Personalized communications are no longer a nice-to-have when engaging with energy utility customers. In fact, 74% of customers feel frustrated when content is not relevant to their interests. For energy utilities, segmentation is critical to better understanding their customers and developing long-term relationships.

In Questline Digital’s webinar, “How to Segment and Personalize Utility Customer Communications,” our expert speakers Jason McGrade with the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) and Tony Todesco and Kristen Calvano with Con Edison shared insights on how they are using segmentation to improve their research and marketing efforts.

Understanding Utility Customers Through Segmentation

Segmentation is a vital component of SECC’s 2022 “Consumer Pulse” report, which focuses on consumer attitudes toward technology and energy. According to McGrade, this was a significant departure from previous reports that focused heavily on the environment. SECC is a nonprofit organization made up of about 150 utility partners working to better serve consumers.

“For this year’s report, we really wanted to look at the attitudes and values of utility customers around technology and engagement with their electric provider,” McGrade says. “We wanted to know where they stand in that customer journey, so we created five new segments focused on technology and electricity attitudes, moving away from an environmental focus.”

SECC commissioned Maru/Matchbox to answer the following questions:

  • What devices do consumers own and do they use them to save electricity?
  • How do they view their electricity provider?
  • What information do they want and how do they want to receive it?
  • Do consumers know what impacts their bill?
  • Do consumers know the impact their behaviors have on the grid?
  • How do these answers vary by consumer segment?

Maru/Matchbox conducted an online survey of 2,500 American households with energy decision-makers (ages 18 and older). The survey utilized Implicit Association Testing (IAT) to better understand what sentiments consumers unconsciously associate with their energy provider. Survey respondents were shown a series of statements and asked to either agree or disagree if it applied to them.

The survey responses created five new customer segments:

  • Simply Sustainable (28%): Customers who are environmentally conscious and open to new technology.
  • Connected Pragmatists (22%): Younger and tech-savvy, but not fully engaged with their energy provider.
  • Green Pioneers (21%): These customers are the sweet spot for utilities. They want to engage with their energy provider to maximize energy savings.
  • Trusting Traditionalists (17%): These customers have a high level of trust in their energy provider, but they are overwhelmed by technology.
  • Comfort Seekers (12%): These customers value comfort and convenience over everything else. They are typically older and middle-income.
Example of a customer segmentation strategy for energy utilities

SECC’s “Consumer Pulse” report provides insights and advice on the best ways for energy providers to reach these segments of unique customers. To increase trust, most consumers are looking for rebates or discounts and reduced outages. Overall, energy providers are viewed as the best source of information for all segments. The majority of consumers would like to see more energy-efficient products and offers from their provider, with email being the preferred channel, McGrade explains.

Key takeaways from SECC’s utility customer segmentation:

  • Green Pioneers are the ideal customer. They should be the target for new energy efficiency programs and offers.
  • The Simply Sustainable segment needs further education on technology, while Connected Pragmatists need to develop a sense of urgency toward energy efficiency to take action.
  • Trusting Traditionalists and Comfort Seekers are the most difficult groups to reach. Efforts should focus more on Trusting Traditionalists due to the high level of trust in their energy provider.

“In terms of the key segmentation, we really want energy utilities to take advantage of these marketing opportunities and better understand who their customers are,” McGrade says. “It’s not just about marketing to everyone in the same way. Utility customers have individual values that will motivate them to either gravitate toward or away from a particular marketing message.”

Uncovering New Utility Customer Segments

Con Edison, which serves 10 million people in New York City and Westchester County, took advantage of segmentation to deliver more relevant marketing communications. The utility has 3.5 million electric customers, 1.1 million gas customers and 1,600 steam customers.

According to Todesco, Con Edison finds great value in survey-based segmentation like SECC’s research. To complement survey findings, Con Edison began layering insights from third-party companies to create data-driven segments specific to their customer base.

The utility partnered with Experian Marketing Services to develop personas that uncovered new customer segments, which helped define the marketing strategy for a variety of programs, including heat pump incentives. “Our residential customer database has been appended with these fields so other departments can leverage this data in their analytic platforms as well,” Todesco says.

For example, Con Edison has an outreach team that frequently hosts events in local neighborhoods, Todesco explains. They now have a dashboard that allows them to look up zip code-level statistics when preparing for outreach events. The team can use data, such as language preference or the number of families in an area, to help fine-tune their approach.

Leveraging Data to Personalize Utility Communications

The customer analysis created personas for customers who own geothermal heat pumps and mini-split heat pumps. Through segmentation, the marketing team discovered that geothermal customers are more likely to own or be in the market for an electric vehicle. While geothermal customers aren’t necessarily innovators in tech adoption, they do have an above-average interest in EVs. With this research, the marketing team discovered a great cross-promotion opportunity between the two technologies.

Example of research conducted by a utility to create customer segments

“In marketing, we’re primarily using this data to analyze key customer segments, like electric vehicle drivers, solar adopters and low-income customers, and use the findings to refine our marketing strategy and act on opportunities,” Todesco says. “This data typically takes the form of personas characterizing specific users of technology. We always learn something new with personas.”

The insights for mini-split customers revealed that their homes are much more modest than geothermal homes. They are also older homes (built in 1942 on average) and don’t have the ductwork common in post-war construction, making mini-splits a great solution for heating and cooling. According to Todesco, the team was surprised to learn that over a quarter of mini-split installations were occurring in rental units. While not as costly as geothermal, it seemed unlikely that renters would take on such an expense.

Example of a customer persona created by a utility to personalize communications
Example of a persona used by a utility to personalize customer communications

“What we found through the data was that renters had lived in their units almost as long as homeowners,” Todesco says. “They are considered ‘settled renters’ who would be more invested in making their space comfortable. Targeting both long-term tenants and their landlords/property managers presented a new opportunity for us.”

Demographically, 44% of mini-split customers are Asian and Mandarin speaking compared to 13% of Con Edison’s overall customer base. They are mainly multigenerational family homes based in Brooklyn and Queens. The main takeaway for Con Edison’s marketing team is that the heat pump communications should be written in Mandarin to connect with this multicultural segment.

Impact of Personas on Marketing Campaigns

Prior to these findings, Con Edison was utilizing its existing email list of 23,000 oil heating customers to promote geothermal technology. According to Calvano, the messages were mainly based on cost savings. They started seeing a decline in readership despite retargeting efforts and creative refreshes.

When the research team conducted the persona data, the marketing team was able to gain new insights into the detailed demographics of the utility’s customers who were geothermal adopters. They used various filters, like home type, mosaic segments, land square footage and home value to create a new list of 13,200 gas customers. The new email campaign consisted of four total sends (to oil and gas customers). The oil customers received a cost savings message, while the new list of gas customers received an environmental benefits message. Both emails surpassed industry benchmarks:

Email to oil heating customers:

  • 1.59% CTR
  • 5.07% CTOR
  • 31.44% Open Rate

Email to gas heating customers:

  • 1.53% CTR
  • 5.84% CTOR
  • 26.27% Open Rate
Example of emails using customer personas to personalize utility communications

Due to the mini-split offering winding down from overperformance, the marketing team didn’t have a chance to utilize the Experian data in 2022. When they first launched the Clean Heating program in 2020, the utility was only targeting single-family homeowners to promote mini-splits. After learning that 26% of mini-split adopters are renters, Con Edison’s marketing team plans to expand targeting to renters once the program relaunches in 2023.

Segmentation is the Key to Personalize Utility Communications

For both SECC and Con Edison, segmentation has been vital to better understanding utility customers. According to McGrade, it’s best to let the data speak for itself and not make any assumptions along the way. As Con Edison’s experience demonstrates, segmentation has the power to create targeted program promotion campaigns that resonate with customers.

Learn how Questline Digital can create a segmentation strategy for your utility to better understand your customers and personalize communications.

Effective email list management is critical to digital marketing success. By building digital relationships with residential and business customers, and growing lists to reach more customers, utilities can achieve marketing goals, increase program participation and boost customer satisfaction.

However, as customers ebb and flow, so does your email list. Addresses become inconsistent or nonexistent as they move or change email platforms. To reach your utility’s customers, it’s vital to focus on how to grow your customer database with email list growth hacks.

It’s also important to avoid the negative consequences of poor list management. These can range from complaints and reduced satisfaction to potential legal implications of “spamming” customers who don’t want to be emailed.

The following email list growth hacks will help your utility boost open rates, reduce opt-out and complaint rates, and improve digital marketing performance by connecting with the right customers.

Email List Size: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Quality over quantity. It’s a well-known phrase, but when it comes to email list growth hacks, it’s easy to think more along the lines of “bigger is better.”

Of course, engaging with more of your customers using relevant content they want to receive is a worthy goal and can result in huge gains in customer satisfaction. But the key here is engagementGrowing a list just for the sake of growth is a big mistake.

Questline Digital has found that without proactive list management, many of our utility partners find up to 80% of their email list has gone inactive and not opened or clicked an email within the past year. Why is that important?

There are several drawbacks to poor email list management:

  • Keeps your messages out of customers’ inboxes. All major ISPs now use subscriber engagement as a primary factor in whether they deliver your messages to the inbox, send it to the junk folder, or block it entirely. Questline Digital monitors something called “inbox placement” to see whether the messages we send for our clients are actually reaching the inbox. We have found that repeatedly sending to subscribers who don’t interact with your emails actually lowers sender reputation scores and the rate at which your mail gets placed in the inbox — even for those customers who have engaged in the past.
  • Skews your metrics (for the worse!). Sending to a large number of inactive subscribers not only lowers deliverability metrics, but it results in lower open rates, click rates and other key performance indicators. It’s hard to get a clear picture of your success with all that dead weight.
  • Damages customer relationships. As much as we’d like them to, not every customer wants to interact with their utility on a regular basis. For some, reliably delivering the energy they need is enough and they just aren’t interested in the information you’re sending. Email can be a very personal thing for some people. Don’t upset them by continuing to send messages they are never going to read.

7 Proven Email List Growth Hacks

To effectively communicate with more of your utility’s customers, take advantage of the following email list growth hacks.

Chart listing seven email list growth hacks

1. Develop opt-in campaigns

Opt-in email campaigns are easy solutions that let customers choose when they hear from your utility. By identifying what customers are interested in, your utility can encourage customers to sign up for emails based on those interests. For example, a customer may be looking to purchase an electric vehicle soon so they would enjoy receiving educational resources from your utility about EVs.

While some customers may choose not to participate, the ones who opt in will be valuable contacts who engage with the content your utility sends them.

Questline Digital recently produced an opt-in campaign for PSEG Long Island. We created banner ads to place on the utility’s website to encourage customers to sign up for its email newsletters. The banner ads led directly to a signup form where customers could specify what communications they were interested in – home, small/medium business or large business. Since its installment in November 2019, this creative campaign has led to 12,885 successful new registrations for PSEG Long Island’s newsletters.

Example of email list growth hacks with signup CTA button

2. Leverage employee touchpoints

For customers who often interact with account managers, like Key Accounts or Commercial & Industrial customers, adding information about opting-in to an email list can be an effective email list growth hack.

The trust that is built between account managers and their customers encourages customers to listen and act when informed about something as simple as signing up for an email list. Ask account managers to encourage their customers to share your utility’s emails with others in their business or industry.

For other employees, such as customer experience associates, add intuitive questions to call center scripts that demonstrate the benefits of receiving emails from your energy utility. After all, one of the best ways to acquire a customer’s email address is to just ask for it. These questions could include:

  • “Would you like to be notified of storm alerts and potential outages in your area?”
  • “What is the best way to reach you via email to share cost-saving energy tips for your home?”

For example, if electric vehicle owners are seeking EV information on your website or via your call center, you can ask them to opt-in to your email to receive program updates.

These questions are especially effective when new or moving customers call to add or change their service and they are open to starting an engaged relationship with their utility.

3. Offer an incentive

Incentives can be the extra push some customers need to sign up for your utility’s email communications. When customers receive something in return after signing up, they’re more likely to do so.

When Elk River was looking to increase subscriptions to its quarterly newsletter, the utility began a promotion for customers to receive a reusable grocery bag and four LED lightbulbs after signing up.

To make the promotion even more interesting, the utility’s Conversation and Key Accounts Manager, Tom Sagstetter, hand-delivered the items to each customer. This promotion increased the utility’s email list size exponentially. Sagstetter delivered more than 300 packages and increased readership by just as many.

Example of incentive used for email list growth hacks
Example of incentives used for email list growth hacks

“The newsletter is a great way to have more regular contact with our customers in a way that’s less formal than, say, their bill,” Sagstetter says. “The promotion we offered not only helped increase newsletter signups, it also helped extend the reach of our conservation message. By delivering the items myself, I was able to talk directly to customers about efficiency and what they were going to get ongoing in the newsletter.”

4. Take advantage of your utility’s website

Customers are likely already visiting your utility’s website to make payments or see past billing statements. Remind customers that you can deliver additional helpful content, like energy education or information about cost-savings programs, directly to their inboxes with this email list growth hack.

Example of email list growth hacks on website

Add simple email signup forms to your website that correspond to the content on each page. For example:

  • On an energy efficiency program page you could suggest, “Enter your email address to receive energy-saving tips and rebates.”
  • The call-to-action on a safety education page might be, “Sign up to get more home safety and energy efficiency advice.”

5. Require an email to access a resource

Consider offering webinars to customers that allow them to learn more about your energy efficiency programs, paperless billing, payment assistance services and more. Or offer consultations for energy-savings education, like an at-home energy assessment.

When providing these resources, require a user to enter their email address to access or sign up for them. Ensure you place an opt-in message so customers know that by signing up, they accept being added to your utility’s email list.

This is not only a great email list growth hack, it’s also a way to find out what topics customers are interested in.

During the height of the pandemic, National Grid and Eversource partnered on webinars to share payment assistance resources for customers. They were produced with closed captioning and broadcast separately in Spanish and Portuguese and included an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. Over 9,770 total customers registered for the webinars — providing numerous new emails for the utilities.

City of Palo Alto provides similar resources to its customers year-round. The utility offers educational resources on topics like solar power technology, alternative water supplies, electric vehicles and more. Each event is promoted on the City of Palo Alto’s website and gathers names and email addresses when customers register.

Example of webinar for email list growth hacks

6. Include a pop-up form on your website

Pop-ups serve as a powerful call-to-action for customers. The important thing to remember with this email list growth hack is to ensure it doesn’t disrupt the customer’s experience on your website. Make the message clear, to the point and easy for them to click out of if they choose not to opt-in to your list.

Typically, pop-ups are displayed when a user intends to leave the website; after a certain percentage of the page has been scrolled through; or after a visitor has been active on the website for 10 seconds. Test which pop-ups work best for your utility to see your email list grow.

Example of popup form for email list growth hacks

The Forbes Agency Council suggests, “Not every visitor needs to be asked to join your mailing list. Try using pop-ups on specific pages or for specific audiences, such as returning visitors who’ve already engaged with your brand but aren’t in your customer relationship management system.”

7. Leverage social media

Your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram followers might be interested in relevant updates delivered via email. When you post on social media sites asking customers if they are interested in receiving updates, make sure you emphasize convenience and interests that appeal to social users.

For example:

  • “Never miss an update. Get the latest energy-saving tips sent straight to your inbox.”
  • “Sign up to learn more about sustainability and renewable energy.”

Set up social media campaigns to advertise your emails either with a sign-up form directly on the post or with a link that directs customers to a sign-up form.

Through social media you can show customers what they can expect from your utility’s emails. You can do this by using video or imagery that shows content they might receive.

Example of email list growth hacks with social post

“Social media is a really powerful tool for utilities,” says Alexandra Greenberg, Questline Digitals’ Content Strategist. “It offers a direct way to reach customers and share helpful tips or interesting energy facts to keep them engaged. But it’s also a great way for utilities to promote their services and offerings. People really pay attention to social media, and that makes it an essential platform for utilities to communicate with customers.”

Email List Growth Hacks to Avoid

Not all methods of growing an email list are acceptable — either technically or ethically. When planning an email list growth hacks strategy, avoid the following approaches:

  • Buying email lists: When your primary goal is to grow your list as quickly as possible, there’s a good chance you aren’t doing it organically. Buying lists, data mining from other departments or similar tactics can be counterproductive to your overall business goals.

While it may technically be the fastest way to achieve an increased email list, it’s also the number-one mistake marketers could make. There is no way to ensure the purchased emails are legitimate or users who would be interested in your utility’s content. Make sure you keep the business goal in mind. Doubling your list has no effect on the end business goal if it results in a 50% reduction in inbox placement.

  • Adding email addresses without permission: Your utility should only send emails to customers who have expressed direct permission to receive them. Otherwise, adding emails without permission will make not only your customers upset, but it could land your utility in legal trouble as well.
  • Asking for too much information: If customers are interested in signing up for your utility’s emails, don’t make them jump through hoops to do so. Ask them for their general contact information, like their name, email address and phone number. Asking too much personal information can come off as spammy and push the customer to distrust your utility.
  • Offering an incentive that’s not valuable: As mentioned above, offering an incentive is an effective email list growth hack to encourage customers to sign up for your emails. However, ensure you are offering an incentive that is of value to customers, such as Elk River’s LED lightbulbs promotion. Don’t try to offer a rebate that expires tomorrow or a deal that can only be used if you go through X, Y and Z steps.
  • Sending too many emails: Congratulations — you’ve grown your email list. Now, ensure your email marketing strategy is consistent and that customers know what to expect. Sending multiple emails in one week could frustrate customers and encourage them to unsubscribe from your utility’s list, which would be counterintuitive to your progress.

Follow Opt-Out Rules and Opt-In Best Practices

Marketers often wrongly assume that bigger is always better when it comes to customer email lists. While you want to reach as many customers as you can to maximize the impact of your message, that effort is only effective if you email engaged customers who want to hear from your utility.

Adding unengaged customers to your list, on the other hand, could have a negative impact on email performance.

  • Open rates and click-through rates will decline when unengaged customers ignore or delete your messages. That makes it harder to analyze metrics and optimize the campaign for customers who do want to receive it.
  • Unengaged customers may unsubscribe from your list, allow your message to languish in junk folders, or mark it as “spam.” This will not only impact your deliverability metrics, it could affect your reputation with email service providers — threatening your ability to deliver future email to engaged customers.

The way you manage customer info on your email list is not just governed by common sense and courtesy, it’s regulated by federal law.

The CAN-SPAM act, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, gives consumers the right to have you stop emailing them — with potential penalties of more than $40,000 for each email in violation. While that could be expensive, the longer-term cost would be the loss of customer satisfaction from repeatedly emailing people who don’t want to hear from you — and ignoring them when they ask you to stop.

Follow these best practices to properly add and remove customers from your email list:

  • Ask customers to opt-in to your lists and use active opt-in methods (avoid passive or automatic opt-in tactics such as a pre-checked opt-in box). You want customers to choose to receive messages from you.
  • Make it clear to customers what they are signing up for. Allow separate opt-ins and opt-outs for different lists and explain the purpose and cadence of each one.
  • While customers may opt-out of receiving certain types of messages, you must also include an option that allows them to stop all messages from you.
  • Make signup easy and unsubscribing easier. Every email message must include a conspicuous explanation of how to opt-out that is easy for an ordinary person to recognize and understand.

Connecting with the Right Customers

Your email marketing strategy will not be successful by reaching the most customers, it will succeed by reaching the right customers. With these email list growth hacks to acquire new contacts, grow and maintain email lists, you can reduce complaints from unengaged customers while nurturing long-term relationships with engaged customers.

The email list growth hacks above are some tried-and-true methods to increase list size, but don’t be afraid to test different ways of reaching customers. With the right strategy, your utility can see significant growth in your email list and improve open and click rates.

Learn how an engagement strategy from Questline Digital can grow your utility’s email lists and build stronger connections with customers.

Relevant communication isn’t just a preference for consumers — it’s an expectation. Your customers want to see messages that speak to their needs and interests, and they don’t want to be bothered with messages that don’t.

For energy utilities, relevant communications are best achieved by employing customer segmentation. This tactic remains the best way to cut through digital clutter and deliver content that matters to each customer.

What is Utility Customer Segmentation?

At its core, segmentation is a marketing strategy used to identify and connect with target customers. It is a way to organize your customers into approachable groups, or segments, and deliver relevant messages based on the interests or needs shared by members of each segment.

Customer segmentation is not to be confused with personalization. Whereas segmentation sends different messages to specified groups, personalization sends a unique message to each individual customer.

Example of criteria used to create customer segments for energy utilities

A segment can be defined as a group of customers that share identifiable characteristics that are unique from other customers. Such characteristics include:

  • Demographics: This includes characteristics such as age or income. Demographic data may be obtained from energy utility customer records or third-party databases.
  • Geography: Service territory, zip code or neighborhood. This is vital for outage and low-income communications.
  • Psychographics: What do your customers care about and what are they motivated by? When building preference centers or surveying interests, you can identify who is most likely to engage with specific topics. Some interests you might target include EV ownership, environmental concern or early adoption of new technologies.
  • Behaviors: Actions taken or not taken by customers. This includes program participation, purchases (electric vehicles, appliances), high energy use and content engagement or reading behavior.
  • Industry: Hospitals, schools, manufacturers, retailers and data centers all use energy differently. The programs, services and content promoted to business customers should shift based on their specific industry needs.

The Benefits of Customer Segmentation

According to Hubspot, the benefits of customer segmentation can be substantial — marketers who use segmented campaigns can see as much as a 760% increase in revenue.

Specific benefits of customer segmentation for energy utilities include:

  • Boost in engagement and performance: By targeting groups of customers rather than your entire list, products and services immediately become more relevant. This in turn increases customer engagement with your utility’s content and promotions. People are more likely to engage with communications that meet their needs and ignore those that don’t.
  • Better understanding of your customers: By evaluating customer behavior and pursuing segmentation, your utility will gain an understanding of what topics your customers care about. With this knowledge, you can better build future promotions to speak directly to their needs.
  • Increased loyalty: When customers feel understood and uniquely communicated with, they are more likely to be loyal to your utility and recommend its services or promotions to others.

Tips for Creating Utility Customer Segments

“You can’t create one ad or commercial that appeals to everybody, because different groups of buyers have different needs,” explains Robert Bly in his classic marketing book, The Copywriter’s Handbook. “Tailor both the content and the presentation of your information to the group of customers you’re selling to.”

Not sure where to start? Follow some of the utility customer segmentation tips below:

  • Start early. Customer onboarding is an ideal time to begin segmentation. Put your early customer touchpoints to work and gather data that can be used for future grouping. What actions do customers take, and not take, in your welcome emails? Use this information to build segments such as:
    • Mobile-friendly or tech-savvy: those who sign up for mobile alerts and payments
    • Hard to reach: those who take no action or make no indication of preferences
    • Digitally engaged: those who sign up for eNewsletters
  • Start small. You can ease into segmentation by looking at one journey or one demographic group. For example, you may want to promote mobile payments to customers younger than 40, instead of getting bogged down creating mobile payment promotions for all customers. Start with the “low hanging fruit” to make a big impact right away. Then expand.
  • Use internal and external data. While it’s important to use your own data — like what content customers click on, previous program participation or self-identified preferences — your utility doesn’t need to solely rely on this type of information.You can expand your segments with third-party data, such as credit information or vehicle ownership.
  • Segment only when relevant. Some messages don’t need to be segmented; your utility may be better served by sending the communication to the entire customer list. Or for that matter, two or three segments are often just as effective as six or eight segments. Don’t segment for segmentation’s sake.

Utility Customer Segmentation Examples

Example of customer interested used to create segmentation strategy for energy utility

The following examples of utility customer segmentation show how messaging strategies can address specific audiences to increase engagement and conversions:

  • Marketplace promotions: Specific products can be promoted to segments based on content engagement. If a customer reads your newsletter article about smart thermostats, send them an offer to buy the latest model on your marketplace. If a customer watches your videos about electric vehicles, add them to a segment that might be interested in EV smart chargers.
  • Small vs. large business: Residential and business customers have obvious differences. But so do large and small business owners. Communicate relevant messages according to employee count or facility size to increase engagement.
  • Homeowners vs. renters: Energy efficiency messaging and other program promotions can be targeted based on a customer’s ability to undertake home improvements. Renters may be interested in LED lightbulbs and smart power strips, but they probably aren’t going to buy a new furnace or upgrade their insulation; save those messages for homeowners.
  • Environmental vs. money-saving motivations: People with varying concerns respond to efficiency messages differently, even when the end result (reduced energy use) is the same. One segment of customers might be interested in paperless billing and appliance recycling because they want to save money, another segment might be more interested in reducing their carbon footprint.
  • Income-based messaging: Low-income program messages can be targeted to households that meet eligibility requirements or triggered by behavioral factors such as high bills or late payments.

Reach the Right Customers with Utility Customer Segmentation

Utility customer segmentation has the means to improve customer engagement, increase satisfaction, drive program results and boost conversions all by delivering relevant information to target audiences. The benefits of customer segmentation are clear.

Luckily, segmentation doesn’t have to be hard. By identifying customer needs, interests and motivations, your energy utility can send targeted communications that resonate with particular audiences.

Improve engagement and satisfaction with a utility customer segmentation strategy from Questline Digital.

Looking to improve digital customer engagement? Behavioral emails could be your answer.

With 75% of emails going unopened on average, your energy utility must work to send customers the emails they want to read. Behavioral sends give customers what they want when they want it.

What Is a Behavioral Email?

Behavioral emails are automated or planned email sends that are triggered by actions taken or not taken by a customer. Instead of interruption or push marketing where brands put messages in front of consumers who may or may not be interested, behavioral targeting builds on pre-determined actions and demonstrated customer interests. This gives customers exactly what they want or need.

Is Behavioral Marketing the Same as Segmentation?

Segmentation refers to building marketing campaigns for specific audiences so you can speak to their unique needs and interests. Segmentation is often done with demographic data or personas. Not all segmentation efforts are classified as behavioral, but all behavioral emails can be considered segmented. Behavioral segmentation is the sorting of people into groups based on actions they take or don’t take.

Why Should You Use Behavioral Emails?

Targeted, personalized messages have the power to transform your energy utility into a trusted partner and resource. Setting up behavior-based email campaigns can help you reach customers when they are ready to engage with you or need your help most.

Data from MailChimp shows that on average, segmented campaigns result in 23% higher open rates and 49% higher click-through rates than unsegmented campaigns.

Questline Digital’s Benchmarks data supports MailChimp’s findings, showing that when energy utilities segment eNewsletters for small businesses they see a vast improvement in customer engagement. Year over year, utilities saw:

  • 11.2% more opens
  • 45.8% improvement in click-to-open rates (CTOR)
  • 62.1% improvement in click-through rates (CTR)

As explained above, behavioral emails take segmentation even further, speaking not only to specific needs and interests, but providing that information exactly when customers need it. Essentially, the right message at the right time.

This is why behavioral emails perform better than promotional marketing emails. According to the Direct Marketing Association, over 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered emails.

Triggers for Behavioral Emails

Actions taken within marketing campaigns are the best triggers for behavioral emails. While actions like signing up for service or making a purchase can trigger automated email sends that are by definition considered behavioral, the largest impact can be made when sending follow-up emails based on clicks or opens.

Triggers for behavioral sends:

  • Open, no click
  • Click but didn’t convert
  • Didn’t open

You can set up automated workflows that follow if/then logic based on the listed actions above. Or if you’re unable to build sophisticated systems, use behavioral lists. Simply remove those contacts that don’t fit the chosen criteria and send targeted follow-up communications.

7 Behavioral Email Examples for Energy Utilities

Energy utilities can take advantage of triggered emails in a variety of ways. Here are seven behavioral email examples to help inspire your customer communications:

1. Welcome series

The most common type of behavioral email is the onboarding message. The action of signing up for service naturally prompts the need for communication. A series of welcome emails establishes a flow of information, helping customers make the most of their new account right away. This can be automated to launch immediately when people sign up for service or be sent every week to new contacts, depending on your email capabilities.

2. Program enrollment

When promoting program or paperless billing enrollment, you can use behavioral emails to further prompt customers who don’t act. If a customer clicks into your paperless billing email but doesn’t enroll, you can send a behavioral email with a different subject line, CTA or hero image. They showed interest but may need different information to take action.

Similarly, if your campaign features a time-sensitive sweepstakes or promotion, a behavioral follow-up with “don’t miss out” or “limited time only” messaging can motivate customers who previously haven’t responded to finally act. 

3. Utility marketplace

Many energy utilities are now utilizing abandoned cart emails that are popular in the retail industry. These emails are automatically triggered when a customer leaves an energy utility’s marketplace without completing a purchase. Abandoned cart emails can tout the benefits of the product not yet purchased or include a modest coupon code to further entice customers to complete their purchase.

Another idea is sending a product recommendation email after a customer makes a purchase to encourage them to shop again. When you know what customers have already purchased, you can predict what they will buy or need next and make helpful recommendations. This is a tactic that Amazon uses, with 35% of its sales directly attributed to making product suggestions based on past behaviors.

Your energy utility can also benefit from following up with useful tips on how to make the most of a recent purchase. A triggered content email that explains how to use a smart thermostat after one is purchased from your marketplace can go a long way in helping customers enjoy their new product.

4. Activity reports

You likely already have this type of behavioral email in place. Each month you may send customers payment confirmation emails or energy usage summary reports. Both are considered behavior sends because they are triggered by actions taken by the customer.

5. Web views

With proper tracking and systems in place, you can see when customers view specific pages or products on your website. If you find that a customer is viewing multiple pieces of content related to renewable energy, you can build an automated email or email series that is triggered to send after a specific number of views. This allows you to automatically send them communications that answer common questions about the topics they are researching.

6. Engagement

Take action on customers who don’t regularly open emails. For example, if a customer doesn’t open their eNewsletter for six months, you can set up an automated re-engagement campaign to encourage them to update their email preferences and subscriptions.

7. Service

When you complete a customer service call, send an automated email that asks for customer feedback. Get feedback in real-time when memories are fresh so you can take appropriate action and keep customers happy. Not to mention, capture the positive service wins of your employees.

7 More Behavioral Email Examples

Triggered emails are used by marketers in all industries, but retailers and ecommerce brands tend to lead the pack. Check out the behavioral email examples below.

1. Abercrombie & Fitch

After a customer viewed loungewear on the Abercrombie & Fitch site, but took no action, the retailer sent a behavioral follow-up that encouraged the shopper to “take another peak.”

Example of behavioral email sent by Abercrombie

2. Section 119

Or this example from Section 119. The retailer followed up on a web visit with the simple question, “Where’d you go?” and offered up related products to encourage more sales, adding a sense of urgency around merchandise availability.

Example of behavioral email sent by Sec 119

3. Utility customer satisfaction survey

Getting customer feedback is essential. But when sending J.D. Power survey requests, it’s unrealistic to expect one email to garner maximum participation. To increase the likelihood of getting feedback Questline Digital helped one of our clients to set up reminder emails to send to customers who didn’t open or click previous messages.

Behavioral email example of utility sending customer satisfaction survey

4. Questline Digital

Here is a behavioral email example that Questline Digital uses in our own email marketing efforts. When a recipient opens an email about our upcoming webinar but doesn’t register, we trigger another email to send a few days later, encouraging them to finish signing up.

Behavioral email example of Questline webinar promotion

5. Homage

Post-purchase follow-up is a common use for triggered emails. Check this behavioral email example from Homage. After a customer purchased a gift card, they emailed to see how the experience went. They also made suggestions for future purchases and invited the customer to join them on social media.

Example of behavioral email from Homage clothing retailer

6. Amazon

Here’s an incredibly simple behavioral email example from Amazon. Users with a wedding registry receive a promo code one week after their wedding date. Fully automated, this email prompts additional sales at the exact moment the newly married couple has extra cash in hand from wedding gifts.

Example of behavioral email from Amazon wedding registry

7. Grist

Welcome emails classify as behavioral sends. Post signing up for an eNewsletter with Grist, subscribers receive the following email with information on what to expect next and how to update their preferences.

Behavioral email example from Grist magazine

Getting Started with Behavioral Emails

Could your energy utility’s program promotions benefit from the addition of behavioral emails? If you’re not doing them already, the answer is yes. Building automated email sends and/or setting up manual workflows based on customer actions is one of the best ways to boost email engagement and program participation.

Learn how Questline Digital can elevate your digital customer relationships with behavioral email marketing.

Studies show that 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But you can’t improve your utility’s customer experience if you don’t understand it from your customers’ perspective. That’s where customer journey mapping comes in.

Journey mapping is critical for understanding and solving customer pain points. This becomes even more important as customer experiences shift with changing technologies and preferences. Customer journey mapping lays the groundwork for greater engagement and sets your utility up for success and long-term customer satisfaction.

To better uncover and solve customer pain points, your energy utility can benefit from using the right customer journey mapping software. Consider the following tips and tools to assess and improve the customer experience at your energy utility.

What is Customer Journey Mapping?

Customer journey maps are visual workflows that outline the step-by-step experience a customer has with your brand, service or product. The workflow typically includes steps from both the customer’s and company’s point of view, but focuses on the cumulative experiences across multiple touchpoints and channels over time.

Customer journey map examples provide clearly defined start and stop points for the experience you want to highlight, inclusive of customers’ actions, emotions and behaviors.

Companies that do not incorporate experience mapping risk facing an array of negative consequences. According to McKinsey, failing to appreciate customer journey mapping can include consequences like:

  • Customer defection
  • Dramatically higher call volumes
  • Lost sales
  • Lower employee morale

In contrast, there are many benefits to customer journey mapping, including:

  • Strategize and plan for utility resources
  • Identify and solve for customer pain points
  • Improve overall customer satisfaction
  • Enhance sales and retention
  • Reduce end-to-end service cost
  • Identify operational inefficiencies within the utility
  • Strengthen employee satisfaction

Delivering an exceptional customer journey experience makes it more likely that customers repeat a purchase, spend more, make a recommendation to their friends and stay updated with your utility.

Chart showing the impact customer journey mapping has on customer satisfaction

“Almost 90% of those using customer journey mapping said their program is delivering a positive impact, the most common one being an increase in customer satisfaction,” according to Mike Weir, Chief Revenue Office at G2. “Lower churn, fewer customer complaints, and higher NPS [net promoter scores] were also among the top impacts.”

How Do You Create a Customer Journey Map?

Follow these steps when preparing to develop a journey map:

  • Identify the experiences you want to analyze
  • Identify the users in the experience
  • Cluster your users into distinct groups
  • Interview users from your groups to get direct input
  • Map out the steps, including actions, mediums, emotions and behaviors

It helps to start with your goals and ask yourself, “Whose journey am I mapping?” From there, you can create a customer persona and capture the highlights of the journey in easy-to-understand stages. Remember, you want to make the customer journey map actionable.

Customer Journey Mapping Software and Tools

There are so many utility customer journey mapping tools available that it can be overwhelming to choose which one to use. We’ve compiled a list of some of the top platforms to make it easy for you to decide.

“When choosing a software, it depends on how robust you want the journey map to be, and then how visually appealing you want it,” says Zach Hardison, Questline Digital’s Vice President of Solutions Innovation. “Make sure the software meets your needs and accomplishes your journey mapping goals. And don’t overcomplicate it — sometimes simple is better if creates an easy-to-understand and actionable process. Every customer experience is different — choose a software that fits with the experience that you’re mapping out.”

When choosing customer journey map software, consider:

  • Easy design functionality
  • Quick and simple editing
  • Sharing capabilities
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Integration with data

Five Tools to Create Your Customer Journey Map

1. Mural: A whiteboard tool with pre-built templates, capabilities for real-time collaboration and easy-to-use models for common cases and proven methods.

  • Price: Various subscriber options ranging from free to $18 per user per month depending on your needs.
Customer journey map example from Mural software

2. LucidChart: Simple cut-and-paste capabilities that allow teams to clarify complicated processes. This software is used by many Fortune 100 companies, including HP and NBC.

  • Price: Plans ranging from free to $13.50 per user per month.
Customer journey map example from Lucid Chart software

3. Microsoft Visio: Another simplified shapes tool, this flowchart and diagramming software provides premade templates, starter diagrams and stencils. It also allows for real-time collaboration and features integration with Microsoft for easy sharing.

  • Price: Free trial version, with paid options ranging from $5 to $15 per user per month.
Customer journey map example from Microsoft Visio software

4. InDesign: Adobe is well known for its robust suite of design tools. There is a learning curve if you’ve never used Adobe products before, but the capabilities allow you to create beautiful designs.

  • Price: $34 per user per month, or $80 per month for all of Adobe Creative Cloud apps.
Customer journey map example from Adobe InDesign software

5. SuiteCX: A good mix of features and design elements for those who are seeking robust capabilities without a steep learning curve. It also provides a built-in journey mapping analytics platform to track your progress.

  • Price: Based on company size, ranging from $2,000 per month to $20,000 annually.
Customer journey map example from SuiteCX software

Integrate Customer Journey Mapping into Your Strategy

Customer journey mapping is a process that gives your utility the opportunity to create better, more seamless customer experiences that boost engagement and satisfaction. Take advantage of our insights into customer journey map software to build the foundation for a successful journey mapping process.

Remember: No process is perfect. It’s important to keep this in mind and take a step back before jumping into journey mapping. Your goal is to create the best experience you can, considering that as technology and customer preferences shift, the processes will continuously evolve.

As Annette Franz, CEO of CX Journey said, “Journey mapping is a creative process that allows you to understand — and then redesign — the customer experience. The output is not just a ‘pretty picture;’ once the map is developed, it is meant to be a catalyst for change.”

Learn how Questline Digital can help your utility kick off a customer journey mapping strategy to build engagement and customer satisfaction.