Last updated: E-commerce innovation doesn’t stop at industry borders

E-commerce innovation doesn’t stop at industry borders

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Innovation is the name of the game for every enterprise looking to get ahead of the competition. Across industries, the pressure is on to add product and service functionality.

The pressure to innovate extends to the way companies serve their customers. Today, that means e-commerce innovation is a priority.

E-commerce innovation in utilities and telecommunications

The utilities industry is changing fast with companies working hard to expand beyond the traditional portfolio of energy products. Solutions and service offerings have become more popular, whether that’s energy consultancy or leasing an EV charger.

The telco industry also is rapidly innovating. Telco companies are streamlining their offerings and removing complexity even while experimenting with additional products and services. For example, some now offer a new phone combined with device insurance.

For both industries, offering their portfolio through digital channels is critical, as it is for all industries. It’s simply mandatory: You must give the customer, prospect and lead the chance to learn, decide, and purchase at their own pace and preferred channel.

This requires a flexible, omnichannel e-commerce platform that combines product management and commerce functionality. Utilities and telco companies need to be able to define and create all sorts of products and services — commodity, non-commodity, physical or digital — with different terms, all sold separately or in a bundle.

This goes beyond traditional e-commerce as it includes new processes and not just the entries in the product catalogue. You need to support customers that want to switch from one contract to another or want to amend a subset of an existing contract.

Renewal, cancellation, and termination all within the contract period is important. The system needs to know what contracts the customer already owns, which are active, and what the terms are.

Utilities and telcos: The cross-over effect

Utility and telecommunications companies aren’t limiting their e-commerce innovation to their traditional spheres. In fact, there’s some blurring between the two industries.

There are already a few examples of utility companies selling both: energy and telecommunication contracts. One is even selling a flat rate for everything, on the energy side only until a certain threshold is reached, of course. This shows that these two industries are becoming close.

Both are selling contracts rather than one-off physical products, and supporting these options with e-commerce innovations. Those contracts usually run until terminated and include various types of charges:

  1. Recurring charges. This is the monthly base charge customers pay. In telco, these have become more popular with the rise of flat rates.
  2. Usage charges. This is less popular in telco due to flat rates, but still happens. There can be roaming fees for SMS, MMS or when calling into other networks or special numbers that come with a different tariff. In utilities, this is the metered amount of energy consumed within a cycle, yearly/monthly etc.
  3. One-time charges

Currently, we don’t see many one-time charges in utilities, but with the rise of selling non-commodity items like smart thermostats and appliances, it will become more common. In telco we see a lot of one-time charges, especially when choosing a tariff that includes a phone. Usually that kind of charge is due immediately after placing the order, while the other charges occur on their individual cycle.

Of course, not only telcos and utilities are sharing this framework. Several other industries are adopting it, especially as the trend to move from one-off offers to a subscription business continues to grow.

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