In the last decade, customer purchasing behavior has changed dramatically. Our economy has shifted from one of distribution centers that feed into brick-and-mortar retailers to a host of internet-only, e-commerce-based retailers. And you don’t need me to remind you how important online shopping became in 2020. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, ordering goods online shifted from a luxury to a necessity, with online retail giants like Amazon posting their most profitable year ever. Simply put, online shopping is what today’s customers have come to expect from everyone.
E-commerce stores cater to every kind of consumer, and according to a survey completed by Shopify, e-commerce is expected to generate a whopping $4.5 trillion in sales in 2021 alone. Now, utilities—even municipalities and cooperatives—are beginning to tap into the e-commerce trend and launch their own online stores as part of product and kit programs, and as a complement to demand-side management offerings. If your utility hasn’t jumped on the online store train, now is the time to do so.
The Best Way to Sell Energy and Water Conservation Products
Energy and water conservation products empower homeowners to actively and efficiently manage their usage of resources. Enabled by smart metering, other innovative technologies and utility-based demand-side management (DSM) programs, homeowners today have unparalleled access to conservation knowledge and solutions. However, a gap still remains in getting the right products into the hands of homeowners, to match those innovative programs they may be participating in. That’s where a utility’s online store comes in.
When a utility offers e-commerce to its customers, it paves the way to developing an online marketplace for products that correspond to the DSM programs they are offering. Imagine an integrated marketplace where your residential customers sign up to participate in your DSM program, and purchase a smart thermostat utilizing the provided incentive for participation—all from the same online store, and all at one time. During check-out, your customer also has the opportunity to add fun, innovative products to their order, like smart LEDs and smart plugs. No hassle, no shipping cost, and no friction in the experience.
That type of e-commerce experience delivers a high level of customer satisfaction and savings, and it doesn’t require customers to drive to a big box store and debate for an hour over the best thermostat to purchase. Online stores take the guesswork and complication out of buying efficiency products.
Building Your Online Store
How can you take advantage of society’s shift to online shopping? By integrating an online store into your utility’s portfolio of programs and making it intuitive, seamless and comparable to their favorite online shopping platforms. The biggest mistakes to avoid are making prospective customers mess around with too many forms, wait for pages to load, or entertain last-minute hesitation about unexpected shipping costs. You don’t want your customer to get all the way to check-out only to be surprised by $12 shipping charges and decide to go purchase that smart thermostat at the store down the street.
When selling products online, it’s important to provide lots of images customers can zoom in on and plenty of product reviews. According to Big Commerce, “The top three factors that are extremely influential in determining where Americans shop are price (87%), shipping cost and speed (80%) and discount offers (71%).”
The gold standard for your online store is a site that’s free from friction and anything that will lead to distraction, confusion or hesitation. You don’t want to make customers think too much or they will mutiny, abandoning ship and shopping cart. Users don’t want to over-analyze once they have decided to make a purchase. The more they must think about it, the less they tend to buy it, which explains the popularity of features like Amazon’s one-click purchase button.
Bottom line: you want to provide an online store that presents information clearly, instills confidence in your customers, and guides them smoothly from purchase to checkout.
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Designing Your Utility’s Online Store.
E-commerce in the Amazon age requires an in-depth understanding of the online marketplace, logistics, procurement, and fulfillment. It’s a process with a lot of steps that can quickly become overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. AM Conservation Group is your trusted partner in online store development and fulfillment. We have a proven track record of designing and managing online stores that help our clients easily sell products and kits to their customers or trade allies, and our logistics network has been leading the industry for decades. Want to see what an online store could do for you? Schedule a demo today for a step-by-step walk-through of our marketplace services and capabilities.