New Functionality Delivers ROI

In a fast-paced, globalizing market, coatings leaders with the ability to predict the future win. Facing heightened competition, more stringent performance requirements and environmental hurdles, savvy decision makers take advantage of new color technology to satisfy value-conscious customers and create business-energizing return on investment. A successful color strategy creates bottom-line benefits: faster time to market, lower costs and a higher perception of quality.

Can color technology truly yield business foresight and increase profitability? Absolutely. Read on for three key ways you can optimize color processes and create a market edge that pays dividends.

Create Color Excellence Enterprise-Wide

Is it that important to have an overall color strategy throughout an organization? Yes, it is the difference between market leaders and followers. Implementing a strategy for accurate color communication and clear tactics for color specification has a demonstrable positive impact on both product quality and product time to market.

A successful strategy starts with an analysis of color information and decision flows. Is a product color specification unambiguous? Does it include specific lighting and viewing conditions? Do all parties share the same color standards? Are the results of color evaluations instantly available to those who need them? Are systems in place to ensure everyone knows what is expected and when?

Today, color information management systems integrate analysis and communication tools in ways impossible a few years ago. From design studio to laboratory to point-of-sale, spectacular results are built upon reliable color information and service that reaches throughout the supply chain.

At the manufacturer's level, paint suppliers need systems that support market demand for virtually unlimited product choices. At the retail level, the latest color-matching technology now accommodates an array of stains, resins and new materials - enhancing meaningful branding with the kind of in-store services that enhance customer satisfaction and build repeat business. The key is selecting color technology designed for integration and enterprise-wide deployment, encompassing the entire color production cycle.

Datacolor SPECTRUM™ is an example of a thoroughly integrated suite of products. Datacolor PAINT LAB™ instantly shares data with its complete in-store color system, Datacolor PAINT™. This ensures color-matching efficiency from the color laboratory to the store floor. It allows efficient formula development in the lab along with a quick and easy channel for communicating updates and maintaining product choices at the store level. It is even suggestive - selling harmonizing colors or tracking clients' custom paint formulas.

For those that don't need that level of performance, Datacolor used the same quality technology core to develop Datacolor SELECT™, a cost-effective, packaged solution to help staff find exactly the right color. Today, budgetary concerns need not limit in-store service, with color technology that speeds work at the counter and wins customer loyalty and confidence.

Virtual Visualization to See the Future

Are virtual product prototypes reliable enough? As always, the consumer is the ultimate judge, but today's "true-color" imaging and visualization tools can make remarkable reductions in product development or approval time. Properly designed systems allow nearly instant judgments of color harmony or acceptability from across town or the other side of the world. Integrated systems speed product development iteration, save material and transportation costs and reduce guesswork from design and production to in-store selection by consumers.

Designers are among the paint and coatings industry's top trendsetters. Yet they are caught between market demands for more dynamic and individualized colors and a production budget that will not allow for unlimited prototyping. Now they can literally "see the future" with the virtual visualization of revolutionary digital sampling systems such as Datacolor ENVISION™. That is, they can apply color on a product in a virtual environment, accommodating elements such as material surface and texture that highly influence color outcome before these variables create costly surprises in production.

With this new digital sampling, paint manufacturers also can "see" into the future and achieve accurate color targets more cost effectively and quickly than ever before. They can apply the unique digital fingerprint of a specified color, delivered by a spectrophotometer as reflectance values, to scanned images of the final product. These then appear as a digital image on a computer monitor calibrated to yield accurate color reproduction regardless of its location. Any discrepancy between the prototype color or lighting conditions can be corrected immediately.

Suppliers can use approved color standards electronically delivered to produce virtual trials and working standards based on available colorants and product specifications then return virtual samples instantly for visual confirmation of instrumental evaluations. The process iterates quickly - each adjustment is made until the customer considers the trial sample acceptable. The OEM receives an on-color spec product.

Once a relationship is established, suppliers may use this digital environment to predict tolerances of evaluators based on past evaluations, further speeding product development. Digital color standards do not fade or wear with handling. With everyone accessing the same information and seeing the same image, cost savings combine with faster revenue on new products in a double bottom-line bonus.

Of course, digital color data is input-ready for distribution to color matching systems, printers, other suppliers or end-users for QA, ISO tracking or derivative development.

A process based on virtual visualization is dramatically faster than traditional processes transporting physical samples, non-standard assessment methods, and trial-and-error color matching. A welcome sight, indeed.

Digitally Driven Paint Sales

How can new color technology increase product sales? The same core technology that transforms traditional color processes also works for consumers. Color choices and color harmony are important to coatings consumers. They are all-important areas of customer service. Having a system that understands how lighting and pigment combinations affect color harmony can suggest colors and color formulas to eliminate consumer disappointments. At the store level, an intelligent virtual visualization system for color selection and harmony can help ensure customer satisfaction and build repeat business.

Consider the following scenario. A customer walks into a paint department, having searched and considered for weeks the shades she will use to repaint the dining room. She has the usual fan decks and fabric swatches, but is still unsure. "It's difficult to choose with these small samples. I can't quite visualize it. I'd feel better if I could just see it already painted," she jokes to the store clerk.

"Maybe this will help," he says. As he shows photographs of dining rooms onscreen from the in-store paint system, she selects the one closest to her own home and together they re-color the room according to her paint selections.

This is the new reality. In-store paint services have moved way beyond matching a customer's sample or color card. Programs are now available to view color on screen. Software can calculate how colors relate to each other mathematically. Datacolor COORDINATE™, for example, is a software package that actually recommends color schemes for virtually any starting color based on interior design techniques.

Benefits of this unique technology reach multiple levels of the paint supply chain. It can be loaded to suggest shades from any manufacturer's fan deck, thus pointing the customer to formulations to ensure harmony and increase the likelihood of additional sales. At the retail level, this technology provides educational guides that deepen an understanding of interior design concepts among paint department employees so they can better assist consumers in color selection. Each color scheme generated includes interior design description and advice on usage. This color harmony advice reassures consumers and facilitates purchase of additional paint and materials for accents and trim.

To further ramp up sales, allow prospective customers to visualize the results of suggested color schemes. Exciting new software, such as Datacolor DECORATE™, allows them to import their own photos or use an extensive library of interior and exterior images. They can even recolor the image and experiment to determine and suit their own preferences.

Achieving maximum benefit requires compounding the effects of visualization, color harmony advisors, custom color matching and supply-chain color management. Selecting color technology tools that work as part of a seamless system is critical.

Designers publish a new color palette and consumers view it on their living room photo and buy paint - the same day. Instead of the customer being presented with a full and overwhelming palette of a manufacturer's colors or an abstract artistic relation of several colors, she or he has pre-generated color schemes to guide the color selection process. Rather than a hopeless search for the right color ending with orange walls and a lime green carpet, the customer can immediately paint an attractive color scheme and have a quick visual impression of the results.

Best of all, color-matching technology can integrate with the latest sensor calibration technology to deliver precise color correction for CRT, LCD and laptop displays. For example, the award-winning color sensor Datacolor Spyder2™ ensures that the color onscreen is true, preventing customers from choosing a color from the monitor that cannot be reproduced in paint.

Color that sells in the current market is much more than a can of paint. It is a design concept, and a complex one at that. In today's fiercely competitive global economy, market leaders need to ensure excellence in all aspects of paint and coatings production and service in order to energize their ROI. This includes selecting color technology that streamlines and supports every stage of business - from a cost-effective and vibrant color production cycle to dynamic branding, merchandising and sales strategies.