What are utility customers really thinking + Can your smart home play fetch with your dog?

Can your smart home play fetch with your dog?

If you’ve been wondering when your smart home will finally be able to play fetch with your dog, then the answer is “now!” The Internet of Things is no longer restricted to humans. Besides iFetch, pet owners can also find GPS collars to track their pets and make sure they don’t get lost, fitness tracking devices akin to Fitbits for dogs, and even a pet cam that also allows you give your dog treats while you’re away.

But what if you’re a dog owner and none of this sounds in the least bit appealing to you? Well, we aren’t too surprised that some of you exist — after all, not all dog owners are alike.

That’s exactly the lesson the Smart Grid Consumer Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) has been trying to help utility companies learn. The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative was created about 7 years ago, when the electrical supplier industry realized that they didn’t really have a great way of interacting with and getting to know their consumers. The SGCC came together as a nonprofit to do research on consumers by actually listening to them through surveys, focus groups, and more.

Over the years, they’ve been able to help utilities better understand their consumers as a diverse group of individuals with a wide variety of needs and motivations. For example, SGCC identified 5 main consumer types, that they describe as follows:

  1. Green Champions: These folks care about the environment and the problem of climate change. They want to avoid waste, and try to make eco-conscious decisions, like using green cleaning products — and perhaps signing up for energy saving programs or using energy efficiency devices and tips.
  2. Savings Seekers: Savings seekers are also motivated to avoid waste — of both electricity and their money. They are interested in reducing their energy costs, and are often ready to adopt new technology and programs in order to help them do so.
  3. Movers and Shakers: Movers and Shakers like to be ahead of the curve. They’re always game to try the latest tech, and are excited to find technology that helps them reduce their energy use. Like Savings Seekers, these folks are first in line to be early adopters.
  4. Tech Cautious: Tech Cautious folks might want to reduce their energy use and save money too — they’re just not so sure that the technology out there is really going to do the job. They’ll need some convincing, and some good outreach, to get them on board.
  5. Status Quo: Status Quo folks don’t have energy on the mind. It’s hard to generalize about why that might be, but so far, they don’t really see an incentive to focus on their energy use.

For utilities, understanding what their customers are thinking can help them better communicate. And, it can help energy efficiency advocates figure out how to mobilize more people to the cause.

So, tell us in the comments, what kind of a consumer are you?

P.S. Check out the Surge Series podcast from the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Fund here for more details about SGCC’s work.