May 6, 2014 by Bill Johnson
How to sell consumers stuff they want is the age-old challenge for any merchants. It’s becoming a particularly difficult one for utilities as they lose customers to businesses from solar to cable companies.
That has created opportunities for companies like Tendril, which has been working on using personal data to figure out what types of energy equipment and services consumers might want for their homes, the company said Tuesday.
The venture capital-funded company has been testing its data analytics and modeling software with customers and plans to launch the service officially in the third quarter of this year, said Adrian Tuck, CEO of Colorado-based Tendril.
With the new service, Tendril is joining a growing number of companies that crunch a variety of data to help businesses figure out what consumers might want and target their marketing efforts accordingly.
Such effort in the energy space is intriguing because it’s set up to help and disrupt the utility business model, which is largely built around making money by selling more and more energy. Tendril plans to market its latest service to utilities (its traditional customers) and their competitors.
The emergence of the solar energy market — in which homeowners could buy solar panels or sign contracts to get solar electricity from a non-utility business — is worrying utilities. Other companies that have gotten a foot-hold in selling communication and entertainment gear and services are interested in selling electricity, too. Comcast CMCSA +0.83%, for example, is testing a plan for selling electricity in Pennsylvania.
All these new players in the electricity market is prompting utilities to figure out long-term plans to staying profitable. Some are teaming up with solar companies; others are investing or otherwise getting into the solar energy business themselves.
Regardless of who is selling electricity or related products to consumers, they all need to figure out how to clearly identify potential customers and focus their marketing efforts on those who are more likely to make the purchases. But the practice of categorizing its residential customers in order to sell specific products is uncommon among utilities.
With the new service, Tendril is getting deeper into the product marketing business. It takes a variety of data, such as incomes, utility spending, age and size of a home, history of the types of goods and services purchased, and create a profile that can then be searched by its customers. Some of these data are publicly available, such as real estate listing databases. Others are sold by credit card and other companies.