Plumbing tutor and BoilerBrain blog creator Jude McLean looks at the rise of online boiler platforms and compares the newcomers with traditional heavyweight British Gas.
Over the past decade, the likes of Uber, Purple Bricks and Airbnb have taken some of the largest traditional markets into the digital age – providing customers with both ultimate convenience and a seamless experience, that they now increasingly expect.
The domestic boiler market is one of the latest markets to be ‘Uberised’ into a user-friendly, digital platform. Now, boiler customers can shop for their new boiler installation online and have it booked, and fitted as quickly as within 24 hours, all from the convenience of their smartphone.
This is a clear advantage over the old-fashioned method of having to hunt for an installer, obtain a reasonable quote, and wait for as long as two weeks for the job to be completed.
We analysed how these new industry featherweights and the British titan compare when it comes to sheer numbers…
What do customers think?
Customers are crystal clear about how they feel about the heating industry’s latest newcomers – the reviews indicate that they are pretty impressed.
BOXT has previously reported that 30% of customers leave a Trustpilot review, 98% of which are ‘excellent’. Currently, the brand has 6,300 reviews, meaning they have sold over 20,000 boilers since launch.
Heatable is also earning a 5-star reputation – well 4.9 to be exact – with more than 1,400 reviews, highlighting again that people really do love buying their boiler using this new digital method.
At present, both brands are around the top of the Energy & Heating section on Trustpilot, astonishing when comparing to industry titan British Gas, who has an average rating of 3.6 and has achieved no top 10 positions in any category.
British Gas has proven unsuccessful at keeping up with these new brands, showing that there is ample room for new, smaller brands to squeeze into the heating industry by meeting the modern customers’ expectations.
How do their websites compare in numbers?
A brand’s success online can be measured in many ways, but one of the most obvious is traffic figures. So which heating brand is receiving the most visits?
Not exactly a revelation, but data from third-party providers indicates that British Gas is well in the lead with over two million visits every month. Next is Heatable with 42 thousand and then BOXT with 30 thousand.
So, doesn’t this mean that British Gas is still way in the lead? Not necessarily in all aspects.
The majority of traffic British Gas generated is coming from their brand name i.e. the words “British Gas” and variations of this. For example, around half of their traffic is coming from people searching for these two words alone.
It is also important to remember that British Gas is not just offering a boiler installation service, but a vast array of others too.
The picture is pretty much the same for BOXT, with a considerable portion of their organic website visitors reaching their site as a result of googling their brand name.
So how did this brand recognition happen so fast? British Gas still pulls in vastly greater numbers than either BOXT or Heatable, but the former has spent a significant amount on promotion via traditional media such as TV, currently sponsoring Good Morning Britain.
Heatable on the other hand is neither a household name like British Gas nor has it made any attempt to muscle their way into the media spotlight. So how has it achieved their success to date?
What is apparent is that Heatable has focused on high-quality content and put a strong emphasis on targeting industry terms popular with potential customers.
With both BOXT and Heatable drawing in similar numbers, it shows that both tactics can work quite well. But what is certain is that customers’ expectations have changed and as a result, even industry heavyweight British Gas is beginning to suffer, as their average review rating indicates.
Ultimately, what is more important? A brand that people are more familiar with, or a brand that is earning higher reviews? A true indication of customer satisfaction is surely a high average rating, in which case British Gas loses when compared to Heatable or BOXT.
Gas engineers are also in their line of sight
Gas installers are the backbone of the industry; without them, gas boilers can not be installed. But in this fast-evolving industry, many are concerned about their future and wonder how they can continue attracting new custom.
Online boiler brands have their eyes on nationwide domination, so this means that there is still a lot of ways that gas installers can differentiate in order to compete.
How? People feel more secure with a familiar, local face they can trust, paired with local knowledge and 5-star customer service, that is a winning combination that is difficult to beat.
Yet, advertising and getting consistent leads is a job all by itself and one many independent gas installers have had a difficult time with. Therefore, for a lot of self-employed engineers, operating as a sub-contractor for these new industry goliaths offers a consistent stream of work year-round.