In this article, we speak to Andreya Shaak, the Director of Product for EC Infosystems. She began her career in 2010 with EC Infosystems, transitioning to working on the supplier side in various roles including operations, partner management, and regulatory. After relocating to Chicago, Andreya managed retail operations for Eligo Energy, a start-up electricity and natural gas retailer, and later joined Nordic Energy as a Partner Manager.
Prior to rejoining ECI in December 2016, Andreya ran product initiatives and sales for Nordic Energy’s sister company – a technology start-up focused on broker sales and custom pricing.
Andreya attended Hofstra University for Journalism and is also a graduate of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education in International Relations. She is currently pursuing her MBA at Rice University’s Jones School of Business.
Andreya and her colleague Aileen Currier, the Director of Market Strategy, will be speaking on Wednesday, March 24 (11:20 till 11:30 CT) ahead of a key panel session on Thursday (3/25) led by Ananda Goswami, Chief Revenue Officer at EC Infosystems and joined by representatives from Think Energy by ENGIE, SOURCE Power Company, Pulse Power, Agility CIS and Sunrise Energy.
The interviewer, Dr Fridrik Larsen, is the founder of CHARGE Energy Branding.
What do you think are the main challenges for energy companies when it comes to branding and communication?
Within the majority of deregulated markets, the biggest challenge for retail providers remains the education aspect of their marketing strategy. In assuming the role of educator in markets where choice is less widespread, retailers can leverage their branding and communication to not just distinguish themselves but educate their target audience. Take, for example, the New Jersey electric market; according to data from January 2021, only 9.16% percent of residential electric consumers have switched which has steadily declined from 12.84% in January 2020. Comparing those staggeringly-low stats to neighboring PJM states like Pennsylvania, we see 27.4% of eligible residential consumers have made the switch to a supplier.*
Consumers in markets like New Jersey are either unaware or unwilling to switch, and the onus of education falls directly on the retail provider to employ their marketing strategies to educate consumers on the “how and why” of their brand and market messaging.
When building an energy brand, how much emphasis do you place on emotion versus rationality? Does “feeling” and emotive resonance have a place within your brand strategy?
As a technology partner, our branding evokes the pillars of our cornerstone principles – strength, stability, innovation. So, while innovation should instill a sense of forward-thinking when it comes to branding, ECI’s core messaging aligns with the strength and security of our industry-leading products and software. Ultimately, our goal is for the ECI name to become synonymous with the reliability and stability that enables our retail and utility clients to run their back-offices consistently and effectively. As a company, it’s important that our clients both see AND feel the strength, stability and innovation in our company cohesively through our systems, branding, and messaging.
What lessons have you learned about simplifying complex concepts/technologies for the purposes of branding?
Again looking at this question through the lens of a retail provider, it is important to consider the market and billing relationship before investing in technology or tools for consumers. Across all markets, ECI offers a retailer-branded customer portal, where the retailer’s clients directly access usage and account data, download recent bills, and make one-time or recurring payments. This customer portal experience seamlessly integrates into the retailer’s website as well as the ECI billing/EDI solution and pairs with a recently launched beta app for android and apple phones. In connecting this to branding, retailers with these types of tools earn a reputation for transparency especially if this data access also provides their consumers with the ability to make account decisions based on their billing and consumption data.
However, this type of technology can be challenging to implement in markets where the retail provider does not control the billing relationship with the consumer. In the consolidated POR markets where the utility remits a single invoice to the customer, a retailer offering a standalone site may create customer confusion and potentially encourage double payments. As this simple example elucidates, retailers must consider their target market and scale the technology, messaging, and education accordingly.
During the Charge Conference, my colleague, Aileen Currier, and I will present a brief session to elaborate on this topic specifically. Our goal is to take the guesswork out of which technology to best employ, considering the retailer’s segmentation initiatives as well as which tools fit best within those target markets. We hope you will join us for our session during the event, Building a Data Driven Brand – Using Tech to Align Your Customer and Market Strategies, which will be held at 11:20 CST on Wednesday, March 24th.
When you look back on your time in your role, what honest mistakes have you made that you’ve learned from in building your brand and key business relationships?
At my cumulative time at ECI over the last 7 years, we have fundamentally changed the way we work, collaborate, and interact with our customers and potential clients. We pivoted from individual departments making onsite sales appointments/client check-ins to a company-wide, inclusive strategy to strengthen the relationship with our existing and potential customers.
In 2018, I helped launch ECI’s first user conference, where our clients joined us next door to our headquarters in Uniondale, NY for two days of system education, market presentations, product roadmap brainstorming, and, of course, fun and networking. Since then, we have taken the event national and over 100 clients have joined us at our user conferences in San Antonio, Philadelphia, and at our upcoming event in Orlando slated for later this year. We have even invited a handful of potential clients to these gatherings, as we believe it showcases the type of relationship we seek whenever we partner with a retail energy company.
This proprietary user conference, coupled with shifts in the structure of our client services group and strategic industry hires within that department, have changed how we foster deeper partnerships with our current clients and will better serve us as we look to develop new business relationships in the future.
*data provided by www.bgs-auction.com and PA Power Switch; January 2021