A new report from CitySmart reveals a fascinating mix of attitudes and personalities among household electricity consumers in Australia. Armed with these insights, both governments and the energy industry can better engage consumers in a time of ever-rising energy prices.

The research report was released by sustainability agency CitySmart and conducted with research partners Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and University of Sunshine Coast (USC).

While the original aim was to understand the changing needs of consumers in the digital age pending the introduction of new pricing structures for electricity, the insights about electricity consumers are useful well beyond questions of tariff reform. This makes the findings particularly valuable – both to governments developing energy policy, and to any stakeholder in the energy supply chain developing consumer messages and communications.

The researchers identified a set of household consumer segments that differ in the way they set goals, make decisions, gather information and use technology. From this, the researchers created a set of consumer types that, unusually, are named after animal personas – lions, wallabies, beehives and so on.

This segmentation model is a first in the Australian energy market and a communications holy grail of sorts: a simple way to effectively target distinctly different households by using tailored language and messages delivered through their preferred channels.

How did the report come about?

The report, entitled Taking advantage of electricity pricing signals in the digital age: Householders have their say (PDF, 5MB) was based on research funded by Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) under its grants program, with co-contributions from seven Energy Network Australia members. CitySmart’s research partners collected survey data from 1345 households in every Australian state and territory and conducted face-to-face interviews with 45 households (118 people).

Meet the consumers

In developing household consumer segments from the research data, the challenge for the researchers was to make these segments approachable and the insights easy to understand.

The team chose animal metaphors because of some striking and easily recognisable analogies to human behaviours. Looking at those householders who expressed an interest in better managing their bills and electricity use, six segments were created: Ant Colony, Beehive, Flock of Geese, Wallabies, Domestic Cats and Lion Pride. Each segment’s traits are fairly stable over time and not likely to vary when making household decisions on a range of products or services e.g. electricity providers, internet providers and so on.

Who’s who in the energy kingdom

Ant Colony

An Ant Colony household is a cohesive household where many decisions are made by a single person in control. They tend towards a more business-like and regimented structure. They work together and have rules to guide them. Technology helps with their way of doing things.

Beehive

The Beehive household is a team of experts who work together to achieve the best outcomes. Each has expert roles in finding information to make household decisions. While one person tends to be in charge, they are flexible enough to adapt. They like to use technology they trust and can control.

Flock of Geese

The Flock of Geese household is an adaptable household where leadership may rotate. They take turns in leading the decision-making. Because they are busy, they wait for a problem to occur before making changes. Technology helps them keep things harmonious in the house.

The Wallabies

The Wallabies household is a flexible household focused on fun and doesn’t have a lot of rules. They share decision-making and everyone gets a say. They like technology that’s fun and supports their flexibility.

Domestic Cat Family

The Domestic Cat family values independence and comfort. They are all engaged and like to figure things out for themselves. They don’t actively seek information unless a problem arises, and they trust in their ability to control technology tools.

Lion Pride

The Lion Pride household wants to master their world. They are independent and we like to figure things out for themselves. They trust in their ability to control technology tools. Unlike the Cat Family household, Lions actively seek information before a problem arises.

How these insights can help

These six consumers segments are useful in a whole range of scenarios; whether it’s educating people about choosing electricity tariffs, helping change energy-use habits, or delivering smartphone apps to help them take control of energy use.

With a clear understanding of the challenges facing each group, unique value propositions can be designed that better resonate with each. CitySmart’s research partner QUT has provided some commentary on the report in an interesting article about seeing households as business units.

The researchers also identified two anti-personas: households unlikely to change their behaviours and habits quickly. Identifying these groups early can, for example, ensure efficient allocation of marketing and communications spend over the longer term.

The CitySmart report gives us an understanding of Australian electricity consumers in unprecedented depth and detail. It is now up to stakeholders to seize the opportunities it presents.

More

The full report is available here: Taking advantage of electricity pricing signals in the digital age: Householders have their say (PDF, 5MB).