Last week, Mary Meeker presented the annual update of her famous Internet Trends report. Håkan Ludvigson, CEO of Eliq shares his perspective on the report.
The annual presentation which takes place at the Code Conference is often described as the State of the Union for the tech industry. Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends report was published after the presentation and goes into detail about how markets, trends and online consumer behaviour is evolving.
With this blog post, I wanted to highlight some of the most important trends and how they affect utilities.
Forget mobile-first: The rise of the mobile-only consumer
We spend our lives on screens and as Meeker points out, even though desktop computers aren’t going away anytime soon, an increasing portion of our day is spent with our mobile. In many countries, a majority of consumers don’t use a desktop outside of work and the trend is spreading.
Customers today expect their service providers to meet them on their mobile and they expect the frictionless, smooth user experience they have become used to by service providers such as Uber, Spotify and Deliveroo. Utilities have a lot of catching up to do here — very few utilities enable their customers to conduct all business on mobile, let alone with the frictionless experience they expect.
For millennials in particular, if you are not on their phone, you barely exist at all, but the trend of wanting to access everything instantly, in real time from your phone is spreading to other demographics. Intercom has a great article on the subject.
E-commerce eats the world — peckish for the utilities market?
E-commerce 15% year on year growth shows no signs of a plateau — quite the opposite, the growth is accelerating! The industry is poised to disrupt not only retail, but any B2C (business to consumer) market.
2017 saw the first signs of this in Europe. In France, €40 billion retailer Casino Groupe and its €2 billion market leading e-commerce platform Cdiscount launched energy supplier GreenYellow in late 2017. With a unique and fully mobile approach, its offer is poised to become a game-changer for the French market. Hint: GreenYellow runs on Eliq’s customer engagement platform 😁.
As a takeaway from the report, I would simply encourage more experimentation in collaboration between e-commerce and utilities, before big tech swoops in. We’ve all heard the whispers and rumours of Amazon eying the utility space…
Product adoption cycles are shortening
This is hardly news of the year, but the trend of shortening technology adoption cycles is continuing. People are becoming more and more receptive to new technologies. This may indicate that new energy technologies like EVs, solar and storage will be ready for mass-adoption, which could happen quicker than we may think once we hit the technology cost tipping point. EY will walk you through when that may happen across different regions, on this site (thanks @Rob Doepel and @Benoit Laclau at EY for a terrific job 🙌.)
Privacy concerns among consumers are rising
In the past year, I’m sure no one has missed what’s been going on with Facebook? Consumers’ awareness of how their data is used is on the rise and with GDPR it’s not only appropriate to inform and give customers choice, in EU it’s the law.
Generally speaking, consumers want to see clear value returned to them if they should be willing to share their data, something utilities need to fully embrace in order to make use of smart meter data.
China, China, China — but where is China?
Much of the report talks about the skyrocketing rise of China’s internet economy. Out of the world’s top 20 valued internet companies, 11 are American and 9 are now Chinese. The Chinese are taking a firm lead in the responding to consumer behaviour requirements, such as the use of mobile payments, instant messaging and mobile video services. But in energy tech, China has yet to enter the building.
We’ve seen significant Chinese investment in the energy sector over the past decade and the energy sector has grown quickly thanks to rising demand. China is now home to the world’s largest utility. We’ve also seen the country invest heavily in traditional energy such as oil and generation assets (Want specifics? This Bloomberg article will get you started.) but only recently have we been faced with the takeover of a major European energy supplier, with Chinese state-owned CTG’s bid to buy Portugal’s EDP. Maybe 2018 will mark a milestone with a change in Chinas role in the global energy market.
As a technologist with a particular interest in consumer behaviour, I read the Mary Meeker report from end-to-end each year and would encourage anyone in the business to do the same.
We must not look only to our own industry in understanding where it is going, or as the engineer in me would say:
Where we are going as an industry is not a function of our past, but of the future of consumers and adjacent industries.
About the author
Tech enthusiast, CEO and founder of Eliq, a customer engagement software company based in Gothenburg, Sweden and London, UK.