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Building Customer Journeys For a Gas-Free Future

By Kyle Rees | July 18, 2022 | 1 Comment

MarketingMarketing Strategy and InnovationMarketing, Consumer, and B2B InsightsTechnology and Emerging Trends
A Journey to Unseat the Status Quo

American consumers and businesses are finally gearing up to go gas-free. At least that’s what I’m led to believe if I take at face-value the messages I see from power-tool manufacturers, auto brands and utility service providers. Thanks to generous federal subsidies, expansive national infrastructure spending, and the fear of being shamed on my neighborhood listserv for using a gas mower, going all electric has never looked so good.

Brands in these sectors know it, too. You see it in their focus-group built campaigns boosting visions of a more idyllic, cleaner, quieter, cheaper and less noxious future. Frankly, I hope everything they’re selling is as good as it sounds. But I also know that building the momentum to get a majority of people to buy a gas-free future isn’t going to be easy.

After all, I like the resilience of a gas stove in a power outage. I’d love to put solar panels on my roof, but I live in Tree City, USA. Everyone here knows to fear the derecho and its aftermath. And besides, I already suffer from charging anxiety with my cellphone. The bigger question at hand: how do we unseat the status quo?

The Power of Prescriptive Pathing

Leading consumers and business customers to not just believe, but also buy, a gas-free future, will take more than public policy mandates and clever advertising. Marketers will need to tap into their capacity for market sensing and customer intelligence to help their organizations pull the levers of emotional (i.e. save the planet) and rational (i.e. save yourself/your business) engagement in a way that makes a difference. Parlaying this to customer journeys that build on the premise of “prescriptive pathing” is critical.

According to Gartner, giving everyday people and business owners clear instructions on what they need to do and why, relative to their own personal preferences, increases the likelihood of purchase by 36% for consumers and 60% for business buyers. This is important to remember when most of the market hasn’t “bought electric” before. First-time buyers will need extra coaching and support.

Self-Reflective Learning Journeys Drive More Ambitious Purchases

And what happens when brands want people to buy more deeply into their visions of a gas-free future? Maybe you work for an oil and gas company that’s making the case to gas station owners to add more EV chargers to their retail location. It might be the same story for a hospitality or quick-serve restaurant brand. The biggest insight from Gartner: customers reward brands with more ambitious (read: bigger) purchases when they experience a self-reflective learning journey.

Although customer learning paths are the most valuable, companies often think about this primarily in terms of “learning about the company or its products.” However, the most effective learning experiences cause customers to realize something new about their needs or goals as opposed to something new about a brand’s product or service (see Figure 1).  

A bar chart shows the impact on self-learning journeys on purchase outcomes.
Figure. 1 According to Gartner’s 2021 Journey Orchestration Customer Survey, self-learning beats product learning on purchase outcomes.
Customer Journey Research: From Theory to Practice

Look hard enough on social media and on your next shopping trip to a home improvement store and you’re sure to see this type of approach in play. Take the example from Milwaukee Tool below (Figure 2). For those of us looking to buy their first battery-powered mower, the brand’s responses to questions about battery charging on Instagram are reinforced with other helpful decision criteria in the product bay at Home Depot.

Zoom in and you’ll see smartly positioned reminders about the elimination of common “gas headaches” and “trade-focused” design. This is appealing perspective for DIYers and professionals alike who are scrolling for insights online and who need the extra push when they’re at the point of sale.

Images show a post from Milwaukee Tool on Instagram and Milwaukee Tool signage in Home Depot
Figure 2. Message consistency across channels helps reinforce instructions for product use as well as reasons to buy.
A Learning Journey Built to Drive Big Changes

Perhaps the best example I’ve seen comes from utility service provider PG&E. Cleaning up California’s air is no small task. The latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration paint a stark picture of this reality. In 2019, the state’s transportation sector produced nearly 208.9 million metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide, the second highest in the United States behind Texas. Beyond an opportunity to do better by the environment, there’s sizable market potential to convert commercial drivers from combustion to electric engines.

To help businesses that use commercial vehicles in their operations begin to make this shift – and to expand the depth at which they engage PG&E’s services – the brand delivers a digital experience that others will want to make note of (see Video below).

 

What plays out on screen is a seamless experience, but that’s a surface level read. Here, curious business buyers can build a plan with PG&E. Users will find available grants they can apply for to offset some of the capital costs. They’ll be guided through thoughtful prompts about what kinds of vehicles are in their existing fleet, and can customize run-time schedules and make estimates about the planned useful life of equipment, too.

In return for their engagement, decision makers receive a deeply personalized set of recommendations about how much they can save on everything from fuel to insurance. They can also get a sense of estimated construction and installation costs, too.

Overall, it’s a pragmatic example of theory in practice. But, more than that, it’s a good reminder of marketing’s job to be done to build customer journeys that help drive change.

Want to learn the latest from Gartner customer learning journeys?
Gartner clients, read more on Gartner.com.

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1 Comment

  • Ton Scott says:

    Well written article Kyle. Thanks for sharing!