Sustainability Messaging Offers Basis for Differentiation in Retail Paint Market

The high-demand low-supply environment has transformed paint from a common commodity into a treasure hunt to find the exact product desired. As a result, customers are looking at paint through a more critical lens as prices rise and options may be more limited.
By: J.D. Power
Home & Retail Briefing Report
Home & Retail Briefing Report
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. - May 6, 2022 - PRLog -- During the past two years, the home improvement sector experienced an uptick in sales as customers tackled DIY projects to improve the functionality or aesthetics of their homes—and just kill time. This rising level of activity has reshaped the landscape of the paint market and elevated the role of environmental messaging in this market, according to Christina Cooley, Director of the Home & Retail Practice at J.D. Power, in a podcast interview for journalists.

"While paint may not be the first product category people think of in the context of sustainability, the industry may be well served by exploring ways to further integrate an environmental narrative into their go-to-market activity. The good news is that many of the attributes that customers have always looked for from leading paint brands are also factors that can contribute to sustainability," Cooley said.

One of the easiest DIY projects to tackle—in terms of skills, time and financial investment—is painting, which quickly increased in popularity through the pandemic period. But the same dynamics playing out in other sectors of the economy are manifesting themselves in this market. The increase in demand has not been matched by the ability to deliver supply.

"The high-demand low-supply environment has transformed paint from a common commodity into a treasure hunt to find the exact product desired," Cooley said. "As a result, customers are looking at paint through a more critical lens as prices rise and options may be more limited."

Customers have recalibrated their expectations and buying habits when it comes to paint. Factors like environmental friendliness, durability and toxicity have become top-of-mind issues for consumers in this challenging market. It is in this context that J.D. Power is finding messages around sustainability, durability and toxicity to be an emerging opportunity to differentiate the customer experience in the paint sector.

Putting Customer Satisfaction Factors into Environmental Contexts

The durability factor—one of the top drivers of brand performance—is a case in point. As the economic picture becomes more uncertain, durability has become more essential than ever for many paint shoppers. Long-lasting paint saves time and money. But from an environmental perspective, high durability also means that customers do not have to paint as often.

Toxicity, which represents another area of concern for customers, is a more challenging and sensitive component to track. One of the few ways customers gauge toxicity is by smelling–or breathing–paint fumes. These tend to increase every time a coat of paint is applied. In other words, when it comes to paint, toxicity is a function of quantity.

"Here is where players in the industry may have an opportunity to leverage innovation to promote a less toxic message," Cooley said. "According to J.D. Power research, most customers need to apply more than one coat of paint to achieve desired results. Only 35% of customers can accomplish their project objectives with a single application. This data suggests an emerging opportunity for ongoing innovation to produce paint products that can go further for the customer in terms of better coverage and lower fumes."

Integrating Sustainability Across Manufacturing and Retail Ecosystems

In general, notes Cooley, how brands operate in their communities greatly influences the quality of customer loyalty in specific geographic markets. This is especially true when it comes to how paint retailers communicate with their customer base.

"Local knowledge of environmental factors, for instance, matters when making decisions about both internal and external painting projects," Cooley said. "But it is also true for how brands bring new product innovations to market."

Many manufacturers, for instance, have developed interior paints with low- or no-volatile organic compounds (VOC). This is a very attractive proposition for customers attuned to environmental issues and why it is becoming more common in the industry. The challenge for the paint sector is that customers rarely hear about these product enhancements and advancements from retailers. This represents an overlooked opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves from competitors.

"Our research suggests that customer awareness of these features can translate into brand loyalty and improve interest in stores that carry paints with these specific environmentally friendly attributes," Cooley said. "A coordinated brand/retail focus on these sustainability messages can go a long way toward better supporting paint sustainability messages before, during and after the point of purchase."

Find out More
Read the full Q&A with Christina Cooley by visiting:

To learn more about the underlying research behind this industry briefing or to schedule an interview with Christina Cooley, please contact the number below.

Media Contacts
Geno Effler, J.D. Power; West Coast; 714-621-6224;

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Tags:Sustainability, Retail Paint Market, Home Goods
Location:Westlake Village - California - United States
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