Making home energy savings simple.
Opower, a global leader in cloud-based software for the utility industry, combines a cloud-based platform, big data, and behavioral science to help reduce energy consumption. Opower works under the umbrella of utility companies to provide customers with detailed information on their energy use, but there is increasing competition for the big data-driven energy reduction market from consumer-facing companies like Nest. In this project, Opower wants to extend their reach beyond their current utility partners & engage consumers directly.
Opower found that people are motivated by competition - energy use goes down when people are given insight into how their energy consumption compares to their neighbors. We created a customer-facing website and home audit app that leverages this competition-based motivation model to engage customers, and provides clear, easily actionable ways to reduce energy use.
Everyone on the 3 person team collaborated on all parts of the project. I operated as project manager and focused on the website portion of the project.
How it Works
"My partner lost his job and we need to cut back on expenses, but I don't know where to start."
Adam is a new Opower Home customer who is using the site for the first time.
Personalized Tips & Goals
Energy Audit App
Research & Discovery
This segment of the energy industry was new to us, so we started by researching Opower, their competitors & the energy industry as a whole to better understand who they were, what they did & how they engaged customers. Opower is the dominant presence with utility companies which meant they had unmatched data on consumer’s energy use patterns. Most competitors had approached the energy market through consumer-facing products like smart thermostats, but were starting to break into Opower’s monopoly with utility company partnerships.
Interviews & Surveys
Because our objective was to introduce a customer facing application, we needed to understand people’s current relationship to their utility company. We also needed to understand how Opower’s competitors were positioned with consumers. To discover this, we sent out a survey and conducted numerous interviews with utility customers.
To identify types of customers that Opower would need to engage, we created three personas that reflected attitudes & behavior patterns we gathered from the survey and interviews. Of the three personas, we chose to focus on Adam because he represented the customer base that would be the most challenging to attract as they had little to no interest in learning about energy reduction except from a financial point of view. If we could engage someone like Adam, other customers who had more interest in energy use issues would also be convinced to use Opower.
A key difference in working directly with customers - rather than through utility companies - was that Opower needed access customer’s energy use information on their own. Despite the clear picture of Opower’s customers, we struggled with the best way to engage them. Beyond competition with their neighbors, what would motivate & reward people for providing their utility information to Opower, then give them a reason to return to the site?
Defining the Path
Due to the short time period, we decided to focus the prototype on the initial customer engagement, gathering of energy use data and tips on how to save money. Combining the Opower Home goals with Adam’s needs and pain points, we created a narrative for how a user would walk through the Opower website & app.
Visualizing & Testing
Once we had established the elements we were going to focus on for the prototype, we sketched ideas for the website and app. Then keeping Adam's needs in mind, we compared our work and decided on a direction for the interface.
To understand what worked well and what was challenging, we formalized the paper sketches then tested the website & app with utility customers .
Our prototype focused on the initial customer engagement for Opower Home through gathering of customer's energy use data and tips on how to save money. Thinking about the next steps for Opower....