Consumers Buying landscape lighting products online vs. through a design/build professional

Consumers Buying landscape lighting products online vs. through a design/build professional

By Mike Gambino

Due to the advent of the Internet in the past 20 years, an entirely new market has emerged for consumers. Thanks to the Internet, consumers are much more informed about the products they buy — including how much it costs, since customers can easily compare and contrast prices against competing businesses around the world. As a design/build professional specialist Competing with Internet sales in the landscape lighting industry is an essential part of running a successful business.

Ask most landscape lighting design/build professionals what their No. 1 business concern is, and the overwhelming majority will answer, albeit privately and not always publicly, “Price competition from the internet!” It’s the cause of deep anxiety, particularly when even your most “loyal” customers who have done business with you for years privately price-shop you against your online competition. And while I don’t mean to underscore the significance of this concern (which I will address shortly), in the overall scheme of things the internet reseller is at a major disadvantage as they can only offer one part of a landscape lighting system. And they are at a major disadvantage because their product recommendations must at best come from 1 dimensional emailed photos as they do not have the ability to visit the site to determine the optimum solutions.

While convenience is typically associated with online shopping, landscape lighting design build professionals should be enjoying a significant advantage over internet retailers with their excellent on-demand service, including their system testing and diagnostic capabilities, product knowledge and ability to instantly assess system and equipment needs.

The bad news for the online consumer is that the majority of landscape lighting equipment requires design and technical knowledge and experience and professional installation. So, even when consumers purchase online, they often have to return to the very companies they bypassed on the purchase to install their equipment. Additionally, some manufacturers have created “brick-and-mortar” products and programs for consumers for purchasing through traditional big box and other retail channels. Unbeknownst to the consumer is the fact that these products ARE NOT the same quality of those available through purchase from the professional design build contractor. So that internet bargain often turns out to not be such a bargain after all.

The Elephant in the Room

Many design build professionals will not discuss this publicly or even off the record. So, let’s address the elephant in the room. With a design build professionals significantly higher overhead costs, how do we compete against the online pricing offered by companies selling on the internet?

Many landscape lighting professionals refuse to install or service equipment purchased online directly by the consumer. This is bad for both the consumer and the professional. Once their company “touches” the equipment, the landscape lighting system owner holds THEM responsible for fixing any and all problems. In the consumer’s mind, if the product is defective, it’s a result of the installation, NOT the online retailer from whom they purchased. Of course, no matter how clear you are in instructing the consumer to contact the online reseller if a problem arises AFTER the installation is completed, it goes in one ear and out the other.

So, what would a company do in this situation? Without profit dollars from a product sale to offset costs from a follow-up callback, it’s a MONEY LOSER. Not many professionals I know who want any part of that!

While the majority of discussion participants pointlessly argue about the evil empire (internet resellers) and the unscrupulous buyers that are stealing money from their pockets, Gambino landscape lighting, saw the trend and did something about it more than 12 years ago. We developed our own proprietary product line of such high quality at a reasonable price point making it virtually impossible to compare with anything else available online or anywhere else in the marketplace for that matter. Rather than avoid the elephant in the room, we hit it HEAD ON.

Now we understand that this is not going to be practical or economically feasible for most professional design build contractors. Because companies are in business to make money, described are two options and how professional design build companies can effectively compete with online resellers.

Option 1-Product is purchased through the professional design build contractor along with installation allowing the company to set aside dollars in the event of service follow-up for a product manufacturing defect.

Option 2- covered travel and time for one-time installation or service. Any follow-up for warranty repairs or replacement was between the pool owner and their online seller. Period.

And for landscape lighting system owners that want you to assume full responsibility for the equipment, there’s a simple solution — you add to your pricing the profit dollars that would have been yielded had they purchased from you in the first place. The choice is obvious.

As I shared at the beginning of this article, we’re making it too easy for our customers to do business with someone else, rather than us. To take back control, try the following:

Ask and answer: How convenient are you to do business with? Do my days and hours of operation reflect when my buyers most wish to purchase their landscape lighting system?

Stop grousing about the internet and losing sales to online competitors. It’s here to stay. Provide your valued customers with so much valuable service that they would be crazy to buy from anyone else.

Stop avoiding the elephant in the room. Develop a strategy to counteract lower online pricing with buying options that give your customers more reasons to say “yes” to you.

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 27 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

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