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

The results

Highlight results for Contact include a 24 per cent increase in weekly join rates, and an 8 per cent increase in join conversion rates to 22 per cent. Net Promoter Score also improved to +44, and there’s been a sizeable reduction in cost of sales.

“A lot of our activities in doing personalisation also involves A/B testing, so we can work out what the true worth of activities is. That means the segment group gets tested against the former experience and we can track accurately. Conversion rates went up, and the cost per sale was reduced,” Troschke said

A program less easy to get over the line is self-service activations. Contact’s marketing team has been investing in mobile app and digital adoption campaigns, endeavouring to get existing customers to use digital channels.

“This was particularly interesting to sell into the business, as we needed to show the value of an app download, or customers using that. We worked with the finance teams to figure out what the benefit of a digital self-service customer to justify those activities,” he said.  

Getting started on personalisation

Cucumber digital experience business manager, Claire Stewart, said Contact is a great example of a client that looked at what personalisation could do first of all to drive quick wins.

“Often you’ll hear quick wins being made in the first 6-12 months, but I think you have to be realistic about what a quick win is. I do think Contact has been great at proving to the business the value of investing in personalisation,” Stewart said.

“The team has done this by using explicit versus implicit personalisation rules around geotargeting, and when a customer comes to the site X many times they’re shown this specific message. Doing that well, and proving those results, drives further investment into where Contact wants to go next, which is unlocking the data lake concept.

“I think Contact is quite mature in this regard, and it’s coming from the people and the thinking, with the technology behind it.”

While technology and data are clearly key to personalisation success, Stewart stressed the importance of people who understand how to make it work.

“Yes, you need a CMS that has the ability to personalise content, but you also need to think about what it is that will drive the most value for your business,” she said. “And yes, there is no shortage of data out there - we all have way too much data. It’s about understanding the value and the combination that is key here.

“Then it’s realising people still have to create that personalised campaign. There’s no algorithm yet that puts together the creative for that. There still needs to be people putting together that message and put it out there.”  

One important cultural element for Contact has been keeping customer service teams up to speed on how personalisation works.

“When a customer calls in and asks a question, the service team wants to know what’s available to them digitally. It’s not possible anymore when you have 50 different homepages. So keeping them up to date is a huge effort and finding ways that are comfortable to talk through what is a very dynamic website are important,” Troschke said.  

“Marketing also wants to present a new offer to everyone on the homepage. So when you take away that concept of a hero space, and make it so only those for who it’s relevant will see the offer, a lot of conversation needs to be had around reach and percentage of campaigns, versus conversions and impact. How you prioritise activations for a product launch or offer requires a totally different mindset, and also how you then structure KPIs.”  

Helping Contact refine and test audiences meanwhile, is an ideation phase, followed by the construction of ‘ghost’ audiences in order to test and define customer segment sizes for personalised campaigns.

“One of the dangers of personalisation is you can increase something massively on one side, but it comes at the cost of doing something different. There’s a balance that needs to be found,” he added.   

For those who haven’t yet embarked on personalisation or find themselves stuck on how to proceed, Stewart advised going back to customer research to make sure you understand who your audience is first.

What new machine learning capabilities like Sitecore’s new Coretex will then help do is take away some of the heavy lifting of making assumptions about the types of audience groups you should be targeting through more personalised programs and experiences, Stewart said.

“This machine learning can tell us combinations it thinks will work, that we may not have thought of. Hopefully that will reduce some of the human need because there’s a huge amount of effort required to do it at the moment,” she said.  

“I do think efficiency in data is where we’ll see the biggest gains from machine learning for personalisation based on where we are now and what we’re trying to do. Completely allowing a machine to make decisions is a long way away. But it will help us understanding that from 476 combinations, which one is going to make the biggest difference for the business.

“But the people element is never going to go away. I strongly believe you still need the human to look across what’s happening and confirm if you’re OK with those messages and segments and how the brand is being presented in market.”  

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