As electric cooperatives rely on messaging and marketing to communicate the value of their products and services to an ever-evolving membership, effective research can be the key to enhancing member engagement.

“We have to share what we’re doing and why we’re doing it differently than we have in the past as people’s attitudes change,” said Mike Sassman, NRECA’s director of consumer analytics and market research.

NRECA recently published the results of its 2021 National Consumer Segmentation Study, which examines co-op member attitudes about renewable energy, energy efficiency, technology, media usage and climate change. Nearly 7,500 members of 19 distribution co-ops participated in the online survey conducted in February.

“This type of research helps us get a broader view of co-op membership, and that can provide a greater understanding of how they make decisions or form their views,” said Sassman. “The results can be applied to energy efficiency programs, renewable initiatives and beneficial electrification projects and help determine which members might be most interested in different aspects of those issues.”

NRECA researchers identified five membership segments based upon survey responses:

• Environmental Champions: Concerned about climate change, members of this group will be supportive of energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives and are likely to actively encourage their co-ops to do more to mitigate environmental impact, preserving the planet for future generations.

• Cost-Conscious Supporters: While sharing many of the concerns of environmental champions, this group is motivated by the costs of mitigation measures and their impacts on family budgets. They will actively support simple and inexpensive energy efficiency measures that save them money.

• Complacent Consumers: Work and life are top priorities for this group, and while they may be aware of environmental and resource issues, they don’t have strong opinions on their roles as active participants in finding solutions. Their focus on their personal interests and the day-to-day needs of their families make it less likely that they will actively support energy efficiency or renewable initiatives.

• Low-Tech Skeptics: Members of this group are unlikely to keep up with the latest technology and question the benefits of renewable energy or efforts to slow climate change. With less household income, they may still be motivated to participate in co-op programs that save them money.

• Pro-Tech Skeptic: With keen interests in technology, members of this group actively embrace co-op programs and services focused on cutting-edge or advanced science and engineering concepts. Their motivation is technology and not necessarily concerns about climate change, the benefits of renewable energy or energy efficiency and potential savings.

“Understanding membership segmentation provides opportunities to target messaging in ways that appeal to various groups within a co-op’s membership,” said Keith Dennis, NRECA’s vice president of consumer-member engagement. “While analysis of the national co-op membership provides an overall view of our consumers, co-ops that advance this work with more study of their own membership can identify opportunities to tailor their programs for even more value.”

For more information on this study, register for the Aug. 17 webinar “Market Segmentation: Tools and Research to Understand Your Members,” which is part of the Business Insights Webinar Series.