What excites you the most about your work?
I think the scale and the impact I can have on the business are definitely exciting. I like complex challenges, and the job certainly offers that. We are dealing with different types of audiences – consumers, painters, specifiers – in different regions and markets with wide ranging habits, home decoration culture and festivities. Leading the digital transformation of this traditional company, and bringing it into the 21st
century, is exciting.
How has the AkzoNobel Decorative Paints business developed digitally over the past years?
The Digital strategy has been developing along two tracks, at two different speeds. First, consumers have changed dramatically and rapidly in the past few years. They are always connected, informed and mobile. We cannot ignore that and try to do our business the same way we used to before. We need to change and adapt to them, and that is our focus: deliver delightful and seamless experiences to our customers.
Secondly, on a slower moving track, our industry is likely to experience disruption in the coming years and that will further shape our operations.
For example, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have the potential to significantly change how people relate to decoration. 3D printing is challenging the construction industry and might do so even more in the future. Artificial intelligence, omnipotent data, all of those require hard work separately and in combination to define how we leverage them to offer better and more personal experiences to our customers.
What is an innovation you are very proud of?
I am definitely proud of our Visualizer app. It is innovative in terms of the technology, but first and foremost it tackles a real consumer problem – the color choice – by making it possible to see how a repainted room will look before applying a single drop of paint. As a result it has been very successful, having been downloaded over 17 million times across the world!
But I am most proud of having established the company’s digital ecosystem. My team has done a tremendous job, stretching from defining the end-to-end user experience for our audiences to localizing content in 55 languages for 45 markets, and everything in between. Digital transformation gets real – and difficult to execute – when all of that is industrialized, cost efficient and scaled up globally at the push of a button.
Where do you see digitization coming into the paints business?
I think digitization will come from every single angle, but at different speeds. Take the supply chain, for example. The way we manufacture paint will change, and products themselves will probably change as well. For instance, if buildings become more organic in the future, we will probably need different types of products.
The speed of these changes will likely be driven by the value they provide to customers or their intrinsic business case, or ideally both.
What is your view on virtual reality?
The primary reason VR will be big and impact many businesses is that it creates empathy. Research shows that if you experience something in VR, it imprints real memories in your mind, exactly as something you would have experienced in real life.
For example, it can be used powerfully to convey the emotions and needs of civilians in countries at war or after a natural disaster, and encourage people over the world to make a donation.
Research shows that it will also dramatically change gaming, cinema, tourism and, of course, our own industry.
Another interesting development in VR is how it will de-materialize goods and space, and democratize knowledge. Some “impossible” experiences like space exploration will become accessible to anyone, anywhere. That will revolutionize knowledge and training as we know them.
How does digital innovation drive sales?
Digital innovation is focused on consumers and delivering delightful and meaningful experiences. There are more physical ways of doing that, but creating more innovative experiences drives sales. Experiences, rather than products or campaigns, are what people remember and talk about to their closest friends.
What is the main takeaway you would advise for companies who want to use more digital interaction with their customers?
My view is quite straightforward: we need to go where our customers are – and that has shifted primarily to digital platforms like social media or online video.
Digital technologies are powerful enablers to provide more value to customers in every single business, and as such present tremendous business opportunities.