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Staying ahead of the curve – insights unlock value in the new Water Retail Market

The new water retail market is open for business; on the 1 April this year it became possible for businesses in England to choose which company they would like to supply their retail water services.

The move had been in the pipeline since 2011, when the government set plans for a new competitive market outlined in the Water for Life White Paper. With a focus on improving customer service, promoting protection of the environment and increasing competition in the industry, it is one of the most significant changes the industry has faced, bringing with it a range of new challenges.

The open retail water market will work much in the same way as other utility services, with wider utility markets now also being able to offer water services.  It is believed this will deliver around £200 million of overall benefit to customers and the UK economy by separating out retail services from wholesale activities.

What does this mean?

In simple terms it means that for an additional 1.2 million eligible businesses and non household customers they now have a choice – the customers are in the driving seat.

Customers can decide who they would like to provide their water, their wastewater services, or both. They can change at any time, for any reason, without penalty, and all this can happen in less than a month.

For licensed water retailers it means they are now competing against each other and have the freedom to tailor services and packages for customers to contend in the open market. The market will provide growth opportunities for existing regional water companies, and brand new companies. Initial investment will be required to set up independent retail businesses, ensuring fair competition, and once established driving a return on investment will be a key focus.

Insights will unlock value

The open retail market is a new market; with that comes limited transactional history or operational trading knowledge. There are no clear market leaders and the market is open to competition.

The good news is willingly engaging with and understanding customers’ and stakeholders’ needs and concerns could be a key differentiator in a new competitive market and will provide those forward thinking water retail companies with a competitive edge.

Staying ahead of the curve

The ability to benchmark, track and evaluate service through customer engagement will deliver a significant return on investment for water retailers.

For over two decades, our team at Explain Market Research have been innovating, developing and delivering research programmes in the utility sector, our main objective always being to deliver actionable insights for our clients. Read our case studies for some great examples of our work in the sector.

We have developed innovative methodologies to deliver insights in a competitive market. We specialise in engaging with customers including embedding behavioural research, trust and confidence, and the engagement of vulnerable and hard to reach customers into our utility sector research projects.

Research and engagement will enable water retail businesses to get closer to their customers to identify the issues they are experiencing at any given time and co-creating to find solutions that improve their experience.

Research will also be important to understand the ideal balance between price and service to enable retailers to shape their service offering. Measuring and tracking customer experience as well as customer advocacy will allow retailers to measure performance as well as areas for service improvement, enabling continuous improvement over time and high levels of customer retention for getting it right.

Contact us at Explain Market Research today to find out more about the solutions we offer. Take a look at our accompanying infographic below.

Water Retail Market Infographic V3

 


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Explain Market Research launches new research solution to deliver innovation

Originally developed in 2010, Explain’s innovative online community platform has undergone a substantial upgrade to better meet the needs of clients and end users.

Organisations in a range of sectors, including utilities, healthcare and manufacturing, have chosen our platform as it provides a unique and extremely cost-effective method of research and engagement to suit any budget.

An online community in the simplest form is a form of social and digital engagement, sometimes referred to as an online panel; they offer a bespoke, members-only digital space in which to directly engage ‘in the moment’ with a desired audience – for example, customers, stakeholders, or internal staff. Communities are currently being used to monitor perceptions of customer service, develop new products, and engage with vulnerable and ‘hard to reach’ consumer groups.

Along with the build of each community, Explain provide an ongoing management and moderation service which sees users encouraged to actively participate in conversation, providing a qualitative two way conversation. Views and opinions are gathered through discussion threads, polls and online surveys, with fresh and relevant content uploaded frequently to ensure high levels of engagement, providing a 360 degree view from customers.

Our online communities range in scale and scope, with each community individually designed to deliver the needs of clients. We currently host and manage online communities ranging from bespoke projects with 50 members, running for a limited time to deliver immediate insights, to long term strategic models with thousands of members, that will run over a number of years as an engagement tool.

The recently launched Version 3 of the platform offers enhanced design and media capabilities, along with greater usability to improve user experience for members.

Kim Davis, Explain Market Research’s Managing Director commented “Our newest release has stimulated interest from those who see research as an ongoing investment in product and service refinement. Any industry that is serious about stakeholder engagement should consider an online community, as an extremely cost-effective way to carry out ongoing research.  It breaks down barriers such as location, accessibility and timing. We are seeing a significant shift towards this type of research, particularly in regulatory environments, to demonstrate consistent engagement, and also in manufacturing for product innovation and development.”

Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, Explain has provided full-service market research solutions to a range of organisations for over two decades, with specialist knowledge and expertise in the utilities, healthcare and financial services sectors. Delivering innovative insights is at the forefront of our culture. Our online communities are part of a wider suite of innovative solutions to research and engagement, which also includes mobile app surveys, collecting ‘in the moment’ data and insights.

With a shift towards ongoing and digital research, to demonstrate consistent engagement, we continue to work with clients to find solutions to their needs, and are seeing a significant increase in the uptake of online communities as a research tool.

Take a look at our infographic below and get in touch to understand how your organisation will benefit from an online community.

communities infographic


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Why using behavioural research can provide greater returns on your marketing spend

For many years businesses have segmented their audiences based on socio-demographics, or firmographics where they are interested in companies. These are very useful and powerful ways to slice and dice data to then formulate engagement tactics to meet the assumed needs of these groups based on what this data tells us.

For example, how much a person earns will give you an idea if they could afford your product, or if they’re a business, having greater than a certain turnover may indicate they are in the market to buy your service.

But what about going one step further? What if you were to gain deeper insight into the actual behaviours of your potential customers? Just because someone can afford your product doesn’t mean they’ll purchase it. But if you add another dimension to this data in the form of personal attitudes and behaviours, this could create a much richer picture to aid your product development, messaging and targeting – and ultimately increase revenue into your business.

For example, within the health industry, gyms can target women who are 25-40 who are likely to earn over £25,000, within a given area, with a one week free trial promotion focused on weight loss. It is more than likely this will generate some sort of return in terms of uptake, particularly around New Year. But there is opportunity for these gyms to truly understand more behavioural traits of these ladies such as:

  • the main drivers behind why women join a gym in the first place
  • the feelings that these women have before joining a gym
  • what has prevented them from joining a gym in the past
  • what behaviours they have before, during and after a session at the gym
  • the key reasons for not being able to attend a session
  • the drivers behind cancelling memberships

With this more detailed dimension, gyms can reshape their service, re-define their messaging and introduce promotional marketing to existing members to prevent churn – therefore extending the lifetime value of their customers!

Behavioural research is much more complex than research of opinions, as it requires an approach which allows the researcher to get under the skin of the audience and to identify thoughts, feelings, emotions and the actions of an individual as a consequence of these. These are usually more deeply rooted and not easy to uncover using traditional surveys.

Our expert team utilise a range of methodologies that allow us to pull together a rich picture of your customer and stakeholder types. We use qualitative approaches for collecting this type of insight that could include a mix of the following methodologies:

There are many reasons why you should consider behavioural research – here are our top five:

  1. It will provide you with another dimension and help you better understand your audience
  2. It will help form more engaging communications resulting in better returns  
  3. Products and services can be enhanced to better meet the needs of your customers
  4. You can identify weak spots in your service to address and therefore increase your customer lifetime values
  5. You will gain a competitive edge

Contact the Explain team today to find out more about the best approach for you. Please feel free to save and share our accompanying infographic.

behaviour-research-infographic-v1