Thursday 20 July 2017

Pricing and sponsorship fuel growth and encourage consumers to switch

Energia's head of marketing, Geoff Codd, tells John McGee how the company woos customers

Geoff Codd, Energia head of marketing and retail, which is taking on bigger rival Electric Ireland Picture: Mark Condren
Geoff Codd, Energia head of marketing and retail, which is taking on bigger rival Electric Ireland Picture: Mark Condren

John McGee

Although it has only been operating in the Irish residential energy market since 2014, the utilities company Energia has over 100,000 customers in a market that is regarded as one of the most competitive in Europe.

Part of the Northern Ireland-headquartered Viridian Group - which is owned by the investment company I Squared Capital - the company also owns two gas-fired power plants in north Dublin and a number of wind farms.

In a commoditised and highly competitive domestic market, which is dominated by rival Electric Ireland, Energia has invested heavily in promoting the brand since it entered the market, with a particular emphasis on its 'dual-fuel' offering of both gas and electricity.

Spearheading the company's marketing efforts is Geoff Codd, head of marketing and retail development. He's an experienced marketer and joined the company in 2008 from Meteor.

The provision of electricity and gas is a non-visible service that most people take for granted. How does a company like Energia distinguish itself from the competition?

"It's true that for most of us electricity and gas are simply there and we tend to think about them only when our bill appears or when the power doesn't work.

"We've met this challenge in two ways. We've successfully created a fun and engaging home energy brand and at the same time provided a compelling case for switching to Energia - our dual fuel offer for gas and electricity is the best offer in the market."

"Price is always going to be a key consideration for consumers. After all, saving money is the biggest driver for switching home energy providers. That's why we've stuck to our best value commitment for dual fuel.

"We are also one of the leading developers and providers of green energy in Ireland, with particularly strong environmental credentials. We supply 800 megawatts of green energy, and 25pc of Ireland's total renewable supply is provided through us. That's enough to power 800,000 homes and we're not stopping there - we have many wind farm projects in development and are committed to renewable energy."

How competitive is the Irish utilities market?

"Without doubt, the home energy market is highly competitive. As it already has some of the best-known Irish brands, it takes huge amounts of time, effort and investment to compete and grow.

"Having said that, when we entered the home energy market in 2014, Energia already had two big advantages. We had the experience of running Power NI, Northern Ireland's biggest home energy supplier, for several decades. So, we had a strong understanding of good customer relations. We had also been competing in the business energy market in Ireland since 1999 and had grown our share of this to over 25pc.

"The key to the home energy market for us is encouraging consumers to consider switching. It is only through the promotion of switching that we have developed a customer base of over 100,000 customers in less than two years - a record we're rightly very proud of. Roughly 20,000 consumers switch every month and of those, 25pc switch to Energia.

"But there's always more work to be done though in raising awareness among consumers about just how easy it is to switch providers and about the significant money savings that can be made.

"We also offer Energia customers a number of great additional services including a range of retail and leisure deals and special offers plus a whole range of energy-related gadgets like smart thermostat Netatmo. And we have great packages available for people who want to upgrade their homes to become more efficient, with savings of up to €2,300 a year."

What are the opportunities for Energia in the Irish market?

"As a company we're focused on staying ahead of the game when it comes to the use of technology in the home.

"It's important to our customers. It's also a no-brainer when you consider the money and energy savings that consumers can make with some simple gadgets and apps."

Sponsorship has played an important role in your marketing strategy over the past few years. How has this worked out?

"Sponsorship is a key focus for us and we've linked up with a number of smart and sustainable projects.

"Last year, for example, saw the start of our new partnership with Grow it Yourself. This will see us provide €80,000 worth of funding to voluntary and community organisations to start or expand community food-growing projects. We will also be working with Seachtain na Gaelige this year and continuing to support Irish businesses through the SFA's Small Business Awards.

"In addition, we've focused on developing our own series of online competitions and promotions and we were hugely encouraged by the response to the recent Energia Ireland's 'Most Christmassy Home' competition that we ran in December. Plugging in to the popularity of people decorating their home for Christmas, the competition was open to customers and non-customers alike. Leveraging off the trend of decorating your home to raise money for charity, Energia also made a donation to the competition winner's favourite charity. While the idea was simple, the response from the public was overwhelming - we received entries from over 750,000 people, which was fantastic."

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