This is the time of year we get to reflect on the accomplishments and challenges of the prior 12 months and use these lessons in our planning to make the next year even better. At KSV, our goal every day and every year for the entire team is to focus on getting better, getting smarter, providing more to our clients, and, through our efforts, helping to make the world a better place for everyone.
As we look forward to 2019, I wanted to point out a few significant occurrences and trends that stood out to us in 2018:
- This year saw the release of the U.N. Climate Report and the recent U.S. Climate Report, both of which are anticipating the timing of climate impact getting shorter and declaring the need for action more urgent than ever. While both reports are steeped in negativity and doom, we also found immense positivity in the way so many states, cities, companies and local leaders have embraced making changes even without federal guidance. The initiatives pushed forward at the local level are where we feel significant progress will occur in the fight against climate change.
- The cost-effectiveness of traditional energy efficiency programs continues to evolve, and customers have growing interest in energy-saving products. While products like Nest thermostats, Alexa and Google Home aren’t necessarily focused on energy savings, their popularity represents a great opportunity for all of us in the industry to leverage consumer excitement about technology to impact consumers’ energy-related behavior. We feel there will be an even greater increase in emphasis on utility marketplaces as energy companies explore the innovative types of added value that the “utility of the future” will be able to provide to its customers.
- This one will come as a shock to no one, but is still worth mentioning: a lot of momentum continues to build around electric vehicles (EVs). EV sales have hit record levels, infrastructure continues to grow (thanks in large part to the VW emissions settlement) and electrified transportation is a key part of all climate plans. While much of the excitement has concerned compact personal vehicles, we also saw a lot of advances in commercial growth: light-duty fleets, school buses and tractor-trailers, all of which have much greater impact potential than individual consumers adopting personal vehicles one at a time. Going forward, we feel that utilities and energy companies will have to commit 100 percent to carving out their role in the evolution of transportation to really advance mainstream adoption of electrified transportation.
With 2018 still looming large in our minds, for KSV, 2019 will be a year in which we continue to build on our proactive, innovative approaches to customer learning and problem solving. Here’s what is at the top of our list:
- More KSV research: As energy companies change their strategies and business models, and new technology surfaces, we want to ensure that we are hearing directly from customers about how best to support these changes and connect customers with our clients’ brands. There is no substitute for asking customers directly for their opinions, which are always evolving as perspectives shift, technology becomes omnipresent and time gets shorter and shorter in its supply.
- Data, revenue and business goals: Although customer satisfaction and brand familiarity have been critical for the past few years, the goals of utility and product companies alike will shift toward revenue, customer retention and product penetration. These metrics may be representative of familiarity and satisfaction, but increased emphasis on cost-effective marketing means that there will be a greater need for utilizing all data sources (particularly first-party data sources) and robust analytical tools, to make sure every marketing and communication effort is targeted and cost-efficient.
- Shift in utility communications: Utilities are still monopolistic enterprises in most states, but there is a dire sense of competition from renewables, retail providers, product companies and regulators that is already impacting the traditional utility business model. In order for the utility business model to evolve, utilities need to treat their customer’s journey as a continuous relationship, rather than a one-way funnel, or they risk losing the customer. As we consistently zero in on what exactly is the “utility of the future,” one thing we keep landing on is the idea that utilities need customers to value them and rely on them for more than just electricity. Similarly, we think that utilities and energy companies need to shift their thinking on HOW they communicate to current and potential customers. A focus on engaging through relevant social media platforms will be a consistent part of our channel recommendation for clients in 2019.
- Technology: Ashley Nicholls, our Executive Director of Marketing Innovation, recently shared some of our marketing technology focuses for 2019. We are committed to closely monitoring both marketing and energy technology to make sure our clients benefit from the most cutting-edge strategies and products to help them achieve revenue goals. In addition to the innovations Ashley focuses on, battery storage, smart(er) meters and variable pricing will be part of the conversations.
As many of you already know, we are a group of passionate energy marketing professionals, and we truly enjoy getting to share our thoughts and insights with you every week. After more than 40 years in this industry, we are looking forward to another year of innovation and change, and continuing our tireless work for our clients.
If you would like to talk about working with us to help you realize success in 2019, please reach out!
Mary Stewart is KSV's Managing Director. She has been a senior executive in the energy industry for three decades, and she will take you down in a game of hoops.