Making home energy savings simple.

Overview

Challenge:

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.

Solution:

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.

My Role:

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.

Duration:

Two weeks 

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.

Meet Adam...

 

 Website On-Boarding

Personalized Tips & Goals

Energy Audit App

Research & Discovery

Competition

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. 

 

 

Survey results

We learned that despite Opower’s dominance presence with utility companies, their name recognition with customers was very low. Only 21% of survey respondents had heard of Opower, compared to 67% familiarity with Nest and 81% with Honeywell - both customer-facing companies.

Interview quotes

The majority of respondents paid very little attention to their utility bill - at most, they looked at their monthly total. But all respondents - close to 90% - wanted to know how they could lower their utility bills.

Interview results

Another important finding from the surveys & interviews was that most utility customers had a neutral to negative attitude towards utility companies. This reinforced the importance of Opower connecting with consumers directly - rather than solely under the umbrella of utility companies - as they needed to improve the message and experience around energy use information.

Defining

Personas

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.

Affinity mapping

Grouping common characteristics and behavior patterns.

Opower.030.jpg

Three customer personas.

Opower.018.jpg

The focus persona for our work.

Focusing

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? 

 

 

Window

Window

What was the best way to engage customers?

Mint.com brainstorm

Mint.com brainstorm

To resolve this, we researched other applications that track and aggregate personal data, from fitness apps like MyFitnessPal & Fitocracy to financial aggregators like Mint.com. Mint.com engaged customers by providing an easy-to-use, centralized platform for all people’s financial information - from bills to credit cards to banking - then provided services like bill consolidation, goal setting and personalized tips on how to save money.

Fitocracy

Fitocracy

Fitocracy also had a goal-setting feature, along with personalized recommendations that were based on information users entered about themselves.

Wall

Wall

To help visualize our research findings, we sketched various feature arrangements on the wall, then talked through different approaches.

Resolution

Resolution

We determined that the best engagement strategy for Opower was a combination of 1) providing detailed information on how customers compare to thier neighbors, 2) personalized tips on how to save money, and 3) providing a utility bill consolidation service.

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

Sketching 

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.

 

 

Testing

To understand what worked well and what was challenging, we formalized the paper sketches then tested the website & app with utility customers .  

 

 

App testing

We found that there was confusion with the app on boarding screens - the tester wanted the ability to go directly from the home screen to the quick scan functionality - so we combined two screens not one to enable a faster transition and provided more clarity by focusing the menu options into a simple list.

Homepage testing

Usability testing of the website on-boarding also showed confusion around the on-boarding - testers weren’t sure what would motivate them to sign into & use the application. To resolve this, we focused the presentation of the content by removed unnecessary elements from the home page, and shifted the remaining content to better explain & reflect the site’s objectives.

Website testing - Before

The results of usability testing for the website home audit page indicated that people were overwhelmed by all the information they were seeing.

Website testing - After

To resolve that, we removed unnecessary elements from the page and simplified the presentation of the content.

Outcome

Thinking Ahead

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....

 

 

© 2015 KATHERINE YODER