Implementing lighting strategies can help attract customers, promote services and highlight products.
We have all been to a theatrical performance where a "star" steps towards the front of the stage, the house lights drop and all eyes in the building are drawn to the actor or actress in "the spotlight". Without even uttering a word, everything else simply fades into the background. This illustrates the power of light. Appropriate lighting strategies can tell customers about your type of business (discount, moderate pricing, high end), it can highlight important products or information (accreditation/diplomas, testimonials, signature products, etc.), it can direct your line of sight to certain areas of a building and it can even reinforce your brand image. With a tool this powerful, its a shame that we don't take more time to think about the impact light has on our individual businesses.
The first step in identifying a lighting strategy is knowing the different base types of lighting for commercial spaces. There are four:
Ambient lighting- The most common source of lighting provides a uniform lighting profile for a larger area. Recessed florescent lighting is a common form of ambient lighting.
Accent lighting- highlights a particular item or set of items generally through spot lighting or certain floods.
Vertical surface lighting (also known as "shielded" or "valance" lighting-Lighting on vertical surfaces like walls, certain display cases and even building exteriors is used to draw the eye to predetermined areas like signage, awards, wall based retail products, etc.
Shelf Lighting- As the name would suggest, these are lights integrated into shelving or display units to highlight particular products or enhance the refractive qualities of certain products (jewelry or glass art displays often use shelf lighting).
Next, you have to determine the type of feel you want to achieve with your lighting scheme.
Discounters often focus specifically on ambient lighting without determined focal points provided by other lighting types.
Businesses that want to create an atmosphere of moderate value will use accent lighting and some shelf lighting to highlight specific signature products or services. Moderate value businesses will also use lighting to accent awards, testimonials and branding information.
High value businesses will utilize all lighting styles to highlight entrances, pathways, products, signature items and create a sense of style.
In most businesses, uniform light levels are undesirable. Differing levels of light are an inexpensive and highly effective way to draw consumers into your business
and direct them to high margin products/services or guide them to certain areas of your store. However, when creating a lighting scheme, you need to remember that other details within a business/building can radically alter lighting effectiveness.
Too many highly reflective surfaces can dissipate light and create glare. Dark ceilings and too many dark surfaces can "absorb" light by not offering any reflection/refraction. Using the same types of lights at the same strength throughout an area creates unintended uniformity and damages your ability to focus the consumer's eye.
Now that you know the very basics of lighting, decide what you want to achieve.
What do you want to highlight? Where do you want to physically draw the customer? What do you want patrons to look at? How can you improve lighting to accent your entrance, your signage and your branding information? Creating appropriate areas of focus can help you achieve a better visual scheme.
What do you want to achieve aesthetically with the actual light? Should you use multi-spectrum bulbs (sometimes called tri-phosphate) to achieve "truer" colors
(this strategy is popular in clothing retailers and home decor stores, or any business where making colors "pop" is important), or do you want to focus on energy efficiency? Mixing lighting types can help you achieve both of these goals simultaneously.
When combined with effective floor planning, window designs, customer service and branding strategies, effective lighting can boost foot traffic, sales and encourage repeat customers. Remember, lighting strategies are also effective when replicated on store exteriors for certain types of businesses. Car dealerships, for example, can utilize effective lighting strategies to highlight a certain showcase vehicle and guide people into a lot to view more merchandise. Be creative in the application of light.
Running a business can be overwhelming. Too often, we view problemswith a wide angle lens. Instead, try and assess individual components of your business, and improve things incrementally. It helps give you a sense of accomplishment, and if you keep achieving your small goals, eventually you will solve larger issues. Plus, when staff understands the "why" behind positive changes, they have the opportunity to execute your business vision more effectively. Will changing a few lights turn your enterprise into the next Fortune 500 company? Probably not, but it can help you improve your bottom line over time.