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Lighting, eCommerce, and the Home Improvement Industry in 2021

September 17, 2021

Lighting, eCommerce, and the Home Improvement Industry in 2021

Home improvement retailers have long touted customer service and face-to-face, in-store experiences in their marketing. Who could forget Lowe's tagline, "Let's Build Something Together," or Ace Hardware's jingle, "Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks."

But in 2020, although many home improvement retailers were deemed "essential" and allowed to keep their brick and mortar stores open, vast numbers of consumers opted to buy their home improvement products online instead. Experts predict that by 2025, eCommerce sales will make up 28% of the DIY and home improvement market share in the U.S. What a massive shift from a decade ago, where some believed eCommerce would never take off for the industry due to the logistics of shipping oversized items and the lack of on-the-floor help!

The lighting industry hasn't quite followed suit, however. Business wire estimates that the eCommerce market only accounts for about 7% of lighting fixture sales worldwide and 10% in the U.S. This could be due to the same challenges that have long plagued manufacturers and distributors in the space: the lack of "touch & feel" and product testing one would find in a physical shop and more inherent design and installation complexities, for example.

Here are potential ways companies that sell lighting products can overcome these challenges to increase eCommerce adoption and sales.

Embrace the multichannel journey.

Customer journeys are no longer linear "funnels." With more purchase options and touchpoints available, you can expect them to interact with your brand (and other brands) multiple times before making a purchase decision.

For example, a potential customer comes across your lighting product while reading an article online during their lunch break. Later that weekend, he and his wife go to their local home improvement store to check it out in-person, compare products and ask questions. They look at the product reviews on their phone, snap photos of their favorites, and then go back online later that day to see if they can find a better price.

There are countless ways the purchase path could play out, so it's always a good move to understand the most common customer journeys for your target customers and what they are looking for at each touchpoint.

Replicate the in-store experience online.

Just because you can't truly replicate the "touch and feel" advantage of the in-store experience doesn't mean you can't find creative ways to help customers get to know your products (and prevent costly returns). Just ask IKEA, which implemented an augmented reality (AR) application to let shoppers try out different products in their space or even design entire rooms.

Designers, architects, or everyday consumers looking to try out some of Cooper Lighting's products before making an order can use the Light ARchitect tool to virtually place fixtures in their space and even adjust the finish, lumen output, mounting height, and color temperature.

Offer proactive (not just reactive) support.

With a complex product like lighting, especially today's smart lighting, the journey doesn't end with the purchase. Installation and usage are also part of the brand experience, and in the case of lighting systems like HALO Home with a mobile app, that experience could be part of the consumer's everyday life.

When products are more technical or complex, improving customer experience can mean helping them make the most out of their purchase. More brands are opting to send proactive support emails and tips to get ahead of potential troubleshooting or installation issues and improve product satisfaction.

For example, when someone purchases a camera from Best Buy, they'll receive a post-purchase email series offering tips, inviting them to come to a store if issues or questions arise, and suggesting other products that complement their purchase.

Listen closely to your customers.

One of the advantages of eCommerce over brick and mortar is that it's easier for customers to give feedback through follow-up surveys or reviews. Since these often reflect the entire experience (and not just the product itself), they can offer a goldmine of information and areas for improvement.

For example, if customers complain about something not working correctly that results from "user error," the instructions may need to be updated or clarified. If customers call out the advantages of specific product features in their reviews, the retailer or manufacturer could also highlight those.

As many industries shift to more B2C-centric tactics to accommodate changing consumer patterns, there are countless opportunities to "own" the customer journey by not only overcoming the challenges presented by the multichannel experience, but taking advantage of the unique features that different channels offer.