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How important is ‘brand’ in the world of energy storage?

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Last week, Ikea announced that it would be ‘launching’ a battery storage offering to sell alongside its solar panels in the UK . The week previously, Siemens – another well-known brand – announced that it would be joining forces with AES to create a global force in energy storage.

The press release from Ikea was viewed by many in the industry as a big deal, with many excited that such a well-known consumer brand could be ready to push storage into the UK market.

But in a world where energy storage will play an increasingly important role – in balancing renewables, reinforcing the network, and reducing energy costs – how important will ‘brand’ be?

Brand will be important for the following 3 reasons:

  1. Confidence in the product is paramount to protect a well-known brand:

The thing is, storage and PV wasn’t a completely new Ikea offering. Ikea had been offering storage with its PV systems for some time to any customers who asked for it. The company had been soft trialling the products for a while before making any big announcement. The Ikea brand has been built up over more than 70 years and companies of this size and heritage don’t risk it over what will be initially an extremely niche offering (Ikea sells one of its BILLY bookshelves every 3 seconds with one-tenth of furniture purchased in Britain coming from Ikea).

  1. Brands know the importance of timing:

Some of the more cynical among us will have noted that the Ikea announcement came hot on the heels of Centrica’s announced electricity price rise. However, July to August also saw other important stories for energy storage, including the publication of the UK Government’s Smart Energy Plan by BEIS and Ofgem, and the announcement that there would be a tax break on battery systems when supplied with solar panels. The resulting increase in attention for energy storage can be shown by the spikes in search interest according to Google Trends (see image below), both before and after the Ikea and other announcements.

When a product is launched can heavily influence the success of the release, something that will be very obvious to a major retailer like Ikea but can be missed by smaller, technology focused players.

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Source: Google Trends, 2017.

  1. Brands know what makes their customers tick:

The big consumer brands recognise best what it takes to motivate customers. Linked to the previous point, Ikea may be betting that energy prices are the key to UK customers’ wallets when it comes to investments like PV and energy storage. Customer motivations for energy storage products are something we’re exploring much more with the Delta-ee in-house customer panel and as part of our Energy Storage Research Service. Sign up for notifications from this blog where we’ll be publishing highlights as we get them.

Brand can be very important but it does not guarantee success

In summary, ‘brand’ can be very important in the world of ‘New Energy’/Energy Storage because of the experience companies like Ikea have when it comes to launching new products and finding ways of creating customer value. Expect to see more technology-focused energy storage companies try to harness this ‘brand power’ by partnering with more well-known names.

However, this does not guarantee success in the world of ‘New Energy’ and energy storage; a 360-degree view of the commercialisation challenges will be needed for successful storage product launches, as well as the ability for finding and appealing to the right customers.

If you’re interested in exploring more about the challenges mentioned above, please see the Energy Storage Research Service or contact me on +44 (0)131 625 3213.

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