Maximize Your Share of the Energy-Efficient Market
September 17, 2009 - 1:36pm

Customers have green on their minds. Are you ready to engage them in the showroom — with interactive displays, hang tags, brochures and Energy Star®-qualified products?

“There are a lot of drivers in the market right now,” says Paul Vrabel, principal at ICF Intl. “While ‘green’ may be trendy, energy efficiency is here to stay.”

The drivers of energy efficiency, according to Vrabel, include high energy prices, the Obama Administration’s huge push for more efficient goods from cars to consumer products, and a surge in energy-efficiency marketing and sales training programs available from many utilities. The latter is something to act on.

Many utilities offer signage, coupons, shelf-talkers and brochures — all on saving energy and dollars. But some, Vrabel says, offer sales and product knowledge training directly to retailers. While it’s somewhat hit or miss around the country at this time, Vrabel names metropolitan areas such as Chicago, and states such as Michigan and Maryland, as the latest utility areas to launch programs, joining progressive players such as California, New York and New England in offering in-store support.

The Light Box

At the same time, it’s important to get good visuals before the customer. Seattle Lighting, a retailer that has been pioneering energy-efficient lighting for years, has seen the category gobble up more square footage of its showrooms.

“We have expanded beyond the kiosk and blended energy-efficient product just about everywhere in the showroom,” says David McKee, Chief Operating Officer for Seattle Lighting, Globe Lighting and Builders Lighting. To identify energy-saving product, the company uses hang tags, which typically read: “This item will save you X dollars a year in energy consumption.”

Something new at all 15 Seattle Lighting stores are hands-on light bulb comparison centers, each labeled “The Light Box” (pictured). These displays feature 18 sockets for comparing different types of bulbs against CFLs. Each Light Box has switches and aptly named “Kill a Watt” meters. Shoppers toggle switches on and off to see energy-use readings for each lamp. “They’re magnets,” says McKee. “They draw over the customer like you wouldn’t believe.”

Indeed, “seeing is believing” is the most effective modus operandi in energy-efficient merchandising. Vrabel even suggests adding mirrors to in-store displays. A bathroom bar light with CFLs installed over a mirror lets customers see themselves with today’s high-quality CFL illumination cast on their skin. This can shake decades-old misconceptions about bad fluorescent lighting — green hues, humming ballasts, flickering light — and push greater sales of energy-efficient product.

“You want to be sure that no one on your staff is a naysayer,” says Vrabel. “Energy-efficient lighting technology has come a long way — just like cell phones, which used to be bulky bricks.”

Suddenly, energy-efficient lighting makes sense. And lighting showrooms have the green light, so to speak, to mix in energy-efficient products among all fixtures and lamps. The need to segregate the energy-saving labels — to highlight them to explain category features — no longer exists.

“Today’s energy-efficient lighting is beautiful,” says Vrabel. “So, focus on teaching the staff how to sell them — and make money.”

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