Paint manufacturers and raw material suppliers have an opportunity to benefit from cooperative consumer market research through ACA. The association has operated the Paint Consumer Research Program, or PCRP, for over 25 years. This long history of operation allows subscribers to view not only "snapshots" of the market, but also longer term trends. PCRP provides subscribers high quality, extremely detailed market research information at a very favorable price, since the cost of gathering the data is shared cooperatively among all the subscribers to the program.
PCRP facilitates programs in both the US and Canada. In both markets, PCRP uses a large pre-recruited consumer panel to gather key quarterly information on the "do-it-yourself" market for architectural coatings (paints, stains, clear finishes, varnishes, etc.). The PCRP uses an internet-based methodology operated by a leading consumer research firm, MarketTools. Samples are drawn quarterly from MarketTools’ interactive Zoom Panel of over 2.5 million households and invitations are set to a large sample that is balanced to Census data. Invited participants are screened for paint, stain, etc. purchases during the past 90 days upon logging into the survey. The goal of the program is to obtain detailed information from approximately 7,000 U.S. households per quarter (28,000 annually), along with 1,500 Canadian households per quarter (6,000 annually) that purchased paint, stains, varnishes, and other products in the previous quarter.
Once a respondent reports a paint purchase, MarketTools queries him or her on key information, such as the brand purchased, the price paid, the sales outlet where the product was purchased, and whether he purchased it "on sale" or at the "regular" price. Depending on the survey methodology, respondents are also asked questions such as:
- Whether the product was custom tinted at the point of sale, or was "factory-tinted"
- The gloss level of the product
- The name of the store where the product was purchased
- The size of the container
- Whether the paint, stain, or other coating product is to be applied by the purchaser or by someone else
- Where the paint, stain, or other coating product was applied (i.e., living room)
- What other paint related sundries were purchased with the product
Once MarketTools collects, reviews, and compiles this data through the survey, it then makes it available to PCRP members through a secure website. The site contains an Internet based software tool customized for PCRP that allows members to extract the data and formulate it into reports, for example, charting basic market information, such as the average retail price or brand share, or viewing it based on a particular state or metropolitan area or with a particular demographic emphasis.
To get your company involved with PCRP, please contact:
American Coatings Association
1500 Rhode Island Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20005
Questions asked by potential subscribers to PCRP:
The quarterly and annual PCRP survey results provide by far the best means for paint manufacturers to gauge how their brands are faring in the overall marketplace for architectural coatings. This is particularly so since some traditional measures of the market, such as the Census Bureau’s Current Industrial Reports on paints and coatings, are no longer conducted – and in any event, they never provided brand and channel information or purchaser demographics. Moreover, estimates of the total market based on partial scanner data tells a paint manufacturer or supplier nothing about the profile of his customer base, usage patterns, and other key buying factors.* Knowing who purchased the paint, in many cases, is more critical than the mere knowledge that a transaction has occurred.
PCRP offers subscribing paint manufacturers the ability to download and analyze the PCRP data in order to gain insight, for example, into their product’s customer base, using such demographic criteria as age, location, income level, race, etc. Using this vital information captured by PCRP allows a market researcher to understand purchase patterns, and utilize detailed sales information to determine the effectiveness of marketing tools, such as advertising and promotions, or facilitates the development of strategies targeted at specific market segments.
*Many providers of syndicated market information rely on retailer scanner data. While some vendors participate in programs aggregating scanner data on purchase transactions, a number of key players in the retail coatings market do not syndicate their data, rendering the information these programs provide less than a comprehensive views of the market.
A paint manufacturer or raw material supplier may ask why the information provided through PCRP is valuable to his company. Some manufacturers might believe knowing how much paint they are shipping and believe that is an adequate basis for making strategic decisions. In a competitive marketplace, however, a company's performance is influenced by three major players: the company itself, competitor companies, and consumer-purchasers. In analyzing the coatings market, paint manufacturers recognize that their competition includes not only direct competitors, but also those companies selling competing wall coverings, such as wall paper, paneling, etc. A paint manufacturer who fails to obtain the best market intelligence, including trends information, on which consumers are buying his product, how much they actually are paying, and what is simultaneously happening with his direct competitors’ products, is operating in the dark.
Successful companies understand that information gained through market research isn't just "nice to know." They know that this information is the foundation for the company’s most important strategic business decisions. For example, it permits a company to gain insight into how its brand compares with others in the price it commands, its customer base, its brand loyalty, etc. Such "brand equity" analysis may suggest ways in which to promote its product in order to enhance the product's profitability. It may differentiate the best or rising channels to move products, and, perhaps most importantly, provide a paint manufacturer the market intelligence needed to negotiate with a channel of distribution from a position of strength.
The benefit of good research, ultimately, is that it not only clarifies the questions a manager should be asking about a product’s performance, but may also suggest more effective and targeted marketing campaigns that speak directly to the people he's trying to reach in a way that interests them.
With careful analysis, the PCRP data can give a manager insight into pricing and volume trends for his or her product, and permit comparisons with competing brands. PCRP can help answer questions such as "What is the average dollar amount spent on purchases of products or services similar to mine?" The manager can develop a market segmentation study to compare the demographic profile of his or her product with a competitors', or perhaps with the profile of the customer base at the brand's channel of distribution. The data can provide insight into such questions as the relationship of income to preferences for gloss levels, or whether customers in one region show a stronger preference for custom-tinted paints over factory tinted, or how stains compete against exterior paints geographically.
It's not uncommon for brand managers to seek to extend their brands vertically—that is, to take their brands into a seemingly attractive market above or below their current positions. And as companies seek to improve their growth, particularly in a relatively mature consumer market such as the architectural coatings market, a manager might consider, for example, a move into the premium or value segments. PCRP data, used in conjunction with other management tools, may help provide insight into whether such a move is feasible or desirable.
Subscribers may have the ability to use PCRP data in conjunction with other market data, such as information generated by a specific outlet or another market research organization. For example, a manufacturer selling in the hardware store channel may have access to information on his channel's overall customer base from other sources. This would then provide him or her the ability to compare a brand's performance in the channel to the performance of other items sold in the channel. If the demographic profile of paint purchasers in the channel of interest varies in some significant way from the profile of, say, tool purchasers, that might suggest a customized strategy for reaching those now missing potential paint customers. The more varied the ways in which a market researcher can leverage the PCRP data, particularly in conjunction with other data, the more insight he or she might gain into why a product sells well (or why it doesn't) among certain market segments.
PCRP data, while quite extensive, cannot meet all the needs of a market researcher. PCRP does not, for example, measure in detail the critical contractor market. It therefore cannot function as a measure for the total architectural coatings market – although it can identify trends much more quickly than can, for example, the Census Bureau. Since PCRP relies on consumer recall, it cannot measure the retail price of a particular brand with absolute precision, nor can it project the overall size of the market with complete accuracy. It can, however, alert market researchers and managers to trends, both long-term and short, which can help them to maximize the return on their brands. Anyone seeking to sell architectural coatings to the consumer market who fails to use PCRP data is foregoing the opportunity to use the best market research available on his or her products.