Web to Prosper: How the Internet Is Helping Your Business

For years, many retailers have hidden brand names for fear of being shopped. With the enforcement of IMAP, providing information to consumers via the Web can boost your business.

 How the Internet Is Helping Your Business

Lighting has become cool – finally! Not only are consumers eager for information about energy-efficient lighting options, but they are ready to splurge on attractive lamps and fixtures at long last. Thanks to the Internet Age, there aren’t many secrets anymore (not even top secret government ones). Where once retailers wanted to mask the source of the lighting they sell – much to the dismay of manufacturers trying to establish brand recognition – now they are finding that providing relevant information is key to forming an enduring bond with customers.

In the past several years, it’s safe to say that the majority of independent lighting showrooms realized that they need an Internet presence – even if it’s just one Web page. And now there is a very good reason for distributors to name their sources: lighting manufacturers are providing helpful information targeted to the end-user through Web sites, Pinterest, Houzz.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Residential Lighting showrooms such as Lucia Lighting & Design in Massachusetts offers an “Education & Inspiration” area on its Web site (www.lucialighting.com) that provides trend information, lighting tips, articles from the American Lighting Association (ALA), a “Green Lighting Glossary,” YouTube videos featuring lighting designers, a newsletter, and links to its social media.

The Web site for Western Montana Lighting in Missoula (www.westernmontanalighting.com) provides consumers with access to the ALA’s Bright Ideas Newsletter for lighting tips, has educational videos from Minka Aire, Kichler, and Quoizel, and offers the capability for creating a Wish List of products.

Phillips Lighting & Home in California has a “Get Inspired” section on its Web site (www.phillipslighting.com) that features installation photos by room category, has “Lighting Tips Galore” section, a “Helpful How-To” area, video gallery, plus a blog.

Some retailers, such as Lighting by Wettstein’s in Wisconsin, have made things easier for the consumer to “shop” within their own site (www.lightingdesignlax.com) by offering a price comparison button (regarding selected items on the site), the ability to shop by brand, by room, or category – plus the addition of a shopping cart.

Lighting manufacturers have also been investing heavily in providing consumer-friendly tools that reinforce their brand name while providing tips, application photography, a full range of product styles, and a list of nearby lighting showrooms.  To underscore their commitment to quality, many manufacturers have shot videos that detail their designers’ inspiration for new collections or demonstrate their construction techniques – in short, reinforcing why all lighting products are not alike (and not priced the same).

Hinkley Lighting has a place on its Web site that reads “Show Me Lighting I Will Love” and helps homeowners narrow down their preferences before they visit a showroom. There is even a “live help” chat feature on the site as well as “Lighting Tips from the Pros” and an invitation to receive the company’s Lighting Made Simple magazine.

At Hubbardton Forge, the company’s hand-craftsmanship is detailed on its Web site (www.hubbardtonforge.com) through videos of the production process plus highlights of its eco-friendly practices. Blog posts from employees about things they’re passionate about – for example, design and helping a local animal shelter – help strengthen the relationship between the company, the retailer, and the end-consumer.

In addition to videos of designers explaining the inspiration behind their new collections for Quoizel and an overview from the president of the company, Quoizel also offers Design Tips, Cleaning & Maintenance Questions, and product catalogs for easy viewing.

Kenroy Home has made a commitment to expanding its Web site to be consumer- and retailer-friendly.  “Everything is branded on our YouTube channel and we let retailers pull the streams from that so they don’t have to use up their bandwidth,” explains Justin Draughn, digital media manager for Kenroy. “We have some product videos that have received 10,000 views, and over 100,000 hits overall,” he adds.  The videos that detail the company’s fountains are especially popular. “With a video, we can demonstrate the water motion of each fountain and how it looks from all angles and in a realistic setting when it’s operating. It takes the product off the page.”

It’s not enough just to have a Web and social media presence; each avenue needs to be monitored regularly. Draughn pays close attention to audience interaction on Twitter, Facebook, Houzz, and Pinterest and tweaks the company’s content accordingly. “Twitter is great when you want someone to read a blog post or watch a video. It’s a great way to draw attention to something I want our followers to see,” he notes.  As @KenroyHome, the company has even reached out to celebrity designers, for example, sending a direct message to Carson Kressley (formerly of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and now launching his own line) if the Kenroy team thinks a style would be great for his followers.

“On Facebook, we have more of a consumer angle. We do a lot of trouble-shooting, too. It’s a chance for a company to show how customer service-savvy they are by how well – and quickly – they solve problems. Plus, if a customer has good things to say about your company, everyone can see it,” Draughn remarks. Facebook and the company’s Web site are useful vehicles for driving promotions, such as: “Show us how Kenroy Home products changed your décor, and enter a drawing for free Kenroy Home merchandise.”

As Draughn sees it, the mission for the manufacturer is “to make it as easy as possible to sell Kenroy Home,” he explains. “We’ve made a commitment to provide our retailers with every resource they need. We can supply background images, product specs, as well as video clips. We want to make it plug and play,” he says. Performing analytics has helped the team further target their efforts. “We’ve gone from being on page 5 on Google to page 2,” he affirms. “We have a heavy presence on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. We really work at it and continually add content. “The more content we distribute, the better our search results,” he comments.

Small independent retailers might not have realized that there are a lot of Internet tools that lighting manufacturers can provide at no cost to elevate both the name of the lighting brand as well as the store. Do not be afraid to ask for help or think that you are “too small” of a customer to receive assistance. Have someone on your retail staff check out each vendor’s Web site to see if there are elements (i.e. tips, specs, videos, installations) that can be adapted to your own site. Don’t focus on the Internet as a means for consumers to perform price shopping, and start viewing it as a helpful tool to attract customers to your store by providing valuable information and establishing your business as the lighting experts.

 

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