Over the last month I’ve performed some market research to better understand the potential for co2mon.nz and to help me decide whether the product I’ve built has a fit with the market or not. The key conclusions I’ve drawn from this work are:
- Air quality is acknowledged as important, but monitoring it is not an urgent or pressing problem for most people.
- Most of the value is seen in the hardware rather than the software service.
Keep reading to hear more about the results that lead to those conclusions.
The first piece of research I undertook was a survey covering three topics: views on indoor air quality, how respondents currently monitor indoor air quality and the desired features, including price, for a CO2 monitor.
The survey was distributed to my extended personal network via social media, email and word of mouth. I offered respondents the opportunity to win a year of free monitoring as an incentive and received just under 70 responses overall - the lucky winner of that prize was Sam H of Auckland whose shiny new CO2 monitor will be in the mail shortly.
Views on indoor air quality
- Nearly all respondents strongly agreed that clean, fresh indoor air is important for avoiding sickness and enabling our best work, learning and general cognitive performance, with not a single negative response.
- 25% of respondents indicated they did not have a good understanding of the quality of the indoor air they were breathing versus 43% who indicated they had a good understanding of their indoor air quality.
- Nearly 70% of respondents agreed (and greater than 40% strongly agreed) that real-time monitoring is beneficial and worth investing time and money in providing, with a similar distribution of responses agreeing it should be required in all shared indoor spaces.
Current ventilation monitoring approaches
- For the home setting, using our senses was the most common method of understanding air quality, and only 6% of respondents were unhappy with their ability to monitor ventilation at home.
- At work, trusting the owner of the building to monitor ventilation was the most common method, although using our senses and some personally collected data also featured for 20% of respondents. While the majority of respondents saw some room for improvement here, less than 20% of respondents were unsatisfied with the ability to monitor ventilation at work.
- In shared public spaces using our senses and trusting the owner were equally popular with very little use of any data reported. The majority of respondents (40%) were unsatisfied with this situation with 34% seeing some room for improvement and very few being satisfied overall.
CO2 monitoring product features
- A screen and WiFi were both strongly supported features with less than 10% of respondents seeing them as irrelevant and a large majority of answers skewing towards essential.
- Coloured lights providing a quick indication were not viewed as important by 13% of respondents and while the majority of answers were towards essential there was also a large (22%) set of respondents who were indifferent to this feature.
- The ability to access measurements and reports via a web interface was very mixed. Around 20% of respondents reported the feature as irrelevant, 20% essential with the majority seeing it as useful but mot essential.
- Almost all respondents strongly indicated that additional air quality metrics beyond CO2 were important to collect.
- Respondents mostly indicated the proposed prices are too high (64%), with essentially no responses suggesting they were too low and the balance (43%) in the middle. Only 5% of respondents indicated a preference for a rental option over a straight purchase.
In parallel with the survey, I worked with my cousin who runs a marketing agency, The Asset, to place some Facebook ads aiming to systematically evaluate what combination of images and text would draw the best response. It’s been an interesting process - despite working for Google for 15 years, I know relatively little about the day to day practice of online advertising!
I think we’re about 50% of the way through that process of systematically building a funnel of traffic, it’s been a steep learning curve and its clear there’s significantly more thought and time that would need to be invested into this were it to be the primary driver of sales for a business. It’s interested to see how what resonates or doesn’t resonate with the audience is often completely different to what I expect, confirming the importance of having a process to evaluate and tweak how the advertising runs.
After just under 2 weeks of advertising with a daily budget in the $20 - $30 range, my ads have had just under 17k impressions by 10k distinct people resulting in 76 visits to the co2mon.nz website, and zero sales. The ads themselves received 233 clicks, so there’s clearly a lot of room for further improvement and revision of the ad text itself to present a more compelling message. Unfortunately the most common response and feedback to the ads themselves has been comments arguing that CO2 is wonderful, climate change is invented and all our problems would be solved if we had more CO2 everywhere. Tedious to deal with, but also useful reminder about awareness and interest in the problem to contrast with the results from the survey of my extended personal network!
Feedback from other conversations
In addition to the survey and advertising I’ve had conversations with some local air conditioning and ventilation businesses as well as a commercial building management firm - all providing similar feedback to the results from the survey - acknowledgement that air quality is important and relatively immaturely measured currently, but low urgency or pain to change or remedy that situation.
Another interesting point that’s come up in conversations with various small business owners is what to do if or when the monitoring shows a ventilation problem? The obvious answer of opening the windows more does not seem to be particularly well received. Without a compelling solution to offer to the potential problem that the monitoring might reveal I often sense a reluctance from people to invest too much time and money in something which may create a problem in a space they don’t currently see as urgent.
The responses are interesting and surprising to me a in a few ways (no interest in rental, favouring web interface over app), but at the end of the day lead to the two conclusions described above:
Air quality is acknowledged as important, but monitoring it is not an urgent or pressing problem for most people.
At home and work the majority of people are OK with relying on their senses or trusting someone else to maintain ventilation. They wouldn’t object to improvements, but the feedback is that ventilation monitoring is not a problem people are actively looking to solve.
The number of people who do see this as an urgent enough problem to invest money into solving is low - even within the biased sample of my extended network. There is a stronger set of evidence for the problem being seen as more urgent by the users of shared public spaces - but I’ve not been able to find any evidence that the owners and managers of those spaces feel the same urgency or duty of care towards their users to invest in this space.
Most of the opportunity is in the hardware rather than the software service.
This signal comes through in the feedback on the pricing (preferring outright purchase vs rental), but it’s also been directly expressed in the free-form comments and other conversations I’ve had and the the relative importance given to the physical product features over the web/app interfaces in the survey results.
I’m glad I finally spent the time doing this research, particularly the survey, these are good lessons to learn, even if I should have taken the time to learn them a year ago - so I can write that reminder (do your research before building a product) down as a key outcome of this process too!
Stay tuned for more details on the other work I’ve been doing recently on the hardware side of co2mon.nz and what these results mean for my overall plans. As always, I’d love to hear from you if these results give you ideas or questions you’d like to discuss.
If you liked this post and would like to receive my writing via email, please subscribe below.