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SMUD Achieved

81% above advertising conversion goal

$1.4m in savings + avoided costs

Shaped the successful launch of a new program


SMUD, a community-owned, not-for-profit electric service provider in Sacramento, California, used its insight communities to develop a deeper partnership with customers, improve marketing programs and deliver high-quality insight in less time.


  • Customer experience
  • Marketing effectiveness
  • Product innovation

Business Challenge 

To effectively raise awareness and improve the adoption of new programs, SMUD wanted to engage with customers faster than she could through traditional research. They also wanted to involve customers in the decision-making process and fulfill the company’s vision of building trust with the community it serves.


Because SMUD is a community-owned electric utility, it needs to consider different types of customers, including commercial and residential, which are divided into eight different energy segments with differing needs and attitudes. The team understands that having a 360º view of multiple audiences means smarter decisions and fewer misfires. Having multiple online communities allows SMUD to more easily hear from these different segments. They can test ideas and programs across different customer segments and do a deeper dive with a certain segment on a particular topic.

To help shape the development of the SMUD Energy Store, the team involved all three insight communities. The residential community participated in a co-creation exercise to generate and refine concepts for the online marketplace. Employees tested ads and beta-tested the site before it launched. Most recently, commercial customers tested ideas for expanding products and services to SMUD’s commercial segment to determine whether there was demand to create a commercial version of the SMUD Energy Store.


As of December 2018, SMUD successfully sold 18,274 items and achieved over 2.3 million in sales (after discounts) for over 175 products across 10 categories. The team says they don’t believe the SMUD Energy Store would have been as successful without the input of its insight communities.

The communities also helped the  marketing team exceed KPIs one a month early for a major campaign and shaped the naming, development, and successful launch of a new energy-saving program.

In addition to the overwhelming success of the store and improved marketing effectiveness, SMUD has received industry honors. The company won Chartwell’s Bronze Award for Program Marketing, Alida’s Marketing Visionary Award in 2017, and was a runner-up for Alida’s Product Innovation Visionary Award in 2018.

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Alida is a Community Research platform that helps the world's biggest brands create highly engaged research communities to gather feedback that fuels better customer experiences and product innovation.