While Amazon and other retailers were pushing fashionable clothes, virtual reality headsets and the latest toys from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District offered deep discounts on energy-efficient light bulbs, thermostats and LED lighting.
Some of the local utility’s deals are still available at its online SMUD Energy Store, launched in October to offer customers products at affordable prices.
For the holiday season, the smudenergystore.com site has included a wide assortment of home, lighting, water-saving and outdoor products, many of them available with immediate online rebates that can significantly reduce the cost of items ranging from LED bulbs to smart thermostats.
“A big driver of this is to satisfy our customers and create an experience that they really like,” said Ali Crawford, who oversees the site and is SMUD’s product design and development manager. “…We listened to our customers who wanted to save money and get energy efficiency measures that they can purchase and install.
“But they would also ask: ‘Can you help me actually find that product and help me get it installed?’ ”
SMUD heavily marketed the site over the past week, with an online email blitz and promotions on electronic billboards. Crawford said previous research indicated that a “digitally oriented” audience would be most receptive to the campaign.
On the site, deals ran the gamut: $19.50 for a six pack of Philips 60-watt equivalent LED bulbs, $74 for a smart thermostat, $15 for an air compressor, $39 smart wall plugs and $30 for a top-end rechargeable flashlight.
From Nov. 17-26, Crawford said the site rang up nearly 2,500 product sales, with the discount marketing campaign starting Nov. 22. Crawford said smart thermostats, LED lights and LED Christmas lights did particularly well. As of Friday, the site was still promoting holiday season deals on items.
She stressed that the SMUD site is relatively new and still being marketed to customers, but added, “I have to say it went fabulously. I was very pleased.”
Crawford added that she was stunned by the exceptionally high customer-approval ratings: “So far, we’ve had great reviews. Many (customers) were giving us a 10. We were averaging something like 9.7 or 9.8, which is great for just launching.”
SMUD’s store site was put together by Boulder, Colo.-based Simple Energy, a 7-year-old firm that touts itself as “the leading provider of utility-branded marketplaces for large investor-owned, municipal and cooperative utilities.”
Crawford said Simple Energy does “the e-commerce itself through the Shopify software platform,” and the Colorado company also manages product distribution/shipping.
She said the SMUD Energy Store’s inventory includes products from numerous manufacturers. Those products, she said, are selected by utility energy experts who evaluate factors that include price, quality, warranties, cost savings and manufacturer support.
SMUD said products purchased on the site typically ship in one to two business days, and orders of more than $49 ship for free. All other orders ship for a flat rate of $5.
Simple Energy’s software-as-a-service also offers “instant rebates” on many online products, enabling customers to instantly validate and redeem rebates at the time of sale.
“That’s probably what (SMUD customers) have liked the most, certainly in the top three,” Crawford said. “…They say you’ve made it so much easier than waiting to get a rebate in the mail.”
Crawford noted that SMUD will continue to add products to the site and plans to offer other discount/deal promotions in the near future.