Why did Nest succeed in a way that innumerable smart thermostats did not? Why did Opower rise above the pack for residential energy efficiency? Many factors played a role, but the fundamental differentiator is this: isolating a need and applying just enough technology to solve it, rather than inventing something impressive and then trying to find a market.
Nest intentionally delayed functionality, such as utility integration and manual fan control, in order to streamline initial setup, choosing to surface advanced features once users were comfortable with the system.
Opower, similarly to what Pulse Energy is doing in the commercial customer segment, applies complex algorithms and energy modeling below the surface. But its primary offering is a mailed report, which explains in simple terms how the home is performing and suggests improvements. Engaged customers can explore their usage online, set up email alerts and make advanced configuration changes, but the standard user experience remains utterly intuitive.
Nest and Opower rose above the noise because they understood their customers’ pain and solved it with a sublime customer experience....
In a way, that all seems obvious, but as Helliwell explains, it's "difficult to consistently execute." Yet the reality is that a simple, intuitive, enjoyable (or at least not painful) experience is what most customers expect and demand. I mean, can you imagine a potential car buyer being told that they needed to understand the inner workings of the vehicle, possibly even how to get under the hood and fix them if necessary, when all they really want to do is to start the car, step on the pedal and go? How many would buy a car if the process of doing so - and the maintenance requirements thereafter - were so complicated that they required several advanced degrees to figure out? Our guess: not many.