In this Q&A, chief digital officer Brad Budde explains the multiple shades of the manufacturer's ongoing ecommerce transformation.

Editor’s note: There is nothing black and white about how PPG Industries, the maker of Glidden paints and numerous other types of paints and coatings, approaches digital commerce and transformation. In fact, at PPG, a 140-year-old manufacturing company with annual revenue of more than $17 billion, digital transformation is a strategic priority.

Brad Budde

From rolling out a new global ecommerce platform in the coming months to using headless commerce and artificial intelligence to expedite manufacturing and distribution operations, PPG is using digital technology to streamline how it does entire – and global – business lines. In this question and answer article, chief digital officer Brad Budde, sits down with Digital Commerce 360 and details why ecommerce and many colorful iterations of new technology, are helping one of the most iconic names in American manufacturing literally reinvent itself.

Digital Commerce 360: How big a strategic priority is B2B digital commerce for PPG and why?

In January, our new CEO Tim Knavish launched an enterprise growth strategy. Digital was one of five key elements along with others such as a focus on customer productivity and sustainability. Most of my work has been to align our digital initiatives with modern customer expectations and our biggest growth opportunities.

PPG’s purpose statement is this – “we protect and beautify the world.” That is not just about PPG products, it is about the ecosystem of people using the products and how they go about solving their daily challenges. So, in our digital program we really focus on making our customers better at their jobs. I think about the hundred million engineers, architects, designers, and painters who need to choose a coating or paint for their jobs. One of the reasons I love this job is that it can reach so many people.


PPGs specialty chemical portfolio is diverse and therefore so are the segments of customers that we need to reach. Digital can help with that reach also. For someone who’s new to the portfolio it’s almost difficult to imagine all the applications we provide to the market: airplane coatings and the front “windshield”, four-layer coatings systems on automobiles, thermal and corrosion resistance on electric vehicle (EV) batteries, powder coating on agricultural equipment, coating of ceramic cookware, coating of an aluminum soda can, autobody paint and equipment. That is all additional to what is the traditional view of our billions of dollars of wall paint.

I am here because this opportunity is so big within this company and the served markets. The fact that PPG is a key player in our served markets means we have an opportunity to set the pace for our industry.

Digital Commerce 360: How does reinventing digital commerce tie in with PPG’s broader mission of digital transformation?

My B2B ecommerce peer group will understand the pain and hard work of digitizing the product catalog and fulfillment operations. That is core to everyone’s digital program and no different for us. We are building the catalog and ecommerce capabilities to enable the key buying step in the customer’s digital journey.

The unique aspect of PPG’s digital ambition is the specification activities and choosing color. To protect and beatify the world, we need to move upstream in our customer’s workflows to digitize these steps. A digital catalog needs to provide coating performance specifications as the physical assets are being designed for their environment and the protection throughout their full product lifecycle. We also need a clear definition of color and one that can be orderable in ecommerce.


Color is a fun area from a digital technology and digital experience standpoint. The role of color can be immensely important to a brand owner and homeowner. Think Ferrari red, think John Deere green. Think about the yellow lane markings for pedestrian crosswalks. Consider the amount of time and the cycles you take to pick color for a room upgrade in your home! Color must be part of our digital product definition to be successful with ecommerce.

We are also pushing to re-shape the fulfillment and operations in our Pro Painter business to help those customers be more productive at their jobs. Online ordering, unlike a store, is open 24×7. In our markets in the USA and Europe we are really driving digital commerce programs to the Pro Painter to support this objective. We have also expanded our partnership with retailers like The Home Depot in the U.S. market to help more professionals complete more jobs faster. Digital product merchandising is an important part of that collaboration.

Another example of our unique digital ambition is to color matching and product tinting capabilities further out to customers. In our automotive refinishing business, which supports thousands of autobody paint shops around the world, we launched the LINQ product a few years ago to help customers scan and color match. Then we launched the Moonwalk system to automatically mix a small batch of paint at the autobody shop, which helps the car painter save time. This is a notable example that we don’t only want customers or partners ordering through ecommerce, we want them to see measurable productivity, speed, and quality improvements in their daily operations.

We also work closely with our operations team to bring the digitized product into foundational data models, which is part of our artificial intelligence program. We are rolling AI into batch operations and our quality assurance (QA) process for automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers. As we expand more formulation data models across our organization it creates a tie from the plant operations to the product fulfillment and all the way up to the ordering process.


Digital Commerce 360: What are your top ecommerce priorities for next year and how will you achieve them?

We know what ecommerce and digital plays can do for our customers, with a strong focus on the Pro Painter. The work we need to do internally is push that across more markets and businesses. PPG is a big company, reporting $17.7 billion in sales in 2022. We need to drive more product informational management (PIM) and product catalog work, scale our ability to deploy across the globe, and ensure our sales and store colleagues can use the tools effectively with customers.

Digital Commerce 360: How is PPG using new digital applications such as generative AI and headless commerce?

Yes, we love artificial intelligence. Generative AI is already today being built into workflows for content summarization and translations of unstructured content and catalog. This workflow must become a part of our daily activity if we are going to scale across the enterprise and across the globe.

Headless commerce allows us the flexibility to fit our standard technology stack to the complex underlying ERP systems we have across the business. We are slightly leaning to our own custom APIs more than the components of the ecommerce platform.

Digital Commerce 360: Does PPG have a marketplace strategy and what marketplaces is PPG utilizing?

We use marketplaces in the USA and Europe. Primarily the biggest and general marketplaces rather than the specialty chemical marketplaces that have sprung up.


The focus is brand exposure and customer acquisition, but it is not yet a big growth driver. We must stay focused on our key brands in key markets like Glidden through Amazon US, Johnstone’s through Amazon U.K., or Ripolin through Mano Mano in France.

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