Residential Lighting: What are the latest developments in marketing?
Dave Clark: We’ve seen a dramatic evolution in how people get their information. Not many people 10 years ago could have imagined we’d carry telephones that check e-mail, open attachments and play music and video. Handheld devices are changing the world, and Google has made the Web a critical channel, not necessarily for e-commerce but to provide the depth of information shoppers needed to qualify where they shop. So for retailers to survive, their Web site must be at the forefront. It’s the central platform for all information about the store.
RL: Should we eliminate traditional channels entirely?
DC: No. It’s about prioritizing. Whereas showrooms once thought it was cool to have their brochure on the Web, now it’s critical. Think about the target audience for lighting, females age 35 to 54; 10 years ago, that 35-year-old was born in 1964. Today’s 35-year-old went through her teenage years in the ’90s with the Internet at her fingertips, and she is far less influenced by traditional media channels.
RL: What does this mean tactically?
DC: Connect with customers who provide their e-mail addresses. We run a radio ad with a sale on lamps and a chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree. Note that there are two messages: the message about the lamp sale and the message to enter online to win a shopping spree. The idea of entering to win is just a way to collect e-mails. Retailers who have developed e-mail lists to a greater degree have a dramatic advantage in getting their messages out. We are projecting that we sent well over a million e-mails for our lighting showroom customers in 2009, and we think it will double in 2010.
We’ve implemented Web sponsorship programs with lighting manufacturers. They agree to provide co-op credit to our accounts in exchange for being on the showroom’s home page, having a landing page and having an e-mail blast done on their behalf. It has opened the door to do a much greater number of e-blasts.
Several of our accounts have found that newspaper ads aren’t working. We do e-blasting instead, and they save money. I’m not saying it’s a bed of roses, but these showrooms have been able to survive on e-blasts and generate traffic without having the same level of media costs. We can look at the number of e-mails sent, the number opened, the number bounced back and the number clicked through to the Web site. We also look at Web site traffic on a daily basis. On the days we send out e-mails, those visits to the Web site go up four to six times.
RL: What about content?
DC: The key is having interesting content. To talk to a consumer about saving 20 or 40 percent gets tiresome. So, it takes a lot of creative and production effort to do a good job. What customers seem to like is a combination of education and offers. It can introduce people to new technologies quickly and effectively.
RL: What still works among traditional media?
DC: Direct mail is still a good medium to reach people. There are efficient ways to use postcard decks with programs that can go out for pennies. Television is still strong. Some of the morning shows have done specials with local stores, and that has proven good. Radio is still popular. Billboards are good if you are a small chain in a small town. Mid-sized newspapers now sell ads for affordable rates. That’s effective because people still notice newspaper ads.
Clark is CEO of Clark Communications Group, a firm that has designed corporate and lighting showroom programs and developed co-op advertising plans. Clark will give a Residential Lighting-sponsored seminar at the February Las Vegas Market.