Next to the energy revolution, the digital transformation is one of the greatest challenges for the energy industry. Three mega trends in particular are responsible for the increased pressure on established companies in the industry to align themselves digitally: changed customer behavior, innovative technologies and increasing regulatory requirements.
The three drivers, customer behavior, technology and guideline management also have varying effects on other industries. Energy companies, however, face an additional series of industry-specific framework conditions, which fuel the digital transformation. In addition to the necessary integration of renewable energies, topics such as electromobility or IoT communication play a role. “Not only anticipating these developments, but exploiting the resulting possibilities, will be one the most significant tasks for energy companies in the future”, says Alwin Jobb, Associate Partner at the business and IT consultancy Q_PERIOR.
According to the market research company Statista, the number of companies in the sector of energy supply in 2014 was around 63,375 (Source: Statista). Every company – whether manufacturer, network operator, meter operators or sales companies – has different conditions and options. Consequently, the digital transformation should also take place in various areas and forms, depending on the company’s alignment.
In principle, companies have various tools available to them
Companies in the energy sector mainly only use internal master data of their customers such as for example name, address, number of persons in a household. There is no knowledge about individual preferences or requirements. However, nowadays companies have many options to gain knowledge about their customers. The most obvious possibility is obtaining information via customer surveys. “It is amazing how little established companies in the energy sector even know about their own customers”, says Ralf Rentmeister, Head of the business area Energy at Q_PERIOR. “This is an area where companies still giveaway too much potential.”
Besides own surveys, there are also options of contracting companies which screen the internet for customer information. Posts in forums or on social media can e.g. provide an insight of how customers relate to the topics of renewable energies or electromobility. By now, a number of service providers exist in the market who are specialized in the generation and evaluation of customer information.
Furthermore, energy suppliers and distributors have the option or accessing other external sources such as geo or satellite data. This information can also be valuable for presenting appropriate offers to customers.
Data is the most important good for a successful digital transformation. Whereas in the past customers made their decisions to purchase based on personal sales talks, advertising brochures or test reports, today these decision-making processes mainly happen online. Offers are researched in the social media, in forums or on comparison portals and verified by recommendations from other customers. By gathering and evaluating data, companies are able to better predict customer requirements and to respond adequately with individual offers. Custom-fit services make customers happy and they become loyal to the company for longer. Some new business models are also being created, as various offers are bundled into one service for customers. For example, energy traders can combine energy saving consultancy and gas and electricity supply in one individual offer. “In this context is would also be obvious to develop one’s company further and offer non-industry services and products. The challenge here, is the selection of a promising product mix”, says Alwin Jobb. “This can be very profitable and can open cross-selling potentials.”
The bundling of services is only one of many possibilities for generating new sales in the times of digital transformation. First, it is important that energy companies quickly deal with the change, and test which digital business models could be lucrative for them.