Paint isn’t usually associated with cutting-edge technology or security concerns, but Benjamin Moore is taking the digital era seriously. CIO Barry Toubin shows how a smart tech platform can both inspire creation and encourage sales.
As CIO, what is your primary concern at Benjamin Moore?
It’s important to note that Benjamin Moore is a 130-year old paint manufacturer and distributor. All products are sold through independent retailers, and those are our direct buying customers – that’s an important distinction.
Right now, the company has been on a real growth agenda, expanding our product distribution and increasing sales and presence in North America. The question is, “How do you support the growth agenda of the company while still transforming some of the underlying capabilities to support that growth?” We’ve made significant investments in IT infrastructure upgrades, application modernization, and a few strategic investments in innovative technology for our retail partners during the past two years.
Paint has a long history well before modern tech. How is technology evolving paint?
When you talk about technology and paint, there are two ways to look at it. One is the technology that goes into the can, and the other is the technology that is helping to position product to educate consumers, retailers, distributors, contractors and all of our constituents.
With independent retailers, they sell to end users which range from contractors, DIYers, or influencers such as architects and designers. There is a real ecosystem of people involved with purchasing and applying a gallon of paint. Where tech plays a role is how to connect that ecosystem in a way that feels more seamless. We have new applications like a personal color viewer where a homeowner can take a picture of their room, upload it to our website and see how the room would look in different Benjamin Moore colors. We’re even opening up our color and design process to third parties, which, in its simplest form is a color API where another design site could engage with our colors and products through their own digital experience.
How does security play into your business?
Compared to other CIOs, probably somewhere in the middle. Today, security is first and foremost, whether personal or company information. Since we’re a manufacturer, we do not have the same concerns as though of a large retailer; however, in the case of recent data breaches, we have that same exposure on a brand level. If something were to happen with one of our authorized retailers it will reflect on our brand. We’ve invested more in the last three years on security than the previous five years to identify threats as well as to protect.
Paint is a pretty consumer-focused product. How are you using tech to help educate consumers?
We are introducing a new store concept that will transform the paint purchasing experience for consumers at a design center. In addition to physical store changes, we’re implementing digital signage to promote product and also help retailers educate consumers. We have an internal learning management system, now open to retailers, to help educate them, too.
What is the next big goal for Benjamin Moore tech?
Our holy grail is to work through a consumer experience end-to-end. As a consumer or homeowner starts with envisioning the design, how can we connect during inspiration, help them cross the threshold into the store, connect to the contractor in the home and share that back to their friends and family with the great product or results they achieve. That promotes the brand, our products and color leadership. Technology enables that full connection throughout. To understand and see the behavior in that ecosystem will further help all the constituents.