South African Entrepreneurs Thinking BIG: Business ideas, success stories, marketing and innovation

How Can A Company Change Its Consumer’s Behaviors?

by on 23/10/12 at 4:00 pm
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This challenge can seem to be an aberration with regard to the basis of Marketing that taught us that brands must adapt to consumers and not the contrary. However, some entrepreneurs chose to believe that radical innovation has its distinct rules.

Powertime is an example of company that believed in such a radical innovation and chose to make the gamble to change the way South African buy and consume electricity. offers services enabling people to buy prepaid electricity and airtime from their cellphones or computers. Through its store , it is also offering South Africans energy-efficient products and services that help them adopt a greener lifestyle.

Since 2010, they have managed to change the way thousands of South Africans consume energy. Their successful experience can help us identify the 5 keys of radical innovation:

1. Identify Strong Needs That Balance The Behavior Shift

Ecommerce and energy-efficiency are still very new concepts for South Africans. The key in selling such innovations is to identify the real needs behind what you bring to consumers. The key behind buying electricity online is the convenience and analytics. The key behind energy-efficiency is the reduction of the electricity bill, which, in South Africa, is still a stronger selling point than the environmental factor. When dealing with innovative products it is important to remember that the more your product alters people behaviors, the more you need to bring to consumers to compensate that. A product that asks users to change their lives for it, but does nothing new for them, will for sure be a failure.

2. Don’t Scare People With Change

On contrary to what most people think, innovation is not a selling point for the customers. Actually, it is more difficult to sell an innovative product because users feel reluctant to try something new and they tend to persist in the same consumption habits. Consumers say they want innovation but it is not true. Most of them don’t like change. So how do you make the market adopt an innovative product like Powertime? When you sell an innovative product, you must try to hide the radical changes and make it very familiar to customers.

That is why on eCommerce websites, you place your products in a “cart” and “check out” afterwards, like you would do in a physical shop. Small things like the vocabulary are very important for the user experience. Powertime, also tried to recreate landmarks for their users: When buying electricity online you receive a “voucher” that is the same than the one you would buy in a shop and to visualize how much electricity left you have you can look at a virtual meter that recreate your physical electricity meter, with the additional features
possible online.

3. Capitalize First On A Small Group Of Lead Users

The best users to target when launching an innovation will of course depend on your product. However, in all cases it is not recommended to address the mainstream market in a first time and a better strategy is to target a small group of lead users first, whose behavior will be easier to change. The needs of the “lead users” for the product are the same in their nature than those of the “mainstream users”. They just differ in the way that they are much stronger, more urgent or more compelling. Because of that, they are more likely to adopt a product they know nothing about. During Powertime launch, these lead users were the digital natives and tech-savvy customers for which mobility and online access were a very important aspect.

Another group was the B2B market: small companies like backpackers and guest houses, for which electricity consumption must be managed carefully both for a reason of cost control and in order to avoid power shortage. These second lead users group was more sensitive to services like Powertime alerting notifications, consumption reports and real-time statistics.

4. Open Your Innovation To External Inputs

Satisfied lead users will not only be strong advocate of your product but they will also help your brand grow bigger in a first time and gain visibility on the mainstream market. It is also easier to have direct communication with the lead users and ask them for their feedback in order to improve the service and make it suitable for the mainstream users. Powertime community of users is another good example of open innovation. They capitalized on their community to ask for regular feedback that enabled them to continuously improve and build a product that is now extremely easy to use and operates all over South Africa.

If you follow these rules of innovation, you give big chances of success to your innovation and even changing people behavior towards energy conservation and sustainability can become a realistic challenge!

Ideate is one of South Africa's biggest business blogs, with a team of authors all of whom have had entrepreneurial experience. Ideate is read by entrepreneurs thinking BIG. Follow us on Twitter here. View more articles by Staff Reporter.

Tags: Consumer behaviour, crm, entrepreneurship, innovation, Powertime

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