Driving customer adoption of clean energy-as-a-service

“We’ve made renewable energy easy by offering it as a service rather than as a home construction product like rooftop solar. Rooftop solar is a fantastic climate solution, but many consumers won’t or can’t access it. We offer a service where you pay to get renewable energy generated somewhere else.”

Tom Mattzie, founder, President and CEO of CleanChoice Energy was explaining what’s distinctive about his company’s offerings, which include a community solar business — solar projects built in communities, for communities.

One of the biggest challenges faced by clean energy today is customer adoption. “Clean energy is essentially an ingredient,” he said. “If it doesn’t work better, your home doesn’t work better, so we have to give customers an experience to de-commodify what is a pure commodity in a lot of ways.” The experience includes personalized engagement.

The experience is omnichannel

“Certainly digital is an important part of it,” said Mattzie, “but really it’s omnichannel. You have to find the consumer wherever they are, whether on their mobile device or in their mail-box, obviously on their computer, and increasingly in other forms of direct response channels.”

The omnichannel perspective is one reason CleanChoice Energy selected Braze as their customer engagement platform. “I’ve been involved in marketing in some way or another for more than 20 years. Fifteen years ago,” said Mattzie, “what Braze does, we tried to do with a whiteboard and a team of a hundred people. We would draw these paths to purchase — and it was really hard; it was difficult to scale things quickly.”

In Mattzie’s view, Braze takes over the heavy lifting and allows marketers to concentrate on connecting customers to the value proposition — not on “logistics and mechanics.”

Not just an acquisition platform

When we spoke to Bill Magnuson, co-founder and CEO at Braze, about the relationship with CleanChoice Energy he emphasized that much of Braze’s activity comes after, if not the acquisition of a customer, at least after their introduction to the company. Engagement, in other words, continues down the funnel.

“It’s about building a strong relationship through the understanding you get by listening to the customer while they’re interacting with you,” he said. It was important, he explained, to develop the mindset of being good at listening rather than good at playing detective: “Finding out a bunch of stuff about you to personalize things,” as he put it.

“You can go the old route where you look up the zip code to find out if they’re in a wealthy neighborhood or not — or you can just listen to people and respond in the moment and in the context.” He described the “combinatorial explosion of complexity” created by multiplying the different types of customers, the different channels they use, different business strategies for each channel, and different communication options. “Managing that is actually one of the most important problems software is trying to solve.”

To the extent that problems can be solved by a customer engagement platform like Braze, marketers can go back to thinking about the kind of conversation they’re trying to have with the customer, and what kind of value they’re trying to deliver — in other words, being customer-centric rather than channel-centric.

Breaking down the silos

Prior to adopting Braze, CleanChoice Energy had “absolutely a bunch of silos,” said Mattzie. “It was a nightmare; I just can’t tell you how painful it was. We were using digital to talk to our customers before and after the purchase decision, and direct mail, and a customer care center, and experiments in other channels.”

Inbound calls to the customer care center can be highly predictive of propensity to purchase, or indeed propensity to churn, said Mattzie. “Being able to then effectively and quickly get them into the right experience shouldn’t mean someone has to cut a query, move data out of one system into another, and hope that it gets back to the data warehouse and that the customer doesn’t get the same communications two or three times.”

This doesn’t mean there’s no need for a data warehouse. Mattzie has an ongoing data lake and engineering project. Braze’s role might best be described as orchestration. “Braze is actually implemented as a stream processor,” said Magnuson. In other words, it continuously queries the data stream and detects relevant events more or less in real time.

There’s a trade off between “liveness” and “completeness,” he explained. “If you’re filing your taxes, you need to prioritize completeness. If you’re doing fraud detection, you need to be able to respond as the customer swipes the credit card, to know if you’re going to approve it or decline it. Stream processing is used in fraud detection, in combination with machine learning techniques; high frequency trading is done with stream processing in a similar way.”

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Behaviors need to change

Among the benefits CleanChoice Energy has seen Braze drive are a 32% increase in engagement as a result of helping consumers visualize their impact on the environment, and a 148% boost in email open rates where the emails were triggered by interactions delivered through automated data connections.

From Mattzie’s perspective, Braze is helping deploy climate solutions to more customers. “There’s a lot of behaviors we need consumers to change or adopt over the next couple of decades. We need them to choose clean energy until such time as the whole grid is green. We need them to electrify their homes, moving off of gas or oil. We need people to choose clean transportation. Those are behaviors — so we need to be able to talk to the consumer before and after they’ve made their choice.”

“It’s part of a broader portfolio of behavioral change,” said Magnuson. “Even if the business’s product can only deliver on one part of that portfolio, it’s about enhancing the commodity by associating it with a lifestyle.”

Mattzie’s explicit intention is to use clean energy as a launching pad to propel customers into electrification, clean transportation and other choices consumers need to make.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today.

About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech Today. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.