Reinventing the shower experience: Interview with Nebia CEO Philip Winter

With their Kickstarter campaign raising $3m in its first month last year, it was clear that Nebia had uncovered a user need that the traditional industry hadn’t. They were ready to disrupt the market for a product we use every day: the shower. How did they reinvent a customer experience we’re all so used to? And how did they, as ethnographers say, ‘get their feet wet’ to understand such an intimate experience?

Founded in 2014, Nebia is driven by an obsessive passion for creating better experiences, as well as a core belief that we can be more responsible consumers of earth’s most precious resource. Their technology atomises water into millions of droplets to create 10 times more surface area than a regular shower, reinventing the sensation of a shower, and saving up to 70% of water.

We were lucky enough to chat with Philip Winter, co-Founder and CEO of Nebia, who shared with us his company’s user centric approach to a mystical new shower experience.

Hi Philip, thanks for joining us. Could you tell us the role that customer research played in developing the Nebia Shower System?

From its early days we decided that Nebia was going to be a customer centric company, and thus user research has played a huge role in the R&D process of the Nebia Shower System. In our first few months we were able to test our initial prototype with over 250 users, today, over 700 people have taken a shower with Nebia. We learn new and different things from each one of these users and have incorporated their feedback into new product iterations.

In our experience, the most valuable information comes from ethnographic research, as we are able to immerse ourselves into our users’ environment and really see how they engage with the Nebia Shower System. We find that contextual interviews make it easier for us to synthesise all of the data, and then we use surveys as a quantitative tool to backup a lot of our insights and hypotheses.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you have faced while doing customer research?

Initially, we had a challenging time getting into peoples’ homes to test out the shower. So we decided to run some pilots across various fitness facilities – Equinox, Apple, Google, and Stanford – as it was an easier channel for us to get a lot of feedback in a short time.

Now, we have been using our own showroom for testing, and have been going to the homes of many of our Kickstarter backers to do additional customer research. We are currently in the middle of fine-tuning the installation process of the Nebia Shower System, so this round of user testing has been mainly focused on that aspect.

Is it tough selling an intimate product/experience?

For us it has actually been a great advantage. It has served as a great ice-breaker since it’s a ubiquitous daily experience that everyone has an affinity towards. This intimate experience has allowed us to very quickly build empathy with many users and thus helped us build a memorable first impression.

Through your research what type of insights did you learn about human behaviour?

Everyone has their own shower ritual, and it’s one of those experiences that we don’t bring too much human intuition into, as we assume that everyone else showers the same way as we do. But that is totally not the case as people are constantly tinkering with the different variables in a shower – pressure, height, temperature, length, etc.

Throughout our research exploration we learned that a shower means totally different things to different people. Some of us use it to get up in the morning, others to wind down at night, some like it cold and others like it hot. Everyone has their own personal anecdote on why and how they use the shower.

How does Nebia think and work with design?

Our motto at Nebia is that we need to deliver a superior customer experience. We have used this foundation as a guideline during our design process. At Nebia we break down design into three pillars; industrial design, mechanical design, and user experience:
• Industrial design helps us set the course and is the architect behind the Nebia Shower System.

• Mechanical design brings the idea into life as it entails making sure that the entire internal mechanism acts as one fluid system.

• Customer experience is the WOW effect that we want our customers to experience throughout the journey.

By putting the user first, we use design to help us remove as many pain points as possible throughout the customer journey.

What are some design principles that guided Nebia during product development and customer experience?

To give you one example, through our research we have installed tons of Nebia Shower Systems in all different types of bathrooms. As a result, we now understand the many pain points associated with the installation process. One of our design principles is to ensure that the installation of the Nebia Shower System be reduced to as few steps and tools as possible. By only considering solutions that can be retrofitted into existing bathrooms, we avoid the need for our users to break any tile. As a matter of fact, users will be very surprised as to how easy it is to install a Nebia Shower System. On this front I believe that we have been incredibly innovative.

Designing by thinking “can my parents install this without the need of an expert”, is a pretty good gauge to go by.

What are some of your key learning’s from designing the Nebia Shower System so far?

Unlike software where you can quickly develop an MVP and launch a beta version to learn from users, hardware takes much more time to develop, test, and iterate, it’s a much longer process.

At Nebia we won’t ship a product that isn’t great, and therefore the last 20% can take as much time as the initial 80%. It’s attention to the small details that will ensure that our clients receive a premium product and user experience.

Who is pre-ordering Nebia today?

Right now we are selling a product with multiple value propositions, it’s a premium product, it saves water, it saves money, and it can be used in a B2B and B2C context. But our main focus is on building a brand with superior products and customer experience, which by the way also happens to be great for the environment and helps people save money. This is very similar to the strategy that Tesla used to drum up adoption for electric vehicles.

For those who also care about saving money we have incorporated an easy to use savings calculator on our website.

In terms of statistics we know that 85% of Nebia buyers are homeowners, 80% are male, and within the US most live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. We also had many Kickstarter backers from the EU and Australia.

How are you leveraging the Nebia community after launching such a successful Kickstarter campaign?

As of now we have been very active with our Kickstarter community in getting their feedback through user testing. We are going into the homes of many of them and running pilot programs.

We also like to be totally transparent with the progress that we are making, and send out monthly updates on our blog about the challenges and breakthroughs we have achieved in the design and manufacturing of the product. But ultimately, the best way to leverage this amazing community is to deliver a great product that users love, and then via word of mouth hope that they can create a groundswell. That’s why today we are incredibly engaged in maximizing the capabilities of our amazing community.

To learn more about Nebia, and their approach to research, design, and manufacturing check out their latest blog post.


Nov 17, 2016

design, startups, USA