Australia’s energy retail industry is made up of a mix of big brands and mid-small brands. AGL and Origin hold a long history and therefore find themselves to be better known than the likes of Energex and Momentum.
In a digital marketing effectiveness study conducted by Global Reviews in March 2015, consumers were asked to recall up to five energy providers. AGL and Origin were on equal placement both with 66%, nearly double the recall rate of EnergyAustralia who was on 34%. Red Energy and Lumo Energy rounded off the top five with 21% and 19% respectively. It should be noted that even through TRUenergy has not been branded as such since 8th October 2012, it still equals Integral Energy and Momentum in terms of brand recall, all on 5%.
In spite of the gap between AGL and Origin, and EnergyAustralia, when it came to initial brand preferences, EnergyAustralia was able to match Origin, both on 10% – just three points behind AGL.
Being a current or former customer and having trust in a brand are key drivers when consumers first have a brand in mind. It’s not until consumers begin their research that they become influenced by other factors in making a decision. With 91% of consumers who are searching for a new provider stating that they would research online, the internet suddenly becomes a prime influencer.
Typically a mix of search engines, aggregators and brand websites are used when researching an energy provider online. Whilst brands may not have absolute control over the role search engines and aggregators play in influencing the consumer, they do control their own website experience.
In a real life situation, 65% said that they would only spend between 1-4 hours researching an energy provider and 55% would only get prices from 1-3 providers. In addition to that, 18% said that they would leave a website if they encountered a problem. With all of this in mind, brands do not get a lot of time or leeway to get on the consideration list. If their website is not up to standard, they are a risk of losing out.
In order to ascertain just how well the websites of energy providers perform, a digital sales effectiveness customer experience assessment was completed on the websites of nine energy providers. This benchmark assessment was made up of a best practice features and functions audit, consumer usability testing and a customer audit. Origin, EnergyAustralia and AGL topped the benchmark at 55%, 52% and 49% respectively. ActewAGL and Red Energy sat one point below the industry average with 44%, whilst Powershop, Lumo, Simply Energy and Momentum all fell further below the line.
Since the previous sales effectiveness benchmark in September 2014, Lumo and AGL have shown the greatest improvement, rising by 11 points and 8 points respectively.
With Origin, EnergyAustralia and AGL providing the best online experiences, the question then was whether this influenced how consumers selected a preferred provider.
In terms of shortlisting providers Origin was considered by 51%, ahead of AGL on 46% and EnergyAustralia on 35%. Origin retained this lead in the final preferences with 28%, while EnergyAustralia moved up to take second place with 18%, two points ahead of AGL who moved down to third. These three brands kept well ahead of the rest of the market at every stage of the research journey.
Here is where we see the influence websites have on considering a preferred provider. Between July 2014 and March 2015, website usability has become a far more prominent reason for considering a brand. The appearance of being easy to use doubled in importance when considering a brand, with the ability to compare options, ease of finding products and a visually appealing site all also increasing between study periods. With Origin, AGL and EnergyAustralia offering the top websites across the industry, it’s no surprise that the experience they’re providing is feeding into why consumers are considering them.
The same goes for the final preference. Having a website that made it easy to locate the right plan was an influencing factor for 17% – up from 14% in 2014. The ability to find plans quickly also rose from 9% up to 14%.
Looking back at the benchmark assessment, it’s noted that EnergyAustralia performed particularly well in the stages of introducing product options and assisting the customer in the evaluation of the products. Leading in these stages coupled with website usability being a strong reason behind selecting a brand would have helped push EnergyAustralia ahead of AGL when it came to final preference.
While AGL, EnergyAustralia and Origin continue to offer the best website experiences, they will remain on the top of the list for preferred brands. If the other brands in the industry want a greater share of final preferences, then they need to not only consider how their brand is perceived beyond the internet, but also how well their website is retaining prospective customers through ease of use and appearance.
Contact us to find out more about what is influencing consumers online.