Notice anything different last time you tried to buy a lightbulb? If you haven’t yet, chances are you soon will–as of January 1, 2014, production of 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs has been prohibited. Don’t tell Edison, but back in 2007, George W. Bush signed a law to phase out the doomed bulbs, calling for a total stop to production but allowing retailers to sell the rest of their remaining stock. The 100- and 75-watt bulbs have already been phased out seamlessly throughout the last few years, but a smooth transition away from the 40- and 60-watt favorites may pose more of a challenge.
To boost sales of an incandescent alternative–the LED lightbulb–and help both retailers and consumers transition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a challenge to retailers through their Energy Star program. With nearly 70% of sockets in the U.S. still containing an inefficient light bulb, the EPA is challenging U.S. retailers to sell 20 million Energy Star certified LED light bulbs by Earth Day 2014–that’s April 22nd. Still, despite the EPA’s efforts to generate excitement about the LED bulbs, demand for the outgoing 40-watt and 60-watt light bulbs continues to rise as more consumers learn about the change, Marc Maldoff, merchandising director at Lowe’s, told Fox Business, while LED sales remain stagnant. So how can retailers change their marketing tactics to boost sales of the most efficient (and priciest!) lightbulbs on the market?
1. Change Their Image, Literally
When conjuring up an image of an LED lightbulb, a white, bulky looking monstrosity inevitably appears. While those are probably among the most mainstream of LEDs, other options like the Feit Electric LED (pictured on left) are also available, and retailers should consider stocking more of them. Other bulb manufacturers, meanwhile, should consider stepping it up, because when it comes to lightbulbs, a majority of consumers are old-school: they just want their traditional, pear-shaped light bulbs! As more marketing content emerges baring an image that doesn’t resemble a shower head (pictured on right), consumers might be more willing to buy.
2. Encourage Comparisons
With the incandescent bulbs out of the picture, consumers might be tempted to purchase CFLs, which are also energy efficient and happen to be cheaper than LEDs. But LEDs are a better deal. At roughly $1.74 per bulb, CFLs are cheaper than most LED options, but CFLs offer only 75 percent energy savings over an incandescent and last ten times as long, while LED bulbs are 75-80 percent more efficient than traditional incandescents and last 25 times longer. Comparison information should be displayed prominently at the store, so that consumers can make educated decisions. It’s also a great opportunity to utilize an in-store mobile app. Home Depot has a great one, but should do a better job of promoting the app and its various comparison capabilities in the store.
3. Simplify the Shopping Experience
This goes hand in hand with the tip above, but retailers need to do a better job of helping consumers transition from incandescents to the alternative. Once a consumer has made a decision about which alternative to purchase, there’s still room for confusion. What does 40 watts equal in lumens? What do light “temperatures” refer to? Though some bulb manufacturers put this type of information on the box, it’s up to retailers to make sure their customers know what they’re buying. Clear guidelines like these might make a major difference:
If you used to buy 100 watt bulbs, look for a bulb with 1600 lumens.
If you used to buy 75 watt bulbs, look for a bulb with 1100 lumens.
If you used to buy 60 watt bulbs, look for a bulb with 800 lumens.
If you used to buy 40 watt bulbs, look for a bulb with 450 lumens.