How Contact Energy is addressing the three big challenges of personalisation

Digital channel manager for New Zealand energy company details the strategic thinking behind its personalisation program

Contact Energy's Steffen Troschke
Contact Energy's Steffen Troschke


Reduced cost of sale, higher customer engagement scores and stronger conversion are just some of the results Contact Energy has chalked up after building out a personalisation program.

Speaking at the recent CIO-CMO Executive Connections in Auckland, Contact Energy’s digital channel manager, Steffen Troschke, shared how the energy company tackled three key challenges arising from personalisation through a combination of people, process and technology. 

The ambition behind Contact’s personalisation approach is to improve sign-ups, existing customer engagement and digital self-service.

“The biggest challenge is how to simplify customer journeys, make it easier for them to engage with us, and provide more context and information when they engage with us,” Troschke told attendees. “How do we address the differences in mindsets as they come to our website, mobile app, or to our social channels, with the right messaging? That’s what personalisation is all about.”  

There are a number of levers you can pull for personalisation, from audiences to customer groups, customer values, and different digital assets. As a result, you end up with a massive combination of things you can do.

“It’s easy to get carried away with different campaigns and address quite specific customer issues or show very detailed messages to customers, getting lost in the opportunities,” Troschke said. “As a result, it’s important right at the beginning to think about how you priorities the combinations and options you have.”

With two audiences (new versus existing customers), seven geo-locations, seven customer segments, five age ranges, three product categories and five experience variations, Contact potentially had 1470 combinations of activities it could pursue. So how did it determine what could deliver the best returns?

“When we run personalisation campaigns, we look very granularly at what the return is and how many more transactions we get. Those are not just sales, it could be app downloads, or mobile-based bills paid,” Troschke said. “We try and find a value for each of those transactions to come up with a number to be able to address what will be the most successful and therefore what we prioritise.”

The second personalisation challenge Troschke identified is creating operationally cost effective ways to create personalised experiences for ‘segments of one’. Much like in Australia, New Zealand marketers can quickly end up with extremely small segments, he said.

“You might have amazing 200 – 300 per cent conversion increases, but then you look at the size and it’s five sales to seven sales,” he explained.  “You have to ask yourself early on in the process: How do you create an operating model and technical architecture that allows you to do personalisation and segments of one cost effectively?

“If it takes you a week to create the digital assets, put them up on channels, track results and optimise the campaign, it’s a lot of effort. You have to ask: Is that worth the five incremental sales?” he continued.

“Quite often, personalisation programs get stuck at a point because it’s not worth doing. You sweep up the low hanging fruit, then your team doesn’t get to further develop and you end up with inertia. So it’s important to think about that early on.

“In particular, think about creating digital assets: How you template, but also your content management, efficiently.”

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Tackling this for Contact also meant rebuilding its CMS capability. “You end up quite often with 30 different homepage variations, and you can end up in the situation where if you don’t do it right from the beginning, you have 30 different banners, with 30 different buttons, on 30 different pages. If you want to change the label on a button, you have to go to 30 different pages instead of just one,” Troschke said.

“Having those operating impacts in mind is really important when you construct the website and digital channels.”  

The third personalisation challenge is omnichannel orchestration, and ensuring personalised experiences can be replicated and connected across digital and non-digital channels.

“If you’re addressing customers with a certain message, such as an app download message, it’s consistent on your mobile, website, search channels? How to connect up all the data points across all the different systems to be able do that,” Troschke said.  

Admitting Contact is still in the early stages, Troschke said the team started by connecting digital marketing channels with its website. It’s now working to connect these to its mobile app, which is being rebuilt.

“In the early days this was very hard, with all the different systems in digital marketing, and that’s very Google-driven. Then in the website, big platforms like Sitecore often have native frameworks so the different systems and data flows are different. You need to therefore think about your data strategy with digital channels alignment in mind,” Troschke explained.  

Using the Sitecore platform, Contact has built out behavioural-based personalisation, using Google and Sitecore data to do personalised onsite and offsite campaigns in digital media as well as across its website. A big initiative was Contact’s four landing pages.

“We started doing a lot of personalised emails as well, where we tracked hot leads and addressed them via email,” Troschke said. “For people moving house, we do an activation where we have personalised emails based on what those individuals need. And we do a lot of geotargeting.”

Another dominant campaign push has seen Contact addressing geographic regions with different offers through a highly targeted promo code offer program.

“A big problem with our industry is it’s very price-driven, so you’re forced to be aggressive with your offers, and as a result, you often pay for people who would have signed on anyway, so you end up with really high cost per sale,” Troschke commented. 

“In order to address that, we granularly analysed how people move through the site, and when they come back, then put personalised offers in front of them to get them over the fence. It’s helped reduce our cost per sale significantly, while also increasing sales.”

Another reason why geotargeting is so key is because energy pricing depends on the region or city a consumer is located.

“That flexible rates model means we use geotargeting when people give us their address for all sorts of things - we can see region, if there’s more profit margin in that region, so we can give them different offers depending on where they come from,” Troschke said. “We also use it for availability of products.” 

Contact’s next priority is how to progress from behavioural targeting in a non-authenticated way, to a more authenticated way. To do this, the team had to decide where segmentation needed to happen – in the Sitecore platform, a DMP or a data lake.

“We ended up with an architecture that sees our content management usage consumption and data into a data lake, model all our segmentation in that lake, then we leverage Sitecore to take the data and display the experiences,” Troschke said.

“We wanted to make sure our segmentation goes beyond digital. This is because we want to ensure marketing automation activities are consistent, but also that our call centre activities can tap into that. Having a centralised segmentation platform helps achieve that.”

To reach this point, Contact heavily invested into development with partner agency, Cucumber, and technology platform provider, Sitecore. Cucumber, for example, led implementation of the website elements. However, Contact has opted to bring business-minded resources in-house to run programs.

Key skillsets for Troschke include design, content authoring, data and analytics, technology aptitude and good business smarts. “Finding those digital unicorns is really difficult. We found the best people have an ecommerce background, because they’re quite close to the data, or a customer experience background,” he said.

Up next: The results, plus the lessons for those still struggling to get personalisation projects off the ground

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