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How to help homeowners navigate the smart lighting landscape

Smart home technology is growing by leaps and bounds, with the global smart home market projected to swell by 30 percent over the next two years (Statista). And, because smart lighting with LEDs offers a low-cost, low-hassle way to make homes smarter, it’s the first step for many homeowners.

But with so many options available now, are you ready to help homeowners navigate the smart lighting landscape? Are you prepared to capitalize on an exciting opportunity to grow your business? As more people begin to explore connected home solutions, keep the following things in mind to score a win-win for yourself and your customers.

What are the key trends driving market growth in smart lighting?

  • Greater affordability: Smart lighting technology is not necessarily new, especially if you include early, more primitive examples such as simple outdoor light timers. But truly smart, network-connected devices are much newer — and until recently, they were cost-prohibitive for all but a small population of early adopters with disposable income.
  • Better technology: Twenty years ago, LED products were expensive and exceedingly rare in residential spaces. Instead, homeowners relied on multiple lighting technologies, all with their own pros and cons. But today, LED lighting has normalized to the mass market and is every bit as expected as the CFL bulbs that began replacing incandescent lights in the late 20th century. Just as important, modern wireless technology has transformed LED lights from simple lighting fixtures to sophisticated wireless communication platforms.

What do consumers want to achieve with smart lighting? Where do they shop for smart home products?

Multiple factors can motivate homeowners to adopt smart lighting and other smart home solutions. “Besides the desire to turn lights on and off remotely, there isn’t a single key driver for all consumers,” said Bryant Bilal, marketing manager at Eaton’s lighting division. “But you can navigate this landscape a little more easily if you split consumers into three personas.”

  • Tech evolutionist: The tech evolutionist is an early adopter. They believe technology should fit more seamlessly into the way we live and are quick to seek out solutions that offer a refined, integrated home and lifestyle. Online or home improvement retailers are often their first stop.
  • Home curator: The home curator cultivates a thoughtfully designed home that provides an outlet for self-expression as well as an enjoyable place for friends and family to gather. They purchase life-enriching products that are aesthetically pleasing and easy to use, normally via big-box retailers.
  • Traditionalist: The traditionalist wants the good life, finely tuned to their own standards. They seek smart home solutions that make life easier, but these solutions have to fit easily into the home. Traditionalists don’t want to end up with an unsightly hodgepodge of devices or spend a lot of time on setup. They often rely on a builder or contractor to purchase products that fit their vision for a carefully curated, finely tuned home.

Despite the recent explosion of smart home technology, many consumers are still mostly in the dark about the nuances of smart lighting. “They know the end result they want, but they don’t know what’s available,” Bilal said. “For example, a lot of people want to host the perfect dinner party, and they understand lighting plays a role, but they need more education on available products and where to get them or who can install them. Some consumers have a solid understanding of connected lighting principles and available products, but that segment is much smaller.

“If you’re a residential builder or contractor, you have a chance to inform your customers and educate them about what’s possible, creating an opportunity to make them happy and grow your business.”

How do smart lighting solutions help homeowners create the perfect moment?

Smart lights can be manipulated for specific situations and even personalized at an individual level. For example, owners can create special lighting scenes for family movie night or a romantic dinner by dimming the lights and selecting a color temperature. Lights can also be manipulated to complement the time of day.

Eaton’s Halo Home Smart Lighting System includes indoor lights that are great for the den or living room,” Bilal said. “These lights can transform the space throughout the day, starting with wake-up lights at maybe 2,700K to a lighting scheme that leverages natural daylight at midday to general downlighting at night.

“Previously, owners had to make all of these adjustments at the wall. Now, Halo Home allows you to schedule lighting scenes — for example, wake-up time every weekday at 7 a.m. or movie night every Friday at 7 p.m. I programmed my own smart lights to help my kids get ready for school in the mornings. Our kitchen lights brighten to 4,000K at breakfast time, which helps everyone get ready for their day and catch their ride to school on time.”

Security is another key consideration for many consumers, and smart lighting systems like Halo Home give homeowners remote control of outdoor and indoor lighting via an app or voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa. “You can schedule your outdoor flood lights to turn on from dusk to dawn, starting at 50 percent brightness and increasing to 5,000K at midnight,” Bilal said. “It’s comforting to know that my exterior lights are burning brightly to keep my family safer when we’re asleep, yet the lights aren’t disturbing our neighbors during the time between sunset and bedtime.”

How can you help your customers navigate smart home technology decisions?

When it comes to smart lighting and other smart home solutions, builders and contractors can guide their customers and capitalize on upsell opportunities by asking a few simple questions.

  • Do you want an automated or connected home? This baseline question can help determine your customer’s level of comfort with technology.
  • Do you want a system that adds value to your life? This is an opportunity to explore what your customer hopes to achieve by incorporating smart home technology.
  • Do you want a system you can build upon or a single element you can incorporate into an existing platform? Does your customer envision an integrated lighting experience, or do they see lighting as one piece of a larger puzzle? At this point, they will likely want to know more about available smart lighting products or systems in order to make a decision.

What are examples of smart lighting systems on the market, and what makes them different?

“Today, most smart lighting systems can claim at least one big selling point,” Bilal said. “For example, one manufacturer has had a great system on the market for bulbs for about seven years. It’s hub-based, similar to internet with a wireless router, where all communication passes through the hub. While this process happens quickly, it does create a small amount of latency. Homeowners also need to purchase the light bulbs, remote controls, table lamps and other components separately — and the hub can only control a limited number of lights at a time.”

“Another large manufacturer makes a smart home system for wall controls that’s really popular with pros. It doesn’t include lights — just the wall controls. It’s a nice product with some limitations. For example, homeowners don’t have the flexibility to create some of those moments, like date night, or control individual light fixtures. The system also doesn’t incorporate white tuning or color tuning for lights.

“I think Halo Home is a great combination of the two. It includes white tuning, outdoor floodlights and wall controls. It can be built up to fit the needs of a tech enthusiast, yet it also targets the mass market — those home curators and traditionalists who know they want solutions to make their lives easier and better but may not be familiar with the complexities of connected lighting,” Bilal said. “If you’re a contractor, you can even sell Halo Home to your customers and commission it without having to hire an audiovisual subcontractor.

“This is a key differentiator,” he said. “Many smart lighting systems require contractors to hire outside companies for installation and setup and wait for an internet connection, and the homeowner still has to purchase a hub. On the other hand, with Halo Home, you can simply install the lights, download the app on your device, create an account and begin using the system, making it turnkey. It doesn’t require a hub or an internet connection, and because each light communicates with the system via Bluetooth Mesh, there’s no latency.”

Regardless of which product is right for your customers, one thing is certain: smart home technology is here to stay. From enhanced home security to voice control and increased connectivity, the masses are flooding the market in an effort to make their homes smarter and more in tune with the way families live and operate today. If you’re a builder, remodeler or distributor, you can keep a jump on the curve by staying in tune with trends and knowing your customers, inside and out.