When buying a product, a person no longer makes their decision on the basis of the price alone. Many different factors now play a role in the purchasing decision. Among other things, current socio-political developments are responsible for this. But how should one design products that appeal to potential customers? Our start-up of the week, Energy Mavens, has created a solution for this. With their special customer analyses they offer companies support in product development and product design. We spoke to Thomas Schönland, CEO at Energy Mavens, to find out more.
Hello Thomas! We’re very happy that you’re here today. Let’s get right to it: How would you describe Energy Mavens in one sentence?
We analyse the needs of electricity customers to support energy supply companies in the design and development of energy revolution products.
How does such an analysis work? Which framework do you use for this?
Developed in the field of psychology, conjoint analysis has now also established itself as an estimation method in marketing. The method enables the disclosure of the true preferences of respondents by mapping a (fictitious) decision between different products. We use a modern, adaptive methodology that addresses the respondents individually and thus involves them more than in the currently used standard surveys.
The application of our conjoint analysis to innovative products in the energy industry thus supports energy supply companies and municipal utilities in product design and customer clustering. Customer needs can be served in a more targeted manner and the customers themselves can be involved in product development at an early stage. Therefore the customers feel that they are helping to shape the product. Moreover, the survey is much more interesting for them than any conventional marketing survey. More valid results enable a simulated evaluation of product combinations that were not asked for in the questionnaire. For example, a competitor’s product can be compared to one’s own and (expected) market shares can be estimated.
You have already mentioned the advantages of conjoint analysis, but you are not the only ones who use this method. What do you do differently from your competitors?
The energy industry is currently at a tipping point. Energy supply companies and municipal utilities are moving from being pure suppliers to energy partners. Accordingly, a more comprehensive understanding of customers is indispensable. Customers no longer make decisions for or against a supplier or its products based on price alone, but are guided by a variety of parameters. Depending on their preferences, different products may or may not offer the customer a benefit.
In order to understand these preferences and make them available to energy partners, we apply conjoint analyses to energy market-specific questions. From the perspective of a municipal utility, this means: What are the characteristics of an energy system transformation product? How do I price it? Where do I position it and to whom? By asking customers’ opinions early on, we are able to develop a customer-centric design and make energy products more efficient.
As a result, our approach enables the disclosure of willingness to pay, obstacles to switching and target group-specific characteristics. This enables a utility company to design, place and price its products precisely.
I see. What is the pricing model for Energy Mavens?
We offer quantitative consulting. This means that our revenue is calculated from our daily rate and the estimated consultant days per project. The expenditure is determined individually for each project. Among other things, it depends on the data basis with which the survey is started and how large the survey is going to be.
In addition, we offer our support as a partner in various phases of product development. This includes, for example, idea generation, actual testing, validation and the final implementation and market launch. We pursue a cooperative consulting approach, in which we enter into a close exchange and regular feedback loops with our customers.
You have already explained that your customer base is consisting of municipal utilities and energy supply companies. Can you go into more detail about your target markets?
We concentrate on the marketing and product development departments of smaller municipal utilities or regionally operating energy supply companies on the German market. We see the greatest potential for data-based customer analyses in this target group. In addition, for these suppliers with a strong regional focus, a customer-oriented product orientation is extremely important.
Where do you currently stand with the development of Energy Mavens? Are your services already usable?
Yes, our current focus is on the implementation of pilot projects and the associated development of references. We have already been able to demonstrate the proof-of-concept that we can make statements on energy system transformation products using our methodology in two studies. A study on the design of the product “local electricity” was conducted in cooperation with Allgäuer Überlandwerk GmbH. In a second project, we are analysing the preferences of RE investors in the context of tenders together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI). In this context, we are particularly proud that we are a competence spin-off at Fraunhofer ISI since September 1, 2019.