Driving Digital Adoption in Paints and Coatings

Photo courtesy of Katie Chrobak, PPG.

Katie Chrobak, associate director of digital adoption for PPG Architectural Coatings, made these comments on a recent episode of the CoatingsPro Interview Series. To hear the complete interview, listen below, and find other episodes at www.coatingspromag.com/podcasts.

In my career, I’ve spent 17 years in some form of digital work across a gamut of startup companies, advertising agencies, government education, and, now, PPG for nine years.

Today, my role is in leading digital adoption. We realize that building digital solutions, tools, and platforms is part of the work. But there’s just as much work needed to help people adopt those solutions. Change is hard — even when it’s good change. 

So, my team really serves as a support system for customers and employees who may not be competent or fluid in these solutions or may even be resistant to them. I’m really lucky that I get the privilege of leading a team of people that really lives, breathes, and loves digital. It’s so fun. 

Amazon of Paints?

Whenever I talk to a painter or professional, I ask them what their favorite app or website is. Almost always, the answer is Amazon. As humans, Amazon has collectively set our expectations of finding the products we want and getting them when and where we want them.

For us, our audience isn’t any different. Those expectations we have as people and as consumers bleed into our professional lives. So, it’s increasingly important for us to stay relevant and address those evolving preferences. 

With paint, it’s not as simple as ordering a light bulb on Amazon. It’s very nuanced, and there are a lot of technical pieces and complexities to it. So, we look to our painters and customers to see what they need.

Maybe we have a painter who doesn’t know the full product code on every part of their job, but they know they can call their store and say, “Hey, I need an order of my trim paint.” Or they can provide a spec number, and the right product shows up. That’s a really important experience, and we don’t want to lose that in any type of digital way. 

Incorporating Feedback

For us, we do research into general digital trends and behavior patterns, which Amazon leads. From there, we look into our industry-specific trends and data, such as the buying behaviors of our customers and how they shift over time. 

Then, there’s the anecdotal feedback and user experience research. There’s nothing like a customer interview or a customer’s feedback and comparison. There’s really nothing quite like that as we build out our tools.

One thing we’ve noticed is that while we talk about mobile a lot, digital products also need to work on a desktop computer. We need the same functionality. There are project managers who are sitting in front of a computer all day. They aren’t out and on the go, and they aren’t using a mobile app. 

So, we need to be adaptable to any lens or device that people might use for their tasks. We also found we needed to offer Spanish translations. With a diverse set of customers, we need to bring them the right products and solutions in a way that is easiest for them.

Driving Future of Digital

The elephant in the room is AI (artificial intelligence). AI is in a revolutionary time right now, and it can be scary, but it also could be exciting. It’s definitely happening, and it will be part of our future as a valuable tool. That’s something that we’re actively exploring, and we want to incorporate it in the best way possible, both to help our employees and the customer experience. We want to help define the future of an AI world.

Many of these trends have been around, in some industries more than others, for a while. But the pandemic really accelerated a lot of this. People were forced to go to digital solutions and to get more things purchased online and delivered to them. 

Paints and coatings are one of those industries that has been very traditionally brick and mortar, and not everything has been fully integrated with the broader digital evolution. But we’re on the way there. That’s what we’re seeing. It’s coming along, and there’s certainly a vast acceleration over the past couple years.

Source: PPG Architectural Coatings, www.ppgac.com.

Editor’s note: This article was repurposed from the September 2023 print issue of CoatingsPro Magazine.

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