Competing beyond the digital divide

The technology frontier delivering tomorrow’s customer energy

Post by Mark Coyle, Chief Strategy Officer @


Competing beyond the digital divide


This week I am in Houston, Texas where I have been sharing our insight in the new basis of energy retail competition at the Energy Marketer’s Conference 2018 where I gave a speech entitled ‘Insights into the global competitive energy market – How to differentiate and innovate’. In my speech I engaged with an extensive audience about the digital divide of technology empowered customers with today’s energy retail services and how closing this gap is the new frontier of energy competition. The eco-system of competitive energy retailers and their partner service platforms will create the basis of who wins in new technology based energy markets. Our speech provided a call-to-arms for the final CEO forum at the end of the day as they considered their businesses in the digital energy era.

Closing the digital divide between customers and their retail energy services is the new competitive frontier

By unleashing the competitive leadership of over forty competitive energy leaders in UK and more than a hundred globally across ESG, we underpin a diverse range of new retail strategies. These industry leaders are shaping a new competitive basis for energy retail. As our society changes to be ’always online’, customer expectation is far beyond that of their energy services in demanding a ‘digital first’ experience.


A digital culture learning from data to create specific customer benefit continually 

A new generation of competitive leaders appreciate this intuitively, their organisations are designed from the start with this culture with their propositions created to enhance the experience they have themselves as customers. But the technology they use is an invisible enabler at its best, so that customers achieve benefits simply. Like our shopping or banking, when we use mobile, wireless applications from the right providers they enhance our choices and daily lives.

Customers make informed choices to optimise their service experience across many sectors and compare energy companies to Uber or Amazon today not each other. As citizens in this digital society, we like the services we use to be positive, aspirational, to fit into a wider technology base we adopt at home and outside that makes our lives better as the demand on them increases. Everybody will say that energy bills rise upwards, so their retailers should adopt creative approaches to reduce energy consumption, share learnings and empower so we can take action ourselves.

Getting the basis of trust and retention is vital so that the retailer can be the supportive partner that is trusted not just to sell more electricity or gas demand. Instead the future model is to minimise customer use continually, reducing their future exposure to market prices.


Competing beyond the digital divide


Smart Metering is the start of a race towards digital customer empowerment

Smart metering is the transition point from analogue to digital energy, where data is created automatically that has mutual benefit for the customer and the retailer.  The retailer can help the customer visualise the data, to personalise the tariffs to reflect consumption pattern and to optimise the energy use.  But this will only be possible with trust, retention and acceptance by the customer. Getting the service right is a perquisite to making it smart with permission to access full consumption patterns from the smart meter.  As competitive leaders know, deploying smart meters is complex but ultimately itss not about the meter, it’s about the data and turning into a better energy experience.

A distrusting customer may have smart meter and give the data to third parties who disintermediate the retailer.  This will over time become a point of key change, from which innovation in cost control, service efficiency, grid optimisation and customer empowerment become possible.  Keeping the trusted relationship in place as a basis to grow smart benefits together will be the founding requirement of all energy retailers in an era of faster, easier switching across more choice with propositions that have longer service based retention.

Yet it is hard to have a culture committed to saving money for customers when your revenue and growth is dependent on billing for all the energy. So competitive energy leaders need to go fast and adapt quickly, before this dependency is created. These nimble innovators have a wonderful opportunity to become long-term services that are about life enablement at the best price supported by invisible, automated technology, not just retailing energy.


Competing beyond the digital divide


Online, engaged customers will drive future energy retail service capabilities

As citizens we all want applications on mobile devices to work where, when and how we want. So our energy retailers need to listen to the social media platforms we all use and to turn this insight into action that delights their customers constantly. Because energy is essential and mostly the supply is as reliable as it will ever be, customers are hard to delight and quick to frustrate.

This is a new world that requires social media listening, proactive contact, real answers to queries and a culture of simple, easy communication. Customers are becoming the most powerful sales channel and the worst competitor. There is power in an online ‘like’ or adverse comment having influence on other customers and those active customers know their impact. Customer ratings and trust pilot scores are increasingly a customer consideration in combination with price, but these are already too slow. The most recent comment is the latest opinion, energy engagement becomes always on and needs a combination of real human interaction and human-like automated engagement that delights.

At Utiligroup, and across ESG more widely, we observe a generational shift in energy retailers, a new digital divide. Competing in today’s energy market is one designed twenty or more years ago before any of leading global internet brands and platforms existed. The markets, regulation and role were all defined before this new era, yet customers, their services and underpinning platforms work back from what they can deliver in future.

The challenge and opportunity is to unlock tomorrow’s competitive innovation in today’s energy market structures as their adaptation will inevitably need to move at the pace of the slowest interests. Energy markets now need to evolve from a basis of choice and price competition, towards collaboration and collective energy optimisation. Competitive leaders are already on a path towards partial customer self-sufficiency even, with integrated technologies that invert the whole energy supply model. A world where the retailer is there for top-up energy, buying from and selling to its customer base is a more fluid, agile and data driven model to the retailer of today.


The four competitive strategies for energy retail in the digital age

There are four choices in the energy market, to pioneer, to reinvent, to refine or evolve which I explore further with examples when engaging with competitive energy leaders. In an era of pioneering and reinvention evolution may to be too slow, too hard and based on narrow experience. This is a time when those recreating the energy model want to deliver a better experience today. They can start by creating new experiences in today’s market from which start to build mutual relationships that enable them to experiment and learn together with the customer. These companies know the future is theirs to create with value that has never existed before.

It’s our focus to deliver a lean, simple basis of competitive leadership that has agility and customer focus at its core. We know this has to be scalable, proven and ready to go on a journey of fast competitive growth, because our customers are doing that today. In UK and across the global we’re delivering the best customer management for tens of millions of customers, abstracting the complexity away and treating each retailer as the next market leader. Making the market better with more choice and better service was the start that we have been building for over ten years. This is still a vital part of our underpinning of competitive energy leaders. Our next focus is to unleash competitive innovation for those new or reinventing themselves in the sector create energy2.0.

We are engaging to make this real in three ways. First we engage early and deeply in industry change programmes and new collaborative technology initiatives. Second, we turn this into integrated Software as a Service platform enablement such as our uSmart platform for smart metering and beyond. Third, work out how to combine new business models into the roles of today, so that talent and investment starts to create real customer benefit and return. Then, do it over again, constantly because the future never sleeps. That’s us – engage, deliver, realise and repeat so that our customers can compete with the old market and each other. This is the new frontier of energy competition beyond the digital divide.


Competing beyond the digital divide


Closing the digital divide of retail energy services is the new competitive frontier

Leading competitive energy retailers are already becoming technology underpinned service providers, driven by growing data insight. Learning from one global market, applying it to the next and constantly working out what is possible to make energy cost and experience better is the next basis of energy provision. At Utiligroup and across wider ESG, unleashing future competition through the optimal business model and smarter energy for everyone is what we do. We keep it lean, simple and smart so that your agility and customer focus wins in the new market.



An online video stream of Mark’s fifteen-minute speech considering competitive energy innovation and differentiation across the digital divide is available here:

Email Mark at if interested to see the video or explore working together.

Mark engages extensively with competitive energy leaders globally to drive new insight and apply this to the platform enablement by Utiligroup and the wider ESG.


Competing beyond the digital divide


Mark’s energy market insight feed is at


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