Why Ceramic Coatings Are a Profitable Add-On
By Ryan Wild
Some of you likely already offer ceramic coatings, you may sub it out, or you may sell against it because you aren’t confident in communicating its benefits to clients. I will offer some tips that can help all of these groups find success in this growing market.
Back in the 1990s you may remember starting out as stereo/alarm/tint shops. By the mid-2000s, manufacturers integrated better factory stereo and alarm systems from the factory causing many tint shops to begin offering paint protection film (PPF) as vehicle paint systems became more fragile with EPA regulations. Wrap shops became popular towards the late 2000s and many expanded to offer PPF and/or tint. Simply put our industry isn’t only in the PPF business, we are in the business of catering to primarily new car customer demand for universally popular aftermarket services. As demand changes so will our businesses to cater to profitable add-on services—one of them now being ceramic coatings.
While attending SEMA in 2015 and 2016, I lost my voice daily just explaining what a ceramic coating was. The difference now is drastic. In the past three years, consumer demand has grown 500% based on google trends.
What does this mean for a PPF-focused business? The new car protection business has historically rose to meet consumer demand. Over the next three years a major shift will happen in the detailing and coating industry. Consumer education and awareness for paint protection and restyling is growing rapidly and the market of vinyl, tint, PPF, paint enhancement and coatings are growing together. Detailers are already shifting towards learning PPF, tint companies are learning paint correction, etc. The businesses capable of offering the in-demand suite of services under one roof with a trusted business and quality products will excel.
PPF has the ultimate in impact protection. Think of the coating as a complementary service. Some of my clients with exceptional sales processes have a 99% close ratio on PPF customers being upsold on coatings. PPF is intended for protection although a professional coating is a sacrificial layer that moves damage away from the original surface. There is a huge benefit in ease of care to keep a car looking exceptional for years. There are many surfaces PPF won’t cover, but for everything else there is a coating that will add value to your clients. So even if you don’t apply products to paint or invest in a polisher you can still coat wheels, brake calipers, engine bays, plastics, windshields and interiors. Even the most expensive coating is a fraction of a full body PPF so for budget-minded clients you can provide a blend of services that gives them total car protection.
Just like all tint is not created equal, neither are coatings. “Ceramic coating” is now an industry buzzword just like “Teflon” so all grades of product, ceramic or not, feel the need to associate with this word in their product offerings for relevance to the consumer. There are now thousands of companies offering these products. Most new upstarts are white labeled from just a handful of chemicals suppliers that produce coatings.
They can be broken down to three main categories:
1. Professional Coatings. Longevity: 1 year – Lifetime. If poured out and left to dry they will form clear glass pieces. Professional coatings are designed for trained installers. Their application isn’t difficult for a professional shop that is set up for film services and follows correct application procedures. They are designed with greater durability but sacrifice ease of application. This often affects general consumers who will often cut corners leading to install errors like high spots, streaks and rainbowing. Although coating application became easier around 2017 with application methods and better formulas, there is a pretty strong correlation between longevity/chemical resistance and ease/difficulty of installation. Single layer coatings are fastest to apply. Many premium professional coatings are multilayer due to their ability to stack basecoats for more durability and then apply a super slick glossy topcoat to achieve a product with the best of both worlds. A big upside of professional products is you will often be assigned a rep, warranties can be registered (some report to Carfax) and the products will not be sold to consumers, giving them insight into your costs or cutting you out in favor with DIYers.
2. Consumer Coatings: Longevity: 6 months-2 years. Consumer or prosumer coatings still utilize the same principles of a covalent bond but typically are watered down with lower solid content to ensure a first time users success in application. They will be somewhat chemical resistant. Longer flash times are seen with easier wiping with improper towels and lighting in a variety of climates and environments. They will offer the same slickness and ease of cleaning as a professional product but with a shorter lifespan and a lower ability to protect the paint against what-ifs like epoxy paint overspray, minor scratching etc. Stick with name brands that have a track record.
3. Hybrid Wax/Sealant-infused Ceramics: Longevity: 1-6 months. Just like Teflon was a buzzword of previous decades “ceramic”- infused sealants are still limited by their base technology. These products come as a paste wax in a can or a spray bottle and are targeted towards a foolproof application and consumers are misled to believe they are “coating” their cars. If left to dry they will form a white powder. These products utilize a mechanical bond with the surface and will typically fail or degrade quickly with chemicals, solvents and degreasers. The ceramic infusion will boost slickness and hydrophobicity of the surface in the short term.
Getting started with ceramic coatings can take two paths. Detailers usually have a faster learning curve as they already know how to correct paint but lack the correct customer base. They can struggle with long term growth. PPF installers will need training on the correction but take to these services quickly as they possess the attention to detail needed. If you or your employees are not familiar with modern paint correction techniques I highly encourage you to seek out a multi-day training on these skillsets. For learning how to coat I highly encourage my new installers to knock out several jobs using training videos and a reps support THEN invest in training to maximize the value and impact without being completely clueless to the process.
Through proper consumer education and a united car protection industry we are seeing a massive increase in demand for premium protection services and increasing profitability to those that embrace these new opportunities. Wax is dead!
Ryan Wild is the director of sales for Ceramic Pro
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