Beyond price: motivating energy savings with social competition

By admin on January 16, 2012

A recent article called “Technology Costs Trump Utility Bills, Discrepancy Rising” highlights how increasingly important it is for utilities to think beyond economics for motivating their customers to save energy. With the average American now spending more on Internet connectivity and new technological devices than on utility costs, saving money on energy bills is becoming an increasingly less compelling reason to turn off the lights. In order to create meaningful behavioral change among their customers, utilities must find new ways of engaging interest in energy efficiency, demand response, and more.

“Consumer spending on the Internet, online services, mobile phones and multimedia entertainment costs are on the rise,” explains the author of the article. “The study’s authors say approximately 63% of people spend about 35% more on technology bills than utility bills — gas and electricity costs — nowadays. Plus, they expect the difference between those two numbers to rise.”

Luckily for utilities, the increasing popularity of Internet connectivity and mobile devices represents exactly the opportunity they need to take the consumer’s focus away from price point and onto more compelling reasons to save energy. In other words, if everyone is already spending so much time online, playing games with their friends on Facebook and constantly checking their email, all the utility has to do is meet people there with an interesting new way to engage them in energy consumption.

If you’re having trouble imagining what might interest people in something as mundane as turning down the heat when there are so many other exciting tidbits of celebrity gossip and more online, just think about examples of what people find compelling at the most basic level: friends, games, and prizes. People are social, they like the thrill of competition, and they like to win. What if utilities could turn saving energy into a game that people could play online, earning points, badges and prizes for competing with their friends and neighbors?

“People are naturally social and they like competing to win points and prizes,” explains Yoav Lurie, CEO of Simple Energy. “It’s the same reason half of all Americans will buy a lottery ticket this year, or why grown men at a Giants game will literally pummel each other to get a free t-shirt that won’t even fit them. Creating competition and social recognition is an intuitive way of inspiring people to save energy.”

With utilities already capturing the data needed to create a compelling competition between neighbors, all they have to do is translate it into a meaningful and engaging format for their customers. Imagine people sharing their energy “scores” with their friends online. Suddenly, turning off the lights and taking shorter showers means social glory. People could even form teams to compete for a cause they believe in, earning points on behalf of their favorite school, community group, and more.

This kind of social engagement online is already working for other industries to engage their customers – it’s time for utilities to join the party. Learn more about how Simple Energy works, and check back soon for another post on how utilities can apply the social engagement strategies that are working so well in other industries.