The filtering faucet, the showering toilet, and the musical showerhead – product innovation and business model transformation in building products
It all started with a slightly silly dispute: “It’s a filter.” – “No, it’s a faucet.” – “Filter.” – “Faucet, ok, with a built-in filter”. What we could not agree on, was a Brita Neo 4, a filtering faucet. In the German market I mainly knew Brita as a provider of household water filters, and considered them a new player in the faucet space. A quick web research later I had to admit that the filtering faucet has many competitors, be it Moen’s filtering faucet, Grohe’s blue pure cool faucets, to name just a few that I explored.
Beyond the pure engineering ingenuity, I found it fascinating how different the market penetration & messaging is for such solutions. Quality and taste of tap water differs greatly by country and region. I would rather avoid to enter into the next dispute by discussing whether bottled, filtered or non-filtered water is “better” in taste or healthwise – or which filtering system is superior. German readers can tap deeper into this here.
My point of view: Marketing such products smartly can make a big difference – where is this potential consumer located (tasty, good, low quality tap water), famliy person or single, fitness affectionado or gourmet, and of course – what price range is applicable? I have seen great examples for this in the building products industry – based on SAP hybris marketing and commerce (check out “what our customer are saying”).
The shower toilet, bidet toilet or washlet revolutionized Japanese bathrooms since the 80’s, and is quite common in a number of Asian countries and Turkey – but rather new to Western Europe. Toto was and still is a major innovator in this space.Their washlet Zoe was even listedt in the Guinness World Records as the world’s most sophisticated toilet with seven functions. Since then, product innovation and design has pushed the limits even further.
Geberit recently launched a marketing campaign to introduce their aquaclean water toilet to European up-market consumers. Kohler’s Numi Toilet seems to play in the same league – a high tech art object, touchless, and very smart – but rather focusing on the American market.
Product innovation in the bathroom goes much further than that. For the rock stars among us, the Kohler Moxie Showerhead is a must: wire-less speaker and shower head. I still have to convince my family that we need this.
I will add to my Christmas wishlist the slightly less disruptive Grohe Aquatunes – blue tooth enabled shower speaker. This one does not require to replace your showerhead. I just stumbled on this on on twitter. Interestingly this is a co-operation of Grohe and Philips.
I hope to test this either one really soon.
It may be easier to get a family concensus for Grohe’s F-Digital deluxe which takes steam, showering and music to a private spa level. But I am afraid if I bought this, my daughters would block the bathroom for ever.And the price tag for a spa may blow my Christmas budget.
Do you use Social Media feedback to collect and generate product ideas? Do you collaborate with partner companies e.g. to enter into a new segment – outside your comfort zone? Are you aware of SAP’s offering for collaborative PLM (Greenheck is a good example how to connect the CAD-world with the SAP PLM business processes)?,
Beyond the product
All of these products are amazing. The financial entry barrier for some is significant. So, I would rather try them out before I buy. The questions is where (and I checked options on a number of manufacturer websites):
- Trade-fairs and distributors,no surprise here (also no wow-factor).
- Find the closest one by post-code, same as above. A little more attractive if I would not have to enter my location manually, nowadays.
- Geberit offers a search by model, and not just in toilet “expositions”, but “live test models”. I like this – clearly above average.
- Geberit imressed me on their page with a search for hotels (even by toilet model!) that offer Geberit’s shower toilet installed in their hotel rooms.Would I go so far to try a product in a hotel room (that I have to pay myself)? Clearly not for every product. For something so new and personal, and in this price range – actually quite likely.
Many manufacturers offer customer service options to re-order spare parts and consumables – filters, cleaners and many more. Brita also offers a refill service which provides a new filter cartouche every year plus up to 12 CO2-cylinders per year. You do not need to set a reminder – the next filter is sent to you automatically.(Although you could schedule a reminder).
Brita even goes as far as offering rental models for filtering faucets – including filters, installation and removal (if you decide to cancel your rental contract).
FFaaS – filtering faucet as a service – that’s a strong move into the direction of business model innovation. “Buy 3 three years of bubbling water in your kitchen.” Not yet like a Nespresso. But let’s hope they include faucets for caipirinha or beer into their product range soon.
What are your ideas to differentiate beyond the product itself? We observe a strong move into social marketing and digital commerce to enable such digital and service differentiation. What’s your approach on this one?
Even smarter services with IOT
Getting a new filter every year without worrying is quite good already. I still miss a bit of condition based maintenance, or even predictions. What if I get really thirsty – I may run out of filters before end of year. Some water filters indicate to the user they need to be exchanged. But they do not re-order the filter. I do not need my fridge to re-order milk. But I’d appreciate a smarter water filter.
How are Nespresso and other coffee machines dealing with this? Still disconnected or already smart?
I read quite a bit about medical sensors embedded in smart toilets – sensing blood sugar, or other critical medical “deviations”. I have not found this in private homes, yet. And maybe this is German data privacy paranoia, but I would prefer if such information stayed in my bathroom. Neither my doc, nor my insurance or my employer need to know this. In a hospital, or a home for the elderly this may be an entirely different story.
I have heard about use cases like the Hagleitner story, or remote condition sensing for garage doors.
Do you know about remote condition monitoring for smart bathroom products? Did you already embark on own proof of concepts? I would love to discuss your plans and ideas around this one. SAP offer’s a number of robust & secure options – including SAP’s Predictive Maintenance and Service solutions.
If you are curious to explore how other buiding products customers are evolving into a digital enterprise with SAP, have a look here.
Want to learn more? Attend the SAP Manufacturing Industries Forum 2016 on June 14-15 in Lombard, IL. For details, please visit the forum’s website.