Business Challenge

Energy is becoming increasingly commoditised, but some of the most promising key service differentiators are still in their infancy.

Since 2012, energy switching rates have been marching steadily upwards. Customers are becoming more price-sensitive, suppliers are competing on price to try to carve out market share, and price comparison sites are growing in popularity. All this lowers customer loyalty and retention.

While there are promising technological opportunities for suppliers to add to their value proposition (e.g. EVs, smart meters, ToU tariffs), sluggish adoption and technological limitations restrict their potential to appeal to the bulk of today's customers.

To respond to these challenges, Tonik Energy approached Hi Mum! Said Dad to create a customer-focused vision for the Tonik app that created and reinforced strategic advantages over other energy providers.

With a focus on co-creation, rapid user-testing, and frequent iteration, we employed our agile digital prototyping approach to reach a user-tested set of prototypes and recommendations.


Making the most of Tonik’s EV offering

One of Tonik’s key offerings is Electric Vehicles; including EV-targeted tariffs, a public charging network, and installation services for smart chargers. With growth accelerating in the EV market and ICE sales bans coming to the UK, there was a huge opportunity to make Tonik synonymous with ownership of an EV. To do that, we needed to earn that association among today’s EV drivers, and to prime that connection for tomorrow’s.

Winning over today’s EV drivers


“People ask me how much my electric car costs. I don't really know!”

Through Tonik’s network of installed smart domestic and public chargers, the Tonik app joins the dots between a customer’s energy and their EV usage. This allows smart features that help them get better awareness and control of their energy usage. For example, EV owners are often shocked looking at their first post-EV energy bill; using smart charger data to separate the EV from their household energy bill allows people to make a more direct comparison of energy/fuel costs before and after making the switch. Controlling the smart charger remotely also enables key practices like load balancing; with the app explaining, encouraging and enabling the more environmentally friendly charging patterns on which the grid will rely in coming years.

Winning over tomorrow’s EV drivers

"It's interesting to find out this stuff, it's stuff I'd like to know and really ought to know" - non-EV driver

For all the value offered to today’s EV drivers, however, the larger opportunity lies in positioning Tonik to succeed as EV ownership grows in coming years. To appeal to future owners, we needed to offer value to relative EV newcomers. Throughout user interviews, we found that EV features in an app would still be valuable to other drivers, but they are looking for different features than their EV-owning counterparts. The usual concerns and myths are commonly mentioned; prohibitive and often confusing costs and anxiety around range and public charging that could be addressed through in-app information.

By showing different versions of the EV features to users based on whether they owned an EV or a smart charger, the app drove significant value for both groups. We reinforced Tonik’s leading EV offering with key new features for today’s owners, while also priming non-owners, many of whom saw themselves getting an electric car relatively soon, to associate Tonik with that decision.

Helping people engage with their energy more broadly

Creating behavioural incentives & retention-boosting rewards

One of the most common problems facing users of energy-saving digital products is a lack of feedback. They make a change in their behaviour, don't see it reflected in their bills for months, and by the time the small benefit of a behavioural change is realised, they’ve already become disillusioned or forgotten about it entirely.

“I think this is great because it means I’m helping me and helping the planet. It's really good.”

We designed Planet Points, an incentive system that brings that motivation forward with perks and discounts for carrying out positive behaviours and engaging with tips and trivia. The impact of recommendations is personalised based on the user’s usage and impact, rather than a vague comparison to “the average household”. Through these points, Positive Energy more effectively encourages behavioural change than simple long-term bill savings. This drives retention by allowing us to celebrate the difference made by being with Tonik and creating stored value in the brand, rather than resetting the playing field at the end of a contract as a user heads back to a price comparison site’s wall of undifferentiated suppliers.

Smart meter integrations in most energy apps simply play back data without giving meaningful context or advice. People don’t need a list of a hundred ways to save on their energy bills; they need one achievable and impactful thing that they actually want to do or find out about next. For some people, that means small tips like figuring out how quickly energy-efficient bulbs would pay for themselves in their home. For others, more aspirational energy goals like solar panels or Electric Vehicles are more intriguing.

“There's a lot that I didn't know. So that was really helpful.”

Smart meters can help contribute to contextualised advice, but they can’t give us everything. Instead, through using the Planet Points system we encourage engagement with relevant, personalised tips and trivia based not only on their data but also on their engagement with their energy and the Tonik app.

This softer approach allowed us to suggest actions with less information than if presented as a smart-meter-based audit of their energy usage (difficult with the typical half-hourly meter data), as people are happy to engage with and improve the system in bitesize ways when the payoff is clear. This also improved the value of smart meter insights for users - going from simply offering more data to helping people make better decisions.


The discovery phase resulted in a confident direction for the app, and a clear path forward to implementation. Participants gave us great insights into their motivations and challenges, allowing us to sharpen a unique digital proposition for Tonik that went beyond the usual 'Web portal in-app form' that many people are used to, with proven potential to drive key business metrics.