To Invest or Not to Invest: The Role of Mobile Development in Retail Energy

By Nikhil Koranne

We’re all deeply familiar with the, to invest or not to invest, debate. It’s a reoccurring theme in the digital age, where we’re constantly trying to understand how new technologies fit into our business context.

The mobile craze is especially confusing for retail energy providers who have conventionally latched onto the tail-end of the adoption waves. Being at the forefront of conversations about consumer psychology or user experience just doesn’t make sense with the retail energy sales funnel.  There’s not much coercion or nurturing involved in convincing end-users to engage with a service they need.

Rather than allocating resources to consumer-facing technology, retail energy providers have turned greater ROI channeling their money into operational software development. However, we’ve reached a tipping point. Business owners outside of the energy landscape have completely shifted the retail paradigm, revolutionizing the B2C experience through omnichannel marketing.

The consumer has come to expect a highly personalized and highly mobilized buying experience during every brand interaction, regardless of what service or product is at stake. Raising the bar on expectations has redefined what the consumer considers a positive experience, and of course, what constitutes as a negative experience.

Participation in the Mobilegedon is hard to justify in retail energy, considering it will reap little to no competitive advantage as the industry operates within a significantly less saturated market than, say, grocery or women’s apparel. The driving force behind energy marketing is proximity, a selling point that doesn’t necessarily need to be sold. The problem? We’re looking at ROI on mobile development the wrong way.

We need to stop thinking of mobile-first as a revenue stream and begin thinking of mobile investments as an investment in sustainability. Return on investment comes in many different forms. For retail energy operations, mobile-friendliness is not a strategic move to outplay the competition, it’s a means of satisfying the new-age consumer and breeding positive relationships between the retail energy providers and their end-users.

Pew Research Center reports that 77% of U.S. adults own a smartphone, making the average consumer an avid smartphone user.  As retail energy providers, we should be looking for the path of least resistance. In a state of total interconnectivity, the path of least resistance is the path of the most channels. For this reason, the mobile-first movement is more of a survival tactic than a sales ploy.

The return on investment of mobile development is more implicit than we saw with e-commerce development. There are no added rules, the preexisting rules are just changing to accommodate technological advancement. The desktop-user has simply been fragmented across a new slew of devices, just as the in-store consumer evolved beyond brick and mortar.

Mobile development is one of those, it’s the thought that counts scenarios. If the thought isn’t there, your relationship with your users will suffer.  Without a mobile presence, you’ll see a dramatic increase in complaints, negative reviews, customer service inquiries, and collections cases over the next five years. Eventually, mobile will be the end-all-be-all and that is a future we need to prepare for.

Of course, mobile also opens us up to an entire pool of consumer data we didn’t have in a desktop-only state of commerce. We’re slowly filling in the missing pieces of the user journey using location-based data and adding new pieces that give way to a heightened state of relevancy. We’re giving our target market exactly what they want when they want it, evolving how we deliver energy services.

What are we doing here? We’re sustaining ourselves, adapting to the new rules of modern retail and adopting UX standards that breed positive relationships between us and our consumers.

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Nikhil Koranne, is AVP at Chetu Inc.

Chetu offers insight into the changing tides within the retail energy landscape, discussing how emerging technologies will rattle the pre-existing architecture. Chetu Inc. is a custom software provider specializing in mobile app development, retail technology, UX/UI, and other software solutions