Illustration of marketing paperless billing to utility customers

Webinar: Helping Utility Customers Switch to Paperless Billing

In Questline’s Plugged In webinar, “How to Market Paperless Billing to Customers,” Senior Copywriter Breanne George and Creative Director Joe Pifher shared their insights and advice for creating successful promotions that encourage customers to switch to paperless billing.

In order to reach your program goals, your energy utility needs to understand your customers and their motivations. In doing so, you will be able to segment and promote your paperless billing program with effective messaging.

Use the right message to make them switch

In order to know what type of paperless billing campaign is right for your energy utility, you must first understand your customers. The right paperless message is personalized to your target audience.

Ask yourself this: How will paperless billing make your customers’ lives easier? To help answer this question, get to know your customers:

  • What are their needs, wants and interests?
  • What are their challenges or barriers to adoption?
  • What do their day-to-day lives look like?
  • What are their values and motivations?

George suggested a few ways to encourage the switch to paperless billing, based on successful campaigns she has worked on for energy utilities across the nation.

  • Showcase how paperless billing fits into your customers’ daily lives. This could be as simple as how your customers get to work. For example, if customers often commute on a train or subway, easy access on-the-go would be an important benefit to showcase in your paperless campaign.
  • Try easy and convenient enrollment options. Customers like simplicity – make signing up for paperless as easy as one-click enrollment and your conversion rates can increase dramatically.

Customer motivations drive eBill enrollment

Often customers who don’t switch to paperless billing have one of three reasons for not doing so. They may fear that…

  • Enrollment will take too long, and they don’t have the time
  • Going paperless will mean they won’t have statements for their records
  • They’ll be more likely to forget a payment if they switch to digital

To combat these concerns, your energy utility should relay the top paperless benefits for customers:

  • Simple – easy to manage and pay from anywhere
  • Convenient – saves time and fits the customers’ on-the-go lifestyle
  • Affordable – no need to buy stamps or worry about late fees
  • Eco-friendly – use less paper and reduce environmental footprint
  • Reliable – never forget or lose track of a bill again
  • Secure – safely manage statements and payments online

Business and residential customers have very different needs, so segmenting these audiences is encouraged. When it comes to paperless billing, business customers value:

  • Easy access to past bills and usage history
  • 24/7 bill availability when they are out and about
  • Less paper clutter in their office

Encourage multiple generations to switch to paperless billing

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the digital age of TikTok and Twitter, but when it comes to Millennials and Gen-Zers, George says email is still a viable option for these younger generations.

In fact, she shared that nearly 75% of millennials and 58% of Gen-Zers check their emails multiple times a day. However, they have a 12- and 8-second attention span, respectively, so it’s important to connect with these customers through storytelling rather than with overly promotional copy.

When it comes to older generations, Questline often sees the biggest concerns related to payment security or having records on hand. George suggests “speaking to their concerns first.” Reinforce the safety of paperless billing and how it is often more secure than dropping a check in the mail. It’s also important to show them how to retrieve records of their past bills with a simple click.

Design best practices to boost campaign performance

The next step following great copy is great design. Pifher, Questline’s Creative Director, shared the email best practices to consider for your creative campaign. These tips include having a message hierarchy, keeping a clear and active CTA and ensuring the email is mobile-friendly.

It’s also imperative for your energy utility to use the right imagery. You want the image to be relatable to customers, eye-catching and relevant. Pifher stressed the importance of looking at your specific audience demographics to determine the visual elements of your campaign:

  • People – age, gender, race, socioeconomic status
  • Region-specific – weather, transportation, landscape
  • Customer interests – sports, local spots, the environment, values and motivations

Pifher suggests utilities design around the inverted triangle strategy: grabbing a customers’ attention at the top, building anticipation in the headline and first few sentences and then taking them to the call-to-action. There should be plenty of white space throughout the design. Ensure the email is easy for customers to scan with the use of bullets or icons.

Incentives add value to eBill sign-ups

Pifher recommends testing incentives in your campaigns to encourage more people to switch to paperless billing. Customers often enjoy being rewarded, even if the incentive is small in value.

Questline’s performance metrics show smaller, immediate rewards perform better than enter-to-win sweepstakes. However, it’s important to test large and small incentives with your target audience.

Pifher also says that by developing not just a single email, but also web banner ads, social posts, direct mail inserts and more, your energy utility is able to reach customers no matter which channel they prefer to use.

The impact of coronavirus on paperless promotions

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every aspect of people’s lives, including how they get mail or pay bills. Before the pandemic, a large push for paperless billing was the “on-the-go, anytime, anywhere” messaging. Now, Pifher says customers are looking for more convenient ways to pay bills and messaging has turned to “on the couch or in bed, anytime, anywhere” messaging.

The importance of “no touch” payments and a focus on decluttering paper bills became more important benefits of paperless billing for customers. In addition, the pandemic has simply shown the importance of adaptation — whether due to major pandemics or simply customer interests changing. The ability to shift focus at a moment’s notice is an important skill to have when developing campaigns. 

Successful campaigns require more than a simple email

As these insights show, there are many aspects to a successful paperless billing campaign. Between knowing your customers, segmenting messages based on their needs, motivating customers through diligent copy and creative design, connecting through an omnichannel approach and adapting for current environments, there is more involved to reach conversion goals than a simple email.

Equipped with these copy and design best practices, revisit your paperless billing campaign strategy to achieve your energy utility’s conversion goals.

Help more customers switch to paperless billing with an eBill marketing campaign from Questline.