Interest in solar is not just burgeoning—it’s grown considerably and is continuing to rise at a much faster pace compared to other forms of energy as people are learning more about the benefits (and understanding how much the price of obtaining solar energy has fallen).
But even so, the landscape is still relatively new and information about solar is not always readily available for the average consumer. (And even if it is, it’s not always easy to digest.)
Because of this, consumers still have quite a few questions and considerations as they’re shopping for solar. How can solar companies answer these questions effectively—while differentiating themselves from competitors and earning more customers in the process?
In this post, we’ll look at some of the biggest things that solar customers are looking for as they’re shopping for solar products, their thought processes and reasoning behind these questions, and more importantly, actionable steps that solar companies can take to address each point:
- Cost savings
- Customer experience
- Social proof
- Educational content
- Simplicity / convenience
- A range of payment options
Let’s dive in.
7 things consumers look for as they shop for solar
1. Cost savings
This is probably the biggest question that most solar shoppers have: “Will solar be worth it for me?” And it’s not just anecdotal either—there’s evidence to back it up.
Provoke Insights, a market research and strategy firm, surveyed 2,666 consumers in the US and put together an in-depth study of the residential solar market that it called the Residential Solar Industry Study.
They found that many people are motivated to buy solar because of the “dramatic cost savings.”
In fact, 41% of the people they surveyed said that the primary reason that they went with solar is the “potential savings over time and protection against rate increases from the utility company.”
Other factors like being environmentally friendly and even boosting a home’s value aside, it’s safe to say that for most people, cost is still top of mind. This may change in the future, of course, as solar costs go down more, but that most likely won’t be the case for some time.
How to communicate clear cost savings to solar shoppers:
Whether this is on your website, in your one-pagers or flyers, or your sales team’s scripts, you have to be able to communicate—clearly and in detail—what kind of cost savings your customers can expect.
This applies to different types of solar companies as well. You could be selling solar panels and other equipment, or providing ancillary services like installation.
Regardless of what you’re selling, you need to keep the overall goal of your prospect in mind: they want to save, and they’ll more than likely go with the options that they think can help them save the most.
On your website, make sure pricing is laid out clearly (unless your target audience is more complex, like large organizations whose deals will be customized for them—in which case it’s fine to discuss pricing specifics over a call).
Here’s a great example of how you can lay out your pricing or plans clearly and illustrate the advantages of choosing each one—even without using hard numbers:
Hot-tip: To go above and beyond and really set yourself apart, educate your prospects on any available tax credits or incentives in your region to help them make their decision. Have this information easily accessible on a page on your website and make sure your salespeople are knowledgeable about these incentives as well.
Just because consumers care that they’re getting a good price on that new solar panel system doesn’t mean that they’re willing to skimp on quality.
And for solar businesses, having consumers who already innately understand this is actually an advantage. Why? Because everyone understands that quality commands a higher price. The only problem with certain industries is that most budget-conscious shoppers are willing to trade off on quality for cheaper options. But with solar, you don’t need to educate your audience on this point or work to sell them on why quality matters.
In fact, a study of over 2,000 homeowners by independent third-party consumer research firm Harris Poll found that a remarkable “70% of consumers are willing to pay a premium of several thousand dollars to receive a better long-term payback—versus a 30% minority who want to pay less upfront to sacrifice long-term savings. Three quarters said they are willing to pay a premium to buy technology that they perceive to be better quality.”
In a consumer landscape that’s increasingly deal-obsessed and price-sensitive, solar is still a long-term investment and quality matters, whether they’re buying portable solar panels or looking for solar installation services.
How to communicate quality to solar consumers
So, how can you take advantage of the fact that solar panels are a long-term investment and consumers are willing to pay more?
The biggest task here is going to fall on your marketing. When you write about and position your products or services, you have to be able to communicate the long-term value of going with you.
If you’re selling products, the easiest way, in most cases, is to curate a selection of high-quality products whose names are recognizable and trusted. The added benefit of that is that it makes your job selling them easier. (After all, good advertising will only make a bad product fail faster.)
A key thing to remember is that you should explain how warranties work! Not everyone knows off the bat what the difference is between a performance warranty and an equipment warranty. And for long-term investments like this, the warranty will matter.
One of the homeowners in Harris Poll’s focus group even said “….it’s going to be a big investment, something we’re investing in our future. So yeah, that kind of thing is important. I don’t care so much about a warranty on a cheap piece of electronics at Walmart. If it’s something I’m going to be investing in for 25 years, then yeah.”
There are few better ways to communicate quality than with a strong warranty, so make sure this is prominently displayed in your marketing collateral.
And if you’re selling a service, such as installation, your “quality” is going to be reflected in your workmanship. Do you have years of experience? Include that in your website. Do you offer a guarantee (basically your version of a product warranty) of the longevity and quality of your services? If you don’t, that’s something to consider.
If a consumer wants to invest in their home and install high-quality solar panels, they’re likely going to want someone whose workmanship is excellent and who won’t damage their solar products during installation.
3. Customer service
With all this talk on price, we should mention an important note: competing on cost alone is often a race to the bottom.
You’ve probably heard of the term “value added”—and it can be a very useful buffer here to protect companies, solar or not, from those little pricing competitions—and allow you to protect your bottom line by not joining this race to the bottom.
And one of the biggest value-adds for companies?
Customer service (and the customer experience overall)—and the resulting peace of mind, or convenience in case any issues come up, or whatever it is that your superior customer service provides or solves.
How can you provide better customer service in solar?
Essentially, what you need to do here is communicate that even if your costs are comparable—or even a little higher—it’s still well worth it.
One of the biggest mistakes that many companies make is thinking that “customer service” only happens after someone clicks “Buy” and hands over their credit card information.
Years ago, this may have been the case but today, customer service is something that permeates your entire customer journey. Even before someone officially becomes a customer, they may still be interacting with your company.
If they live-chat or email you to ask questions, if they subscribe to your email newsletter, if they browse your social media… These are all opportunities for you to show that your company has better customer service than your competitors and that you’re worth the higher price tag.
If your business is on social media, check your social media profiles regularly. Customers are increasingly reaching out to companies for help (or to complain) through channels other than the traditional phone call or email. Of course, this applies more to certain business types than others, but it’s wise to know what conversations are happening online, with or without your knowledge:
4. Social proof
Whether it’s reviews or word of mouth, social proof is a key influencing factor for consumers who are shopping for solar.
According to the study above by Provoke Insights, 50% of the consumers who were surveyed will choose a solar provider based on the recommendation of a neighbor or friend.
This one’s pretty simple. Place social proof (for example, a testimonial or review, or a screenshot of a public social media post praising your company) prominently on your website.
You should be monitoring your reviews on social media third party sites like Google Reviews regularly regardless, but these are great places to find testimonials as well:
5. Educational or self-service content
Like consumers shopping for any other products like software, clothing, or cars, solar shoppers are becoming more and more comfortable with proactively learning about their options.
And thanks to Google and a plethora of content online, whether it’s in the form of blogs, videos, or infographics, consumers do have that ability to be self-sufficient as they become problem- and solution-aware.
These types of content are commonly known as “nurture content,” in the sense that they’re helping you nurture your prospects through the customer journey as they’re watching your videos and reading your blog posts.
It’s considered more of a long game, but it’s a crucial supplement to any outbound selling or cold calling tactics that companies traditionally employ to get more customers.
This is especially relevant today because people aren’t reaching out directly to companies as early on in the customer journey. Often, they don’t reach out until they progress further down the sales funnel, into the consideration and purchase stages.
After all, if you don’t have to face the pressure of speaking to a salesperson (even if it is over an email or video call), then why not just read up on information first and mull it over until you’re ready to actually have that conversation with someone?
How to provide solar shoppers with the information they need
Give your prospects as much information as you can up front—and make sure it’s transparent and clear.
For example, if you have multiple options at different price points, don’t just rely on hard-sell or pushy tactics to upsell or cross-sell customers. Rely on your marketing copy and consultative selling tactics instead. (Position yourself as a trusted advisor rather than a salesperson who’s just trying to close.)
We mentioned information like tax incentives above, but there is so much that you can educate solar customers on. For example, let’s go with something a little more difficult: selling a service. If you’re selling installation services, you could create a video series or blog series educating prospects on how the installation process works.
For example, it can be as simple as doing in-depth customer stories or case studies, as Precision RV did here as they showed off the range of solar installations they’ve done for RVs while educating readers on the nuances of each one. Very cool:
Hot-tip: As you’re creating this educational content ask yourself “what can someone expect if they become your customer?” Not only can you lay out the process for them, you can also helpfully point out little things that may be different in your installation process that set you apart or that make it more efficient compared to other installation services.
6. Simplicity / convenience
Let’s face it. Solar is not the simplest thing to buy for a consumer who’s not familiar with the technical side of things. For most folks who aren’t trained in the trades, solar can be (understandably) overwhelming.
There are hundreds and hundreds of options just for solar panels alone—and then there are the inverters, the batteries, roof orientations to consider, calculating when they’re going to break even… the list goes on.
What makes this one a little different from the other items on this list is that this is an overall consideration to remember, because it touches many different aspects of your business.
From your marketing, to your purchasing options, to your customer service, think of simplicity as a guideline or starting point as you try to improve different areas of your business.
How to make things simple and convenient for your solar shoppers
Look at the entire customer journey that someone will go through with your company. Start with the “window-shopping” stage—when they come to your website (and you should have a website), what do they see?
Do you have enough information, and more importantly, is it written clearly and in an easy-to-understand way so that even someone who knows nothing about solar can easily see why your options are better?
Then, consider your buying process. If someone does decide to go with you, what do they have to do? Do they simply call you? Is your sales team trained to walk them through their options? Look for ways to make the experience as frictionless as possible.
For example, Grape Solar does a great job of making their “Get a quote” process not only informative for shoppers but also helpful for their own sales team. They’ve created a simple four-step process (notice the progress bar at the top to show someone how close they are to completing the process and reduce the chances that someone would get overwhelmed or think that this would take longer than it does):
7. A range of payment options
Solar is not cheap. Consumers know this well, and even though prices have come down considerably over the past decade, many families will still look for a variety of payment options, from leasing to reimbursements and incentives.
Make these options easy for them to find. According to the Provoke Insights study above, the three most common payment options for people who are going solar are:
- Paying cash (36%)
- Financing with a lease (36%), and
- Financing with a solar loan (28%)
GTM Research and PowerScout found that in the four states that make up 65% of residential solar installations (California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York) in the US, most households have incomes between $45,000 and $150,000:
Now, this is solidly middle and upper class, and they do have some degree of wealth. But, at these household income levels, you should still expect that even though a consumer is able to afford solar panel systems, they will not likely spend frivolously and just dive into the most premium options on the market.
How to communicate diverse payment options for solar shoppers
If you can provide different payment options, make sure these are clearly described on the pricing page of your website. Even if you’re not able to, you can still link to helpful solar loan or lease providers on your pricing page:
How will you help your solar shoppers find what they’re looking for?
And that’s a wrap. Start with this list of seven common questions that people have about going solar, and build a plan for how you can address each one in your website and throughout your sales process.
Education is one of the biggest opportunities for companies to differentiate themselves in new and growing industries—use it to your advantage!