Podcast: What solar panels can teach you about customer journeys

By Alexander Evjenth

Podcast: What solar panels can teach you about customer journeys

In this week's podcast episode, I wanted to get some real-world examples of customer journeys from Anders and Stellan. We talk about the decision-making process a lot at Zooma, but the discussions are often quite abstract - so I hoped that by looking back at some of our recent customer journeys, we'd get an insight into how they work.

Fortunately, Stellan had a great example at hand. He's recently installed solar cells on his roof, so he was able to talk us through the research and decision-making process that led up to it.

Solar panels are complex products. Figuring out their total cost is difficult, and there's a huge range of suppliers and technologies on the market. This kind of complexity is more common in B2B products - so by looking at the details of this customer journey, you can hopefully get some insights into how your company's prospects approach your offering.

As usual, you can listen to this episode and subscribe on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or the podcast app of your choice using the RSS feed. The links you'll need are below, and if you're really in a rush, you can read the transcription further down.

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Alexander Evjenth: [00:00:00] So, Anders and Stellan, welcome back.

Anders Björklund: [00:00:02] Thank you, Alex.

Stellan Björnesjö: [00:00:02] Thank you.

AE: [00:00:04] How are you Stellan?

SB: [00:00:06] Really well! The sun is shining.

AE: [00:00:08] And you Anders?

AB: [00:00:09] Better than ever, and not at all dependent or based on the weather.

AE: [00:00:15] Great. So in this episode, we're going to talk about customer journeys, some examples of where you researched a topic and then became a lead and finally a customer. So I want to start with you, Stellan. Do you have any personal examples of this?

SB: [00:00:36] Yeah, I think the last good example is probably the decision we made a couple of weeks ago to install solar cells on our roof. That started out as a thought, like three years ago when we were designing the house that we eventually built and now live in, and we wanted to have solar cells on it from the beginning. Not perhaps so much because of the environmental and financial aspect, as the new technology and sort of interested in the possibilities perspective. But while we were building, we had to make some other priorities and then we said we would take it in a year or two. But we prepared everything. So we had everything prepared from the roof down to the garage for all the wiring and everything that's needed. So then in I think last quarter of last year, the government in Sweden decided to change the system for how they subsidize solar cells. So with the amount that you get, there is not a huge difference. But instead of applying after you install and perhaps waiting a year to get your refund, you get a tax deduction directly on the invoice. And so then we were saying sort of maybe it's time that we start looking at this again. So I started to do some research that I didn't do before we built the house, and it started, like many other things, in Google. And I wanted to understand what the solar cell sort of market looked like and what types of solar cells they were, what the most efficient and best solar cells on the market were. And a very important aspect for us was a nice design. So we have a sort of a quite modern look on the house and therefore we want a modern, futuristic look on the solar panels as well so that we don't get this sort of Mars rover lunar lander kind of styling on the house, but sort of more of a sleek kind of look.

AE: [00:03:11] So you already had some knowledge within the topic?

SB: [00:03:15] A bit of knowledge before, but then I found out some new stuff. So there is now all-black panels. So it's basically panels that are black on black. So it's even sort of hard to distinguish a pattern in them. And so that really attracted me. And then I saw that there were sort of a few big suppliers, but also many small and local suppliers. So we went and asked two of the big suppliers, the reason I was selecting them was I had read their blogs and I looked at their reference cases, so buildings, they had installed panels on what these installations looked like, and made the decision that these are the two that can also support probably an installation over 10 to 20 years. Because when you install something on your roof, you want something that lasts and you want preferably a customer relationship that lasts a very long time as well. And then we also asked the company did all the original electric installations in our house. And so so we had them take a look at it and come back with proposals.

SB: [00:04:39] And it was an interesting journey then to go through the different sort of stages of getting proposals. One supplier did not go on site until you had signed a contract with them, and then they could send someone to take a look at your site. That was kind of backwards to me. And another supplier sent someone directly and looked at everything on site, took measurements and therefore sort of, we got already a much better sort of a proposal that really fit our roof. And the same was for our local electricians. And then aspects came up, which were again related to design. So I would say like the devil is in the details, and it's also big difference there in suppliers in what they can like, how detailed they can be and what they can promise. So and then eventually, of course, getting a quotation and looking at the prices, and it's a surprisingly large difference between different suppliers in pricing, it's around a thirty-five percent difference between the lowest price and the highest price.

AE: [00:05:54] And how many suppliers did you compare?

SB: [00:05:56] There were three different suppliers that we had a quotation from. And so once I got to that notion, I decided to make a spreadsheet out of the whole thing. So I went to Google Docs and I created a spreadsheet where everything from, you know, the investments to how we should finance it, some offer leasing as an option, we went for a bank loan, and then calculating how much electricity do you use today? What will the average electricity price be over the next 10 years?

AE: [00:06:35] And was it easy to get this kind of information?

SB: [00:06:39] So this type, this is obviously like, it's knowledge information for anyone in this field who wants to sell to my type of persona, which is the more sort of nerdy persona, who needs to have this kind of information. That was surprisingly hard to get. So as I went all over the place, mostly to independent sources and blogs and also some like government agencies, Energimarknadsmyndigheten and stuff like that in Sweden to get some of these numbers.

AE: [00:07:15] Well, thank you. That was really a good example of a person who has nerdy interest in it. You really have the willingness and not time, maybe, but you have the willingness and energy to actually investigate this. Was it anything that the suppliers could help you with so that it would be easier for you to make this decision?

SB: [00:07:47] Yeah, I think so. So yes, I think that for people that aren't as nerdy as I am, I think it's it's super beneficial to be sort of upfront about all of these things. So for example, like it took me a good, I don't know, a couple of weeks to get to this eureka moment on the financing and realize that it's basically like it's a zero-sum game for 10 years. But essentially, it's not a zero-sum game because we're paying ourselves rather than paying an electricity provider. Yeah, there are lots of questions that you ask yourself that I've sort of gone through during this process as well. But like, OK, what if there's snow on them? Like, do we have do you have to go up and like clean them off and so on? And it's like, No, you don't. It will solve itself once the sun is shining. They get hot. It will melt. And they produce power even with snow on them and stuff like that. And so I think there's there's lots of knowledge information that providers can be much better at highlighting. Also, the fact that like, OK, we're in this dark part of the world. Yes, but we have really long summer days. So on a yearly basis, we have, as I said before, as much sunshine per square meter as Germany has.

SB: [00:09:07] From a knowledge standpoint, I was sort of surprised at how much there still is to bring to the surface for the average person to feel like this is something I should absolutely do. Not that it's like something that is for nerdy, nerdy people that just have a general interest. Perhaps Anders has a thought on this, but I remember when I was a kid, so this is in, let's say, the early 90s. We got ground heating, bergvärme in Swedish, and that was sort of a quite a new innovation that was then being launched as an as a much more environmentally friendly alternative to powering your house with oil. Because that was what, I think it was like 20 or 30 percent of all Swedish households were like burning oil to heat their villas. And I think it took 10, 15 years and then nobody was using oil, basically. And so I think this has the potential to be the same type of shift that essentially if you have a roof, you should have solar cells on them, especially if you build something new. But also if you renovate your roof and get a new roof, you should absolutely get solar cells on top of it as well.

AE: [00:10:37] Yeah, yeah. So from a content perspective, the moral of the story is really to be upfront with the content and facts and figures.

SB: [00:10:50] Yeah, yeah. And I think for people in the industry, this is not new. It's like everybody probably knows it, but it's a bit of a classic situation I think, where the nerds and the engineers aren't sort of realizing that this would be super interesting for most people to know about, and to present it in a way that people get and people understand.

AE: [00:11:15] Well, great. Thank you very much, Stellan. Anders?

AB: [00:11:18] I'll give you a bonus customer journey. People tend to describe customer journeys as very long ones. And yes, they usually are long when it comes to the decision process. But I'll give you a customer journey. A while ago, people started getting aware of that, even in the old world, in the western world, that it might be good to think about face masks. The first ones that I saw in the market in the western world were those bluish ones really, really ugly. The medical ones. I have a six year old son, Adrian, who told me, "they are ugly, dad. We need to get some cool ones." That customer journey was very easy. Amazon.com, the UK version, search field, "face mask, David Bowie." And up they came and we purchased. They had all the albums. They had all the famous pictures, everything, and you could decide how much protection you wanted versus how cool it was. That customer journey, buyer's journey, purchase decision journey, happens in B2B and B2C every day. You go somewhere where they most likely have something that you want here and now, it could be advice, could be a face mask with David Bowie, could be anything. No knowledge content. No research. Nothing. I just need it here and now.

AE: [00:13:00] That's a great story.

AB: [00:13:02] Because I think sometimes when you have discussions about customer journeys and so forth, even if you talk B2B, please think about your own behaviour and how you do. When do you go to the sources you always go to? Might be for groceries, might be for anything. And when do you actually do research, and how do you make those decisions? This was a spontaneous decision that mapped to the family policies, with a smile. Very quick decision. Two days later, we had them. Now we have loads of them in all pockets, in all jackets. They do have some protection, they are washable and so forth. That is a customer journey as well.

AE: [00:13:53] Great. Thank you both for today.

AB: [00:13:56] Thank you, Alexander.

AE: [00:13:56] Thank you.

Alexander Evjenth
Alexander is a content creator who has a great interest in learning new things. What he enjoys even more is creating knowledge content.
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