• Susan Dickenson

Consumer Research: The lighting showroom

Last Summer, The American Lighting Association And Home Accents Today Partnered On A Research Project That Looked At How Consumers Think About, Shop For And Buy Lighting.

The initial findings were to have been shared at the ALA’s 2016 annual conference, planned for last September in Puerto Rico. The conference was canceled, however, due to global concerns over a then-increasing number of reported cases of the Zika virus in South America and Puerto Rico.

The survey results are extensive and examine a host of topics, including consumers’ views on lighting as a utility, as a design element, where they look for lighting ideas and inspiration, product life cycles, important attributes, who shops where and why, and the overall buying process. The sample consisted of homeowners with annual household incomes of $75,000 or greater who had bought, built or remodeled within the past year or planned to do so in the coming year.

In March, research highlights – especially issues pertaining to lighting showrooms – were presented in a webinar led by ALA Executive Vice President Larry Lauck, and ALA Marketing/PR Committee members Tim Stumm (showroom manager, Expressions Home Gallery, Dallas) and Lisa Dixon (CEO, Pace Lighting, Savannah). Here’s a wrap-up of some of the key points from that presentation.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT WHEN BUYING?

When buying lighting fixtures, respondents said the top three attributes that matter most are design (50%), quality (48%) and the amount of light (44%), followed by color (39%), size (36%), energy efficiency (31%), price (28%), adjustability (19%), warranty (18%) and brand (10%).

The ranking of the price attribute was noted by Lauck who said it isn’t always the most important factor, so don’t start the sales conversation with price. Lead with praise for the product’s design and quality instead.

SHOWROOM ATTRACTIONS

While the survey showed that most lighting shoppers begin their search at home centers like Home Depot and Lowe’s, lighting showrooms are the next most popular shopping channel, attracting a healthy portion of the market despite spending millions less in advertising dollars than their much larger competitors. And though homeowners frequent home centers more often – due to convenience (multiple locations) and the wide variety of home and garden products offered – when it comes to selection and expertise, lighting showrooms are still considered the best source.

“I wanted personal attention and advice from someone who knows lights and lighting issues,” one respondent wrote.

“This is so key to what we do,” Dixon said. “It’s all about creating those individual connections with homeowners and builders and clients. We don’t have the budget of a Lowe’s or Home Depot so we have to find another way. We have to connect with people and show them we are the place they want to come when they think of lighting and fans, any time.”

Shoppers also visit lighting showrooms for uniqueness, variety and the newest options, the results revealed.

Speaking to that point, Stumm advises placing five or six point-of-sale items on end cap areas, and changing them out every few weeks with other items in the showroom. “You’d be surprised how many designers will walk in and say, ‘Oh – you got some new things in.’ You’ve got to keep it fresh.”

On the flip side, what kept many respondents out of lighting showrooms was the assumption that “it will be too expensive” with prices “double to triple” what can be found at Lowe’s or online.

“This is where we have a lot of work to do,” Lauck said. “We’re knowledgeable, and that information is free, and it’s a service we provide. We know it, but the general public doesn’t know it. If we’re an ALA showroom, we are the experts who can provide them with good-better-best options, educate them on how it’s made, the steps involved, the finishes … so they understand the value.”

The convenience factor also plays into the shopping choice. “It’s easier to look at ideas online and visit the stores I frequent. I don’t know where (a lighting showroom) is,” one respondent wrote.

Dixon said she uses Google ads to help get her showroom’s name in front of consumers. “It’s really important to be visible when anyone in your local geographic area is searching for lighting, ceiling fans or light bulbs, so I have Google Ads running full time for our showroom.” That it’s an ad may be obvious, she said, but at the least it boosts branding and name recognition.

“Google your own store, and have your friends do it, and see where you pop up,” Lauck suggested.

PREPARE FOR GUESTS

Among all the shopping channels, the group said lighting showrooms are in the best position to capitalize on the most desired attributes – quality and design. So, Stumm said, make sure you are ready for your showroom guests with:

A store that’s clean and organized.

Appropriate music played at the correct level. Make sure the music is for the customers, not the staff, and that it sets the tone for the ambiance of your showroom.

Name tags so sales staff are easily identified.

A warm welcome by all staff members – greet customers as you would greet someone coming into your own home.

Complimentary beverages, in a glass, with a napkin. If you offer water in a plastic bottle, they can walk out the door with it. Glass makes them linger longer.

Pricing awareness – know what it’s selling for in your market and online. Match the price only if they close the deal that day.

Be the expert – consumers aren’t going to get that expertise online or at a big box store. Get ALA designation, and make sure that designation is displayed on your website and business cards.

A live presentation of the ALA Consumer Lighting Research results will take place at Lightovation: The Dallas International Lighting Show, June 21st at 11 p.m. in World Trade Center (space 345).

Visit americanlightingassoc.com for details on the 2017 ALA Conference, Sept. 10-12 in Vancouver, B.C., and look for more research highlights in next month’s Illuminations.

Susan DickensonSusan Dickenson | Editor in Chief
sdickenson@homeaccentstoday.com

Susan Dickenson is the editor in chief of Home Accents Today, where she has spent more than a decade covering trending topics, best practices and news items pertaining to the manufacturing, retail and interior design segments of the home furnishings industry. A graduate of UNC, Dickenson spent 15 years in the Washington, D.C., area, writing and researching in both the public and private sector. After relocating to her native North Carolina in 2003, she freelanced as a writer of general interest, business, garden and home items for local and national publications before joining Home Accents Today in 2006 as retail editor.

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