Craig DiLouie, LC, CLCP recently interviewed Michael Smith, Vice President of Sales, Lutron Electronics, for an article about residential smart lighting that will be published in the January 2019 issue of tED Magazine.
DiLouie: What are the top 3-5 trends shaping the residential smart lighting market, and how this is affecting demand for specific types of solutions and product development?
Smith: LEDs are here to stay. The Department of Energy estimates LEDs will reach 30% of installed stock by 2020. As they continue to get lower in cost and higher in functionality, they will also deliver greater convenience, comfort, aesthetics and control options that homeowners demand.
Wireless, smart solutions represent tremendous market growth. Wireless technology makes life easier by allowing homeowners to control lights from their smart device, from convenient wireless controls, or even using just their voice with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and a variety of other digital assistants. Contractors will look to distributors, and homeowners will look to contractors for simple solutions that can be easily personalized to fit into their homes and their lives.
Customers have largely accepted LEDs, and now they are looking for higher quality light, better color rendering, and more control capabilities. The trend is lighting is moving toward cutting-edge technologies and solutions that are easy to install, easy to use, and capable of responding to rapid changes in the lighting industry.
DiLouie: Smart lighting can be introduced to the home via smart lamps, switches, plugs, or a unified home automation system. How would you characterize these technologies and the pros and cons of each?
Smith: There isn’t one right solution – each of these have their place in today’s homes, and homeowners want a range of options that meet their budget, performance, and technology needs.
In the end, every home is better with lighting control that improves comfort and convenience, enhances security and peace of mind, and saves energy. Companies like Lutron offer layers of control – wireless dimmers, switches and sensors, battery-powered remotes, convenient smart phone apps – that make it easy for homeowners to start small and expand, or jump right in with a centralized, whole-home solution. Manufacturers have to make it easy to interface with other smart home products like automated shades, smart thermostats and doorbells, delivering flexible, scalable solutions that just work.
DiLouie: How influential was voice control in residential smart lighting in 2018?
Smith: Consumer interest in voice control and digital assistants are key drivers of smart lighting growth. One source estimates the market for smart lighting systems to exceed $4.4 billion by 2025.
As important as voice integration is, it is one layer of a complete lighting control solution. Many customers want multiple options available to them – voice control, app-based control, and the traditional switch or dimmer on the wall ensures they can control the lights when they want, how they want throughout their home.
DiLouie: How influential is the development of the Internet of Things for residential smart lighting?
Smith: Connected control is becoming the expectation in most households. In 2018, almost 70% of the US population uses smart phones, and this is changing the way we interact with our homes, and our world.
Consumers expect technology to be at their fingertips, to make their lives easier, more secure, and more convenient. The best smart solutions will absolutely enable control and monitoring from a smart device, with voice commands to digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, and still providing convenient, familiar control from a dimmer, switch or wireless remote. So, at night, when you don’t want to wake a sleeping baby by asking Alexa to turn off the lights, you can still just tap the dimmer on the wall!
DiLouie: Distributors should sell residential smart lighting on its benefits of comfort and convenience. What are ways in which a smart lighting solution can enhance user comfort?
Smith: Create the right environment. Studies increasing show the right light can have a profound effect on comfort and a sense of well-being. Smart lighting solutions allow simple setup of timeclock events, can effectively simulate lighting use to enhance security when a homeowner is away, integrate with automated shading to maximize daylight while limiting glare, and of course personalize lighting to your own specific mood at any time.
Peace-of-mind ¬– With the right lighting control solution you can monitor and adjust lighting in your home from anywhere in the world, at any time, using your smart device. Not sure if you turned off the lights when you left for vacation? Check your app. Want to make sure your kids don’t come home to a dark house? Turn lights on remotely, set up timeclock-based events, or use a geofencing feature to let the lights automatically respond to occupant presence. The right smart lighting solutions offer tremendous peace of mind, enhanced feelings of security, and 24/7 access to the lighting in your home.
Homeowners will look for convenience and comfort in terms of customer service, too. They will see value in a manufacturer with a long tradition of innovation and customer service to ensure the best solution for today, and the best solution for tomorrow as well.
DiLouie: What does the smart home lighting manufacturing community need to do better to increase sales? What do distributors need to do better, contractors?
Smith: Stay trained on the latest product solutions and keep stock on hand to ensure contractors can meet their customer needs. Offer your contractors opportunities to learn about new smart control solutions, host seminars to demonstrate simple installation and programming, and help them deliver more value on every project.
Especially in this challenging labor market, wireless control solutions help contractors meet customer needs more quickly, with fewer callbacks. Make sure you have the knowledge and stock to promote and sell these solutions when your contractors need them.
It all starts with the ability to Create the Right Environment for each customer. Smart lighting solutions put control easily at the customer’s fingertips. Distributors should align themselves with manufacturers who are committed to innovation, offer on-site as well as online training to keep distributors up to date, and support their customers 24/7/365.
As a distributor or contractor, work with manufacturers who have been around for years, have a proven history of product support and service, and who have demonstrated an enduring commitment to innovation and expertise in the rapidly evolving lighting industry.
DiLouie: How should electrical distributors evaluate products and match them appropriately to different type of user needs and applications? Q10. What are the most effective sales strategies distributors can use to sell more smart home lighting?
Smith: Stay informed about the changes in LED lighting, issues with LED compatibility and control, and the solutions they can provide to their customers. Distributors can stock and promote lighting control solutions that make smart control easy to install and use, and work with manufacturers who offer merchandising tools, displays, and training opportunities to help inform and educate their staff and their customers.
Be a problem solver for every customer. Make sure you are the subject matter expert. Show contractors how wireless control (like simple Pico wireless remotes from Lutron) can add value for their “do-it-for-me” clients. In just a few minutes, you can add an additional control location, create a simple wireless system, and open a homeowner’s eyes to what’s possible in their home. This is a great way to create a customer for life.
DiLouie: If you could tell the entire electrical industry just one thing about smart home lighting, what would it be?
Smith: Homeowners want to easily control their lights in every room and space in their home. Wireless control solutions, matched with compatible lights and shades, help customers get the flexible, comfortable, efficient home experience they’re looking for. And once you create that need, you create a customer for life
As a distributor, when you introduce your contractors to smart home lighting control, you expand their installation opportunities, and in turn increase your sales and profits while improving the lives of their customers.