This article originally appeared in WQP June 2020 issue as "Convenience & Sustainability"
At one point in time, the water treatment industry was largely novel and unknown to the consumer market. However, as our society in the new decade grows more connected and informed, people have come to view their water treatment options with a more discerning eye. With a plethora of information in an ever-changing society, the world has shifted its focus to two core values: sustainability and convenience.
For evidence, just look at the ever-growing juggernaut, Amazon. Amazon Prime memberships, initially with the already speedy two-day shipping, have been shortened even further to just one day. While people put their preference toward ease and convenience, to the current consumer, sustainability is also a value they refuse to ignore.
In fact, according to consumer research company Nielsen, the majority of consumers say they are concerned about the long-term ramifications of modern life on the Earth. According to their research, 73% of consumers — a significant majority — would either “probably” or “definitely” change their consumption habits to reduce their own environmental impact.
Shifting Consumer Values
How does this translate to the water treatment industry? The proof is in the pudding. As this industry’s consumers consider the varying different systems and models available, it is these values — sustainability and convenience — which are sought out with paramount importance. This phenomenon sheds light on the increasing interest in salt-free systems seen in our industry today. Originally invented so that consumers did not need to deal with the lifting and refilling of heavy bags of salt, many of these systems utilize nucleation assisted technology, sometimes referred to as template assisted technology, to mitigate some of the effects of hard water. They are often considered a “green” alternative to more traditional salt-based water softeners. While they do not soften water, they do prevent scale buildup in pipes and appliances and alleviate some of the problems caused by hard water. They are typically a low-maintenance water treatment option, require no electricity to operate and do not waste water — all benefits in line with what the modern and environmentally-conscious market values at its core.
Salt-Free & Solar-Powered Water Treatment Systems
Gaining speed on the interest and success of the salt-free approach is the solar powered system. A more recent development in water treatment, the introduction of solar-powered products (such as the Puronics iGen® Solar series) provide consumers with the added convenience of not having to worry about power outages interfering with their water quality. Also, as these systems do not require non-renewable sources of energy in order to operate, solar-powered systems save consumers a little bit of money as they do not depend on an electrical outlet to operate. For those who have already installed solar panels in their homes and businesses, they can use the energy generated from those panels to power the rest of their property, rather than spending it on their water treatment system.
This convenience serves as a perk right in line with the sustainability inherent in solar-powered systems. Solar-powered treatment options will only become increasingly popular and on-trend, especially in areas where outdoor installations are common. In fact, hybrid systems, merging these two elements in the form of both solar powered and salt-free systems, do exist. Given the trends taking over the consumer paradigm, it will be no surprise to see an increase of interest in this style of system. Puronics’ filtration system, the Clarius™, a salt-free water filter which comes with a solar powered option, provides just that.
However, in this fast-paced world with technology and sensationalism constantly tugging at the attention spans of many a modern consumer, convenience has shifted from a simple preference to a demand. With the onset of portable technology constantly present in our day-to-day lives, time and attention are a precious commodity granted only to the most pressing tasks. Very few successful businesses in today’s market can operate without a prominent and immediate presence to snatch an individual’s attention when pitted against every other distraction which comes the consumer’s way. What this means for water treatment systems is that the necessity for maintenance can fall to the wayside when out of sight and out of mind.
So, how is the water treatment industry planning to compete? Working in tandem with technology, these factors have been showing up in the form of increasing digital offerings.
To keep up, the industry has made strides over the years to meet the consumer market and its needs where they are. Gone are the days when a simple, unobtrusive red light can command the attention and urgency needed for a customer to get the most out of their water treatment systems, nor can it provide the convenience of assistance with the next steps, such as providing the information to proceed. However, solutions and adaptations are on the rise as the industry presses on to keep up.
A particularly handy method many industry players have taken to is more communicative maintenance reminders. For example, the Puronics iGen® valve automatically displays a reminder message of “Call For Service,” tagged along with a phone number at which their dealer can be reached when the filter needs to be replaced. While non-invasive, the inclusion of further information presented with a simple alert works in line with the value of convenience. This approach feeds the needed information immediately to the customer and therefore saves them the task of searching for it themselves, a task which can easily be forgotten and neglected to the detriment of both the system and the consumer.
Going further, with consideration to units placed on the outside of a consumer’s home, tactics need to be even more visible to effectively notify an individual than ever before. Therefore, for Puronics, Wi-Fi connectivity and a specialized app are also currently in development in order to deliver reminders and other important information to the homeowner in the form of push notifications whenever the system is in need of maintenance.
It is abundantly clear that technology is evolving to meet, as well as escalate, consumer trends and demands. The market is continuously expanding to meet these demands and keep the pace, consistently answering the need for consumer convenience and long-term environmental sustainability with its own strategies and approaches.
The current consumer has spoken — in today’s world, a market without a prominent day-to-day presence nor consideration for environmental concerns cannot continue. Alternatives, both with regards to convenience as well as sustainable resources and lower impact, are the way of the current world. It is fascinating to see how the industry rises to these trends and challenges, as well as how it takes initiative to continue to meet the increasing need for evolution. Each player in the business will need to innovate in order to live up to the demands and principles as the standard for water treatment systems continues to rise.