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Industry Insight

Ricoh Launches Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies

WhatTheyThink had the opportunity to speak in-depth with Mike Bryant, Worldwide Practice Leader for Strategy and Marketing Analytics, and Jay Robinson, Senior Solutions Consultant, Utility Market, to gain more information about this new offering from Ricoh for this WhatTheyThink exclusive commentary.

By Cary Sherburne
Published: April 11, 2012

I had the opportunity to speak in-depth with Mike Bryant, Worldwide Practice Leader for Strategy and Marketing Analytics, and Jay Robinson, Senior Solutions Consultant, Utility Market, to gain more information about this new offering from Ricoh for this WhatTheyThink exclusive commentary.

Ricoh has coined the term “Precision Marketing” to describe what most of us call TransPromo—a term that just sort of made its way into the mainstream and none of us really like. Precision Marketing is a better term, but trademarked by Ricoh.

Although Ricoh is planning to roll out these services to other industries in the future, according to Bryant, utilities was chosen to be the first one for a couple reasons: first, and largely due to the former InfoPrint Solutions’ IBM heritage, the company already has a strong presence in and knowledge of utilities. Secondly, we see utilities in the news every day, and not all of it is favorable. The industry is under pressure from both environmental and economic perspectives almost every day. In addition, this is an industry that has a huge amount of customer data—and that data is only increasing as more utilities are deploying smart meters that collect data to a very granular level—for example, Robinson explained, they can even tell if you installed a new fridge! And they can tell when and how you are consuming energy, allowing them to either recommend changes to the energy pattern, or charge higher fees for energy consumed during peak hours.

In addition, they are faced with regulatory changes that can be confusing for customers and bring additional pressure from local Public Utility Commissions to keep consumer costs in line.

All of this is further exacerbated by the increasing demand for energy our society has. Robinson says, “This is all about changing consumer behavior. If a utility can get consumers to reduce consumption by 5% to 10%, there is huge benefit to them in, for example, being able to delay the capital cost of building a new power plant.”

How do these new Ricoh services play into all of that? The company has already been providing print engines (color and black & white, toner and inkjet), composition and other software and hardware that enables these companies (and their service bureaus if they are not producing in-house) to produce and distribute customer communications, largely transactional documents. “The Customer Marketing Suite for Utility Companies is the missing piece of the puzzle,” says Bryant. “By using predictive modeling, we can help utility companies identify the customers who have the highest propensity to adopt a particular service. For example, if a utility has budget to launch a campaign to 100,000 users, we can help them identify which 100,000 customers are most likely to respond to the offer and they only need to communicate with those customers. This saves them money, and raises response rates by 2-3X.”

The company worked with a number of companies in the development process for this service to gather enough data upon which to build its predictive modeling offering, and as other utilities climb on board, the predictive modeling will only get better.

“This is getting the attention of marketers in utility companies,” added Robinson, “and really changes the conversation about how print, IT and mail in their companies can support their marketing efforts; it goes a long way toward breaking down the silos that have prevented Precision Marketing from really taking off. Armed with these services, and with real data we have been able to generate with our partner beta customers, we can more easily talk with the CMO, CEO, or CFO. The results we can show them are astounding, and we are quite excited about the impact this can have on the entire industry, while at the same time, looking forward to bringing these advantages to other industries down the road.”

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.

 

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