Interview: “The growth of overall online sales has great implications for paint manufacturers”
Selling paint online is a very small niche business. How do you rate the potential of selling paint online?
Reinier Zuydgeest: USP Marketing Consultancy conducts the Home Improvement Monitor, a market study on online purchases in 11 countries on home improvement products including paint. Our result this year was that 3.1% of the number of paint purchases are done online. So, is it a niche market? Indeed, yes. But when we compare this number to two years ago, it was 1.9% in 2015. And I expect it to grow further to 6% in the upcoming two to three years. This is due to all parties in the values chain investing heavily in this development. That is the main reason why paint manufacturers should bother because their partners, the paint merchants, the DIY retail stores, are investing heavily in their online operations.
Is there a difference in the various countries across Europe in terms of buying paint online?
Zuydgeest: Indeed, there are big differences across Europe. The countries which are ahead of online paint sales are Germany and the UK. And we observe this not only in terms of only paint sales but home improvement in general. Looking at paint specifically, these countries really stand out while the other European countries are more or less at the same level. The smallest share was measured in Italy with 1.2 % of the number of paint purchases made online and the other countries being around 2.5 %. Online sales account to 5.3 % in Germany and 4.4 % in the UK.
How would you explain the different behaviour?
Zuydgeest: There are two main reasons: first of all, Amazon is only active in five European countries but is most active in the UK and Germany. In all countries, in which Amazon is active, we have observed that people buy more online as it has contributed to a change of the mentality of consumers. And there are also cultural differences. In the UK, for instance, people were used to doing phone orders – this was quite big during the 1980s and 90s. The switch to buying paint online was more easily made there. This is very different in countries such as Belgium where people have a different mentality towards DYI jobs: it is quite a tradition here and people tend to go their local small DYI stores for products and advice. This is why the shift to online has been much slower compared to the UK or Germany.
What are advantages and disadvantages to buy paint online?
USP Marketing Consultancy
Zuydgeest: Our study also did ask consumers what are the main reasons to buy paint online. The main reasons was price, the second ease of home delivery and the third that comparing prices can be more easily done online. Other reasons were a wider selection and the availability of refills.
The main reason consumer mentioned to not buy paint online is rather obvious: it is difficult to choose the right colour in a web shop – this is one of the main obstacles for paint sales online as consumers still want to see how the paint looks on their wall. One approach here could be sending paint samples before the purchase– similar to those tiny paint cans sold in big DYI stores such as OBI.
Another reason why people refrain from purchasing paint only is that they believe there is no way to ask for advice and is therefore hard to choose the right type of paint. Others also said that is easier to find everything they need in a traditional store.
What potential do you see for paint producers to benefit from this channel to sell their paints online?
Zuydgeest: The growth of overall online sales has great implications for paint manufacturers as it leads to price erosion – which is a challenge rather than a benefit. Retailers of DIY are faced with increasing competition with Amazon. One popular strategy is to sell projects rather than products – including not only paints but furniture or tools. Another approach is offering professional services. Both strategies require the help of paint producers which definitely offers great opportunities.
Obviously, the opportunities also depend on the size of the paint manufacturer. Especially smaller companies might benefit from using Amazon as a platform as this way they can export to countries in that they are not otherwise present and therefore conquer more of Europe with their products. No partnerships or any customer service are needed using the fulfillment by Amazon. Bigger and well-known brands might also benefit from selling paints via their own web shops. Consumers want to be inspired and this can easily be done online with accompanying content such as articles on how to use the product and the like. But of course, conflicts of channels and partners has to be avoided – it is a difficult political decision but nonetheless an opportunity to be considered.
Interview by Vanessa Bauersachs