On December 19th, OSRAM Sylvania released the results of its annual socket survey, which provides some insight into consumers’ awareness of lighting legislation and their illumination preferences.
According to the title of the press release that accompanied this publication, the most important finding was that “Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Plan to Switch to Energy Efficient Lighting as a Result of Legislation”. I find the obviousness of this statement a little amusing; the legislation (EISA 2007), which is banning the importation and production of 40 and 60W incandescent (and has already banned 75 and 100W) bulbs in 2014, means that these people will basically have to switch no matter what their preference is (unless they decide to hoard the light bulbs, which is a whole other blog post in itself).
In an effort to delve deeper into the psyche of the American consumer, I have taken a deeper look at the survey and come up with a few observations:
“Q14. Where do you get your information about what light bulbs to purchase?”
- 53% from In-store displays or employees. While most LED lamps are sold in DIY stores like Home Depot today - where there are large displays showcasing the different lamps and employees available to answer questions- about half or more of all traditional (Incandescent, Halogen CFL etc.) light bulbs are sold in supermarkets, where displays are not fancy, and you will have a really hard time finding someone to answer any question about the different bulbs.
- How are lamp producers going to spread the word about LEDs to the supermarket crowd? Which product lines will even show up in supermarkets, since shelf space is at a premium?
- 37% from friends and family and 36% from online reviews. This means that product experience and quality matter!!! There is no doubt that a price war for LED light bulbs has already started. (It can be argued that CREE really started it when the company came out with a new A-lamp in March of 2013. This was impressive in and of itself, but what really astounded was its $12.97 price tag.) And, as with any price war, cheap (both price and quality) products on the market will follow.
- Will consumers flock to these cheap products early on or stick with higher quality competitors that offer a better warranty? Will consumers flock to better quality LED products if their experience is negative or switch entirely to a different technology i.e. halogen and CFL?
“Q4. I’m going to read you a list of various properties of light bulbs some people consider when making purchasing decisions. Please tell me how important each of these is to you personally when you choose a light bulb.”
- The brightness of the light the bulb produces, the total amount of time the bulb will last, the amount of energy the light bulb uses, and the price of the light bulb were the most important factors, in that order.
- This is a loaded question that does not accurately represent the price elasticity that consumers have for their lamp purchasing decisions. If most consumers are not aware of the actual price tag of an LED, they cannot make an informed decision on how price will affect their purchasing decision making. These statements also contradict what consumers are stating in other parts of the survey, particularly that 50% will be switching to CFL and a quarter to LED when incandescent bulbs are no longer available. This would not be the case if consumers actually purchased their bulbs based on the previously mentioned characteristics.