONSUMER RESEARCH

In February, we will be releasing our newest research on the American homeowner. After surveying 1300 participants, we've gained valuable insight into the consumer relationship with energy efficiency, consumption, conservation practices, smart technology and their outlook on the future. In addition, we're uncovering the most effective and trusted channels to engage with people on these issues.

Get in touch with Lauren Bell for more information on the full research report.

Lauren Bell / Engagement Manager / lbell@ksvc.com / 802.862.8261

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