Will making customer rebates more convenient transform the energy landscape? Simple Energy thinks so.
For the past few years, the Boulder-based startup has been developing and deploying utility-branded marketplaces equipped with instant rebates, which allow customers to apply for an incentive at the point of purchase. This week, Simple Energy announced it’s opening up its API so that customers can also instantly validate and redeem rebates in third-party marketplaces.
At launch, the platform is available to more than 15 million customers in a half-dozen states in partnership with 10 utilities and several leading retailers, including Lowe’s, Nest, ecobee and ABT.com — with additional retailers to be announced later in the year. Simple Energy claims its new Rebates-as-a-Service (RaaS) platform is the first to bring instant rebates to every place utility customers purchase energy products and services, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores.
Typically, when customers want to apply a rebate on an inexpensive item like light bulbs, a retailer can offer the incentive upfront and be repaid on the back end by the utility. But for more expensive items, like thermostats and water heaters, customers have to purchase their product for full price, then mail in paper forms, along with their receipt, in order to have a gift card or a check sent back weeks later. Other marketplace companies streamline this process by allowing customers to email their receipts to the utility. Simple Energy CEO Yoav Lurie says his company’s solution is even more convenient, making utility efficiency programs far more successful as a result.
“We think a totally different way of doing it is inserting the rebate into the transaction itself, because it takes all of the risk away from the customer,” he said.
People are inherently risk-averse and therefore far less likely to complete the rebate application process if they think they’re ineligible or will get rejected. American utilities spend some $4 billion on rebates and incentives each year in an attempt to try to change how their customers use energy. The rebates-as-a-service concept allows customers to see instant savings on energy-efficient products at the point of sale, which increases transaction volumes, reduces program costs, and helps utilities meet their energy efficiency and customer engagement goals.
Simple Energy currently provides energy marketplaces equipped with instant rebates for utilities of various types and sizes, including Commonwealth Edison, Georgia Power and Sacramento Municipal Utility District. The problem with these utility-branded platforms is that they’re a new destination. Customers have to know they exist and decide to do their shopping there. So what about the…