With each iteration of SECC’s consumer segmentation, there has always been one segment that stood out from the others as being considerably more knowledgeable and engaged when it comes to energy.
In our earliest segmentation, published back in September 2011, the Concerned Greens were the most concerned about the environment, the most inclined to take energy-efficient actions at home and the most supportive of smart grid technologies and the role that they could play in developing a cleaner, smart energy ecosystem.
When we updated the segmentation with the fifth wave of the “Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation” study back in early 2015, we began incorporating a wider range of smart energy technologies into the study, and it was the new Green Champions segment who were the most engaged and demonstrated the most interest in “new utility services and smart energy programs” (e.g., demand response, apps, time-varying rates and monthly energy reports).
Now, with the eighth wave of our segmentation study, we again updated our consumer segmentation framework, this time following an online survey of 2,500 Americans who are responsible for paying their electric bills. For the first time, SECC’s segmentation incorporated consumers’ interest with and affinity for technology as one of the main inputs in addition to their interest in energy management.
Again, a group of consumers stood out from the rest in their engagement with energy; however, this time, they also displayed an affinity for and comfort with technology that makes them the “sweet spot” for today’s innovative pilots and programs that rely on technology-driven solutions. We aptly named this segment the Green Pioneers.
The Green Pioneers are by far the most concerned that their energy-related actions are socially responsible. More than the other segments, they feel that they have a role to play in ensuring both the reliability of the power grid and in making it cleaner for future generations. Eighty-six percent of the Green Pioneers are concerned about the reliability of the grid, compared to 76 percent of the Comfort Seekers, the least-engaged segment. And 61 percent of them strongly agree that reducing their electricity usage helps the environment, compared with two percent of the Comfort Seekers and 28 percent of the Connected Pragmatists.
This desire to benefit society could drive them to be leaders in clean energy or electrification programs, particularly if the environmental or grid benefits are clearly demonstrated to them. However, they have other attributes that could also lead them to be engaged participants in other innovative programs, including their ownership of and interest in smart home devices.
When asked about current ownership of smart home devices, the Green Pioneers and the Connected Pragmatists, the youngest of our five new segments, are considerably more likely to have all five technologies tested: smart speakers, smart thermostats, smart lights, smart appliances and smart home monitoring. Fifty-one percent of both the Green Pioneers and the Connected Pragmatists already have smart thermostats involved (only 15 percent of the Trusting Traditionalists do), and 63 percent of Green Pioneers already have a smart speaker – compared to 57 percent of the Connected Pragmatists. They’re also the most likely to say that they can easily understand technical reviews of devices and that having the latest technology is important to them.
Bring-your-own-thermostat programs that emphasize the grid and environmental benefits would be a readymade fit for the Green Pioneers. As electricity providers roll out skills for voice assistants (such as Alexa or Google Assistant), the Green Pioneers are likely eager to participate and provide valuable customer feedback on the new program.
Finally, as can be expected, the Green Pioneers have already taken more basic energy management steps around their homes – such as installing energy-efficient lighting and weather-stripping or reducing their usage during peak times for bill credits – and express the most interest in larger investments, such as installing rooftop solar, when compared to the other four segments.
Among those Green Pioneers that have not installed solar on their homes (12 percent say that they already have), 56 percent are interest in doing so. That’s compared to the 37 percent of the Simply Sustainable segment that haven’t but are interested in installing rooftop solar. The Simply Sustainable consumers are also strongly supportive of environmental stewardship; however, they don’t have the same resources and technical know-how of the Green Pioneers.
As electricity providers and other stakeholders look to develop innovative programs and services that improve the customer experience and benefit the environment, they should look no further than the Green Pioneers for valuable sources of feedback and participation. These consumers are knowledgeable, experienced, supportive of efforts that benefit the grid and environment, and are more than comfortable with technology, making them the perfect candidates to champion next-generation programs.