innogy: looking across industries for inspired innovations

innogy: looking across industries for inspired innovations

Innogy is a large-scale energy provider based in Essen, Germany, currently serving 22 million clients across Europe. The company spans three major industry demographics: retail, grid infrastructure and renewable energy production. It has also started to expand into the e-mobility market with one of the largest charging point networks in Europe and a worldwide number of 34,000 charging sites. Since innogy was carved out from RWE and listed on the M-DAX separately in October 2016, the business has been driving digital transformation as a key part of its strategy. Kuldip Singh, Digital & Data Director Retail International and part of the Retail Leadership team, sat down with us to elaborate.

“We want to play a leading role in the global green energy transition and we believe that digital and disruptive new technologies are going to be at the heart of speeding up this process,” explains Singh. “Digital transformation is really at the heart of our customer facing business. We’re constantly looking for ways to optimise our end-to-end customer journeys - seeing where we can give our clients a ‘digital delight’ as I like to call it - as well as exploring new business models which are data-driven, platform-based, and highly scalable in nature.”

Innogy is, next to its core business of supplying electricity and gas to its customers, making services available to help customers install and maintain sustainable energy solutions such as photovoltaic (PV) panels, insulation of houses, smart home devices and e-thermostats, all with a view to “make society more sustainable.”

As part of the Retail Digital Program, the focused use of digital innovations such as AI is able to grant customers a seamless and insightful journey into sustainable solutions for their home or business. “A beautiful example is the application of data analytics and artificial intelligence algorithms to make the whole journey of orientating and selecting solar panels easier for customers: Looking at whether your house is able to have solar panels on the roof as well as buying or renting them. What we have done is to bring lots of data points and sources together (through selected partners) and have thereby been able to give the customer a complete online journey. Several years ago, this journey could have taken several months due to uncertainty. Now, we have narrowed that down to a one-click experience, completely online: enter your ZIP code and house number and an algorithm calculates how many panels can go on your roof, how productive they will be, your payback time and investment needed including a rental option” says Singh.

A key driver of the Retail Digital program is our Leadership Team Digital that consists of the key six markets of innogy with their local heads of digital, driving a joint roadmap and enabling the delivery of selected digital value pools with great scaling opportunity across all these markets.

An important pillar of the Retail Digital program is the delivery of a joint Mobile Strategy across markets, in which innogy realises smarter and faster app development, improved life-cycle management and best practice sharing in all aspects including a joint asset library for UX and design. “We work closely with all our markets to give customers a seamless and consistent mobile experience within all innogy brands” says Sebastian Schmelz, Team Lead Digital Program.

To achieve a comprehensive view of a client’s needs, innogy has worked with several partners outside energy sector to integrate innovative technology into its platforms and processes. Through tried and tested applications, developed in other industry sectors, innogy avoids reinventing the wheel when it comes to meeting the demands of its business. A successful example is AI-based online experimentation to improve the sales funnel for innogy products & services. By testing a multitude of changes in the different online pages, innogy can in a short period of time increase sales conversion significantly, as proven by great impact achieved by the digital team. This way of working (“testing and validating customer flows at scale using AI based tooling”) is now being scaled to other innogy markets, too.

Through adaptation and innovation, innogy is catering to businesses and individuals looking for sustainable energy solutions. As the global industry becomes more interconnected, customer expectations are founded on the achievements of disparate sectors. The Amazons and Googles of the world are setting those expectations and, by looking at them for forward-thinking and rapid innovation, innogy is able to stay ahead of the curve within the renewables energy industry. Singh explains: “We should not be benchmarking ourselves against what energy companies are doing, but rather look at what other industries that are ahead of us are doing as also the big tech companies.”

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been able to provide intricate AI, originally used in its online services, to provide an efficient data farming solution.  “AWS is a partner we are working with very closely to see how we can leverage advanced analytics and artificial intelligence in several complex use cases and, by working with them, use algorithms to be predictive,” Singh explains. One of the very impactful use cases is centered around retail energy management and demand forecasting. “By using the Amazon Sagemaker DeepAR forecasting algorithm in a successful pilot, we were able to develop a clear roadmap to further improve our forecasting, which is a very important aspect of energy management.”, states Carsten Kleewald of the Retail Energy Management team.

In addition, innogy uses the AWS data analytic solutions for a “Full Household View” platform in the Dutch and Belgium markets. The platform provides the Essent business with the opportunity to do real-time personalization using customer profile data and actual online behavior combined with a best-offer matrix. This allows for accurately advising on which products could have the most relevance and impact for a customer. The Essent Commercial Director Boudewijn Wildeman is working very closely with Singh’s team on this and states: “I believe we can nurture customer relationships much better with this kind of technology that can enable us to work in an omnichannel approach. We can be more relevant, more personalized, and more real-time in our offerings, whenever that needs to be done.”

Singh adds: “We apply digital innovations to our sustainability products & services with the clear ambition to keep this planet a great place to live and work, not only for the current generation, but for many generations to come.”

The acquisition of innogy by E.ON has also given it a much wider scope to expand. “Together with E.ON, innogy is going to be even bigger; we will grow from 11 to 15 countries, in which we service 50+ mn customers with more than 70,000 employees. I believe that we are even better set up for scaling digital in the future,” says Singh. “My intention is to build upon the good things we’ve done in this retail digital transformation and, of course, learn from the great things that E.ON is doing and ensure that together one plus one becomes three.”

Kuldip Singh