Which Utility Company Is Preparing Its Customers for Autumn Most Effectively?

Lorna Gill Posted by Lorna Gill

Before we begin the inevitable slide into the colder months of winter, we’ll look at how the main utility competitors are trying to get your attention during this autumn season.

The days are slowly getting shorter, the leaves are changing colours, and we’re tempted to turn on our home heating systems.

As September turns into October and October turns into November, the entire nation starts reaching for the thermostat to turn up the heat. We’ve all got to stay warm, so beyond offering heating and gas-powered services at competitive prices, there really isn’t much else the utility companies can do to attract new customers. Or is there?

Advertising data from the last 12 months reveals some interesting patterns among the utility industry’s key players. Certain providers have been increasing advertising spending and owning key search terms as a way of ensuring that they maintain a significant slice of the utility industry’s pie.

This is one market that is unmistakably seasonal, and as such, the various strategies employed by companies are adapted from month to month – and companies taking advantage of great advertising strategies are enjoying significant returns on investment as the cold weather sets in.

Share of Voice

Boiler check keyword terms from Adthena

Boiler check keyword terms from Adthena

In the period starting October 2013 and ending August 2014, British Gas generally stood head and shoulders above the rest in terms of share of voice (SOV) for keywords related to boiler checks.

At its most successful point, the utilities giant had almost 50% of the market’s attention, while even at its lowest, it never had less than 30%. In a crowded market environment, this obviously represents an enormous success.

Home Heating Guide also performed exceedingly well over the year in this area for keyword terms related to free insulation. During the crucial autumn to winter period, HHG worked the hardest to reach its customers, even exceeding British Gas’ SOV by a significant margin between September and January.

At its most successful point in November, the provider had a little over 40% of the market voice compared to British Gas’s 25%. British Gas aside, it outperformed all other major competitors for virtually the entire year across both search terms.

Free insulation keyword terms from Adthena

Free insulation keyword terms from Adthena

Insulationgrants.info deserves a notable mention for peaking massively between October 2013 and January 2014, taking on both British Gas and HHG to gain almost 40% of the SOV.

While British Gas and HHG were the year’s two biggest players consistently, Free Insulation also performed respectably. The company’s SOV strengthened between January and February, gaining a slight edge on HHG in the process, as each reached the 20% mark with HHG’s dipping under 15%.

The rest of the market was generally split between SBM Surveys, Boilers Sale and Home Energy UK, although each only retained a maximum of 10% of the market at any one time.

With that data in the books, what was the impact of these advertising efforts on web traffic?

What Does this Mean for Traffic?

As you might expect, the volume of visitors coming through each website correlates fairly directly with SOV.

Because British Gas and HHG dominated the advertising market, it follows logically that the greatest number of potential customers saw their ads and either clicked through or visited their websites independently at some later point.

British Gas experienced the most traffic to its site over the last 12 months. Following a steady dip in the autumn season, the company’s steepest climb occurred between late November and late December, when the number of visitors to the site shot up from around 1500 to almost 4500.

This tallies with the SOV figures that reported HHG’s surpassing of British Gas in autumn. This correspondence is of particularly interest because it suggests that HHG regards autumn as a more important time to reach out to new customers, whereas British Gas’s figures are at their strongest after the New Year.

The two companies therefore have slightly different focuses in terms of advertising. British Gas hits their customers at a time when they may be thinking about updating their homes for the New Year – a time when it’s cold enough to start thinking seriously about saving for a new boiler or enquiring about loft insulation.

By comparison, HHG’s efforts are at their greatest at the time when customers start thinking about switching the heating on and keeping their homes safe and warm for the autumn and winter seasons ahead.

Again, Npower and Free Insulation performed well during the winter months, with 2,000 and 3,000 monthly visitors in accordance with their advertising strategies.
Pay Per Click

You most likely already know, but the way pay per click (PPC) works is simple: the better the placement of your ads, in addition to the quality of your ad copy and landing page, the more website traffic you’ll likely receive, resulting in higher sales figures. It’s not about spending lots of money or your ad score, but about spending the right amount of money wisely.

Yet at this time, it also goes like this: the higher your sales, the more money you have available to spend on advertising. PPC rates of well-placed ads are fairly astronomical, but not in comparison to the amount a company will get from a newly acquired customer should they decide to make a purchase.

Therefore, spending more on advertising can provide a boost for companies failing to keep up with their competitors’ performance. Over the course of the year, the biggest ad spends came from HomeServe, which paid the most on average per click by a fairly significant margin.

Hassle Free Boilers adopted a slightly different strategy, increasing spending significantly at the start of the autumn season, as well as in late January and again in late June. This might indicate an analytical approach, where the company most likely performed an investigation to identify the points at which customers are most likely to search for new boilers.

What customers search for and when they search for it is very important in terms of advertising. By looking at keyword traffic over time, advertisers can identify prime moments to adjust their advertising strategies.

Keyword Traffic

During August, for example, certain utility-related search terms ranked highly on Google. “Loft insulation” came in on top, appearing in anywhere between 20 and 80 searches per day, while “cavity wall insulation” was searched for between 25 and 60 times per day and “free loft insulation” appeared between 20 and 40 times.

Other key search terms, while less popular, included “free loft insulation uk” and “free cavity wall insulation.” The last month of summer, August is clearly a time when customers begin thinking about preparing their homes for the winter onslaught.

In terms of preparing its customers for autumn, leading competitor British Gas expectedly takes the cake in that it performs reasonably well across the board all 12 months of the year. Yet in terms of adapting advertising strategies, increased PPC spending from Get a Boiler Quote shows distinct recognition of seasonal importance, as does the increased share of voice from HHG in the autumn season.

(Main image credit: Ryan Thomas/Flickr)

About the author

Lorna Gill
Lorna Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies and is passionate about translating technical information into stories that excite and delight.