CASE STUDY : How We Launched Our Own Sustainable Home Platform - ButterCup

At Cariboo Digital, we believe in building products that resonate deeply with our users' needs, focusing on solving problems that are both impactful and valuable. In our latest venture, ButterCup, we've applied our core principles and methodologies to tackle the challenges homeowners face in adopting sustainable energy solutions in their home.
Written by
Paul Barnes
Published on
August 25, 2021

At Cariboo Digital, we believe in building products that resonate deeply with our users' needs, focusing on solving problems that are both impactful and valuable. In our latest venture, ButterCup, we've applied our core principles and methodologies to tackle the challenges homeowners face in adopting sustainable energy solutions in their home. This post delves into our journey with ButterCup, showcasing the process we undertake at Cariboo Digital to ensure we're not just building products, but creating the right solutions that make a difference.

This is a story about our journey on the Barclays Eagle Labs Product Builder that took us from initial customer understanding to launching our first pretotype to test our hypotheses. In this post we'll share insights into the strategies and tools that guide our product development, underscoring our commitment to innovation that truly meets user needs.

Understanding Customers

In our approach to developing ButterCup, the cornerstone of our strategy was a deep dive into understanding our potential customers. At Cariboo Digital, we prioritise direct engagement with our users as the first step in any product development process. For ButterCup, this meant conducting a series of interviews and extensive research to uncover the real challenges, preferences, and aspirations homeowners have regarding sustainable home improvements.

These conversations were illuminating, revealing a diverse range of concerns and desires that homeowners face when considering eco-friendly renovations. We learned that while there's a strong desire to adopt more sustainable living practices, many homeowners feel overwhelmed by the complexity of available options and the lack of clear, actionable information. This insight was pivotal; it highlighted a gap in the market for a service that not only educates but also simplifies the decision-making process for sustainable home improvements.

By treating every interview and piece of feedback as a valuable piece of the puzzle, we were able to construct a detailed picture of our target audience's needs. This understanding informed every subsequent step of ButterCup's development, ensuring that the solutions we proposed were not only technically viable but deeply resonant with the everyday experiences and aspirations of homeowners looking to make their homes more sustainable.

This customer-centric approach is foundational to Cariboo Digital's methodology. With ButterCup, as with all our projects, we start by listening, understanding, and empathising with our users. This ensures that the innovations we bring to market are not just new but desirable, addressing real problems and offering meaningful solutions.

Developing Customer Journeys and Personas

Leveraging the rich insights gathered from our initial customer research for ButterCup, Cariboo Digital embarked on the next crucial step: translating these insights into detailed customer journeys and personas. This process is fundamental to our approach, allowing us to distill and structure the information into actionable frameworks that guide our product development strategy.

By developing these customer journeys and personas, Cariboo Digital was able to deepen our empathy for the users we aim to serve. This empathy is the driving force behind our innovation process, ensuring that the products and features we develop are genuinely aligned with user needs and capable of making a meaningful difference in their lives.

This approach exemplifies Cariboo Digital's commitment to user-centered design and innovation. With ButterCup, as with all our projects, we're not just building technology; we're crafting solutions that resonate with our users' lives, aspirations, and challenges. This detailed understanding of our customers' journeys and personas ensures that every innovation we introduce is not just useful but truly valued by those it's designed to serve.

Crafting Personas

From these conversations with homeowners, we distilled several key personas, each representing a segment of our target audience with unique characteristics, challenges, and goals. For instance, one persona might be a tech-savvy homeowner excited about the latest smart home technologies, while another could be a budget-conscious family looking for cost-effective ways to reduce their carbon footprint. These personas helped us understand not just the demographics of our audience but their motivations, fears, and aspirations.

Developing Customer Journeys

With these personas in hand, we meticulously mapped out customer journeys for each, outlining the steps they take from becoming aware of their need for sustainable home improvements to selecting and implementing solutions. This journey mapping illuminated critical touchpoints where users might seek information, make decisions, or encounter obstacles.

For ButterCup, these customer journeys and personas were instrumental in identifying where we could intervene effectively to offer guidance, support, and solutions. They highlighted opportunities for innovation, such as the need for a simplified tool to help homeowners understand the potential savings and environmental impact of different sustainable energy solutions.

Crafting the Problem Statement:

The synthesis of insights from our customer journeys and personas at Cariboo Digital led us to articulate a clear problem statement for ButterCup, a pivotal moment in our development process. This problem statement is our hypothesis that guides our product development, ensuring that our efforts are focused and aligned with the needs of our users.

The Problem Statement:

The feedback from potential customers revealed a significant gap: while there's a strong desire among homeowners to adopt sustainable living practices, the path to realizing this aspiration is fraught with complexity. Homeowners are often overwhelmed by the array of choices, the technical details of sustainable energy solutions, and the perceived cost and effort involved in making such transitions. This disconnect between the desire for a sustainable lifestyle and the ability to achieve it became the core problem we aimed to solve with ButterCup.

Importance of a Well-Defined Problem Statement:

A well-defined problem statement is crucial for several reasons:

  • Focus: It keeps the team focused on what problems to overcome, preventing scope creep and ensuring that all efforts directly address the core issue.
  • Innovation: It sets the stage for creative solutions by clearly outlining the challenges to be overcome, encouraging the team to think innovatively.
  • User Alignment: It ensures that the solutions developed are deeply aligned with user needs, increasing the likelihood of adoption and positive impact.
  • Measurement: It provides a benchmark against which the effectiveness of the solution can be measured. By clearly defining the problem, we can more accurately assess whether our solutions are successful in addressing it.

In the case of ButterCup, the problem statement guided our decision to test the desirability for greater awareness, simple tools and features designed to demystify the process of adopting sustainable energy solutions for homeowners. It influenced the creation of an experiment designed to provide homeowners with a clear, simple way to understand the impact of their choices and the benefits of making the switch to sustainable solutions. More of that later.

At Cariboo Digital, crafting a precise problem statement is an essential step in our product development process. It ensures that our work remains user-centered, addressing real needs in a way that's both impactful and meaningful. With ButterCup, this approach has allowed us to explore the desirability of a product that not only meets a market need but also champions the cause of sustainable living, making it easier for homeowners to contribute positively to the environment.

Prioritising a Customer Segment

In developing ButterCup, Cariboo Digital undertook a methodical approach to market segmentation, culminating in the prioritization of the "Renovators and Home Improvers" segment. This decision was grounded in a strategic assessment of various market segments, guided by specific criteria designed to ensure alignment with our capabilities and the market's needs. Here's an overview of the process and criteria used:

Market Segmentation:

The initial step involved segmenting the market into distinct groups based on their interest in sustainable living and potential for home improvements. Segments included eco-conscious new homeowners, long-term residents looking to upgrade, landlords seeking to increase property value, and renovators and home improvers.

Criteria for Prioritization:

  • Market Size: We assessed the size of each segment to ensure a sufficiently large target audience. The "Renovators and Home Improvers" segment was identified as substantial, driven by a growing trend towards home modernisation and sustainability.
  • Accessibility: The ease of reaching and engaging each segment was considered. "Renovators and Home Improvers" were found to be highly accessible through platforms and channels focused on home improvement and sustainable living, such as specialised forums, social media groups, and DIY workshops.
  • Alignment with Cariboo Digital’s Capabilities: Critical to our decision was the alignment of each segment's needs with our expertise in digital tools, content creation, and user engagement strategies. The "Renovators and Home Improvers" segment's needs closely matched our strengths, particularly in developing digital tools like the Carbon Footprint Calculator and curating impactful content.
  • Potential for Impact: We prioritised segments where our solutions could have the most significant environmental and personal impact. "Renovators and Home Improvers" presented a prime opportunity for substantial sustainability impacts, given their active interest in making tangible home improvements.
  • Willingness to Pay: Understanding each segment's willingness to invest in sustainable solutions was crucial. This segment demonstrated a higher readiness to invest in home improvements that offer long-term savings and environmental benefits, aligning with our value proposition.

Decision to Prioritise:

Based on these criteria, the "Renovators and Home Improvers" segment emerged as the optimal focus for ButterCup. This group not only represents a significant market opportunity but also aligns closely with Cariboo Digital's mission to foster sustainable living practices through innovative digital solutions. Their active search for credible information and practical tools to make informed decisions about home energy sustainability underscored their fit as our primary target audience.

Applying Lean Innovation and Value Proposition Canvas

In the development of ButterCup, Cariboo Digital leveraged the Lean Innovation Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas as strategic tools to crystallize our business model and sharpen our value proposition. These frameworks were instrumental in ensuring a focused, value-driven approach to addressing the nuanced needs of our targeted customer segment: the "Renovators and Home Improvers."

Lean Innovation Canvas:

The Lean Innovation Canvas allowed us to succinctly capture the essence of our business model for ButterCup, encompassing key components such as our unique value propositions, customer segments, channels, revenue streams, and cost structure. This high-level overview was pivotal in identifying the most critical assumptions underpinning our business model, which we then set out to validate through customer feedback and pretotyping experiments.

Key insights gained from the Lean Innovation Canvas included:

  • The paramount importance of Customer Problems and Solutions, highlighting the gap between homeowners' sustainability aspirations and the complexities of actualizing these goals.
  • The identification of Key Metrics to measure success, focusing on user engagement with our Carbon Footprint Calculator and the conversion rates for taking actionable steps towards sustainability.
  • A clear delineation of Channels through which we could reach our "Renovators and Home Improvers," recognizing the role of social media, content marketing, and community engagement as critical pathways.

Value Proposition Canvas:

The Value Proposition Canvas was employed to delve deeper into the relationship between ButterCup's offerings and our customers' needs, pains, and gains. This detailed exploration ensured that every feature and service we developed was directly tied to delivering tangible value to our users.

Notable applications of the Value Proposition Canvas included:

  • A precise articulation of the Customer Jobs to be done, affirming that homeowners sought not just information but actionable insights to make their homes more sustainable.
  • An understanding of Customer Pains, particularly the overwhelm felt by homeowners when confronted with the vast landscape of sustainable home improvement options.
  • The identification of Gain Creators, with the realization that tools like the Carbon Footprint Calculator could demystify the impact of potential sustainability measures, encouraging proactive decision-making.

Through the application of these canvases, Cariboo Digital was able to maintain a laser focus on creating value for our users, ensuring that every aspect of ButterCup was crafted with the user’s needs at the forefront. These tools not only facilitated a structured approach to innovation but also ensured that our offerings were precisely aligned with market demands, significantly enhancing our confidence in ButterCup's potential success. This structured approach underscored our commitment to not just launching a product but solving real-world problems in a way that resonates with and empowers our target audience.

Considering Porter's Five Forces:

In shaping the strategy for ButterCup, Cariboo Digital employed Porter's Five Forces analysis to gain a comprehensive view of the competitive landscape and market dynamics within the sustainable home improvement sector. This analytical framework allowed us to scrutinize the forces shaping industry competition: threat of new entrants, bargaining power of suppliers, bargaining power of buyers, threat of substitute products or services, and the intensity of competitive rivalry.

  • Threat of New Entrants: We discovered that while the barrier to entry in digital solutions for sustainable living is moderate, the specific niche of actionable sustainability insights presents a unique opportunity. The combination of high customer expectation for credibility and the technical knowledge required somewhat shields the market from a flood of new entrants.
  • Bargaining Power of Suppliers: Our analysis indicated that suppliers of sustainable materials and technologies wield significant power due to the specialized nature of their products. However, this power varies greatly across different types of sustainable solutions, suggesting a strategic opportunity for ButterCup to negotiate partnerships or exclusive deals.
  • Bargaining Power of Buyers: Homeowners, especially those committed to sustainability, are discerning and demand high value, quality, and service. This gives them substantial bargaining power. ButterCup's strategy to address this power is through providing unmatched quality content and tools that genuinely aid in decision-making, thereby increasing customer loyalty and reducing price sensitivity.
  • Threat of Substitute Products or Services: Substitutes in the form of traditional home improvement advice and generic carbon calculators were identified. However, ButterCup's integrated approach that combines tailored insights with actionable steps for homeowners distinguishes our offering from less comprehensive substitutes.
  • Intensity of Competitive Rivalry: The competitive rivalry is notably high, with many players vying for homeowners' attention. Yet, our focus on delivering precise, actionable insights for sustainable living, backed by credible information and easy-to-use tools, positions ButterCup to stand out in a crowded market.

Surprising Insights and Confirmations:

A surprising insight was the relatively underserved segment of homeowners looking for actionable, personalized advice on sustainable improvements, underscoring an opportunity for differentiation. Additionally, the analysis confirmed our hypothesis about the importance of building strong partnerships with suppliers of sustainable solutions to enhance our offering and competitive positioning.

This Porter's Five Forces analysis not only deepened our understanding of the external environment but also reinforced our strategic planning for ButterCup. It confirmed the viability of our focus on providing value through credibility, personalization, and actionability in the realm of sustainable home improvements. These insights are instrumental in guiding Cariboo Digital’s approach to navigating market challenges and seizing opportunities for ButterCup.

Shortlisting Tools and Services:

In the development journey of ButterCup, Cariboo Digital recognised the necessity of aligning our offerings with the specific needs of our prioritised customer segment, the "Renovators and Home Improvers." To achieve this, we embarked on a rigorous process to identify, evaluate, and shortlist potential tools and services that could directly address the unique challenges and aspirations of this group. This process was deeply influenced by continuous customer feedback and engagement, ensuring that our solutions remained closely attuned to the evolving needs of our users.

Identifying Potential Solutions

Our initial step was to brainstorm a broad range of tools and services that could potentially benefit homeowners looking to make sustainable improvements. This included digital tools like the Carbon Footprint Calculator, educational content platforms, personalised consultation services, and a marketplace for sustainable products and services. Each potential offering was mapped against the specific needs and pain points identified through our earlier customer research.

Evaluating Tools and Services

For each tool and service on our list, we applied a set of criteria developed from our understanding of the customer segment. These criteria included the potential impact on facilitating sustainable home improvements, ease of use, scalability, and the ability to integrate with other services. This evaluation helped prioritise and narrow down the list to those solutions most capable of making a tangible difference in the lives of our users.

Incorporating Customer Feedback

Critical to our shortlisting process was the incorporation of feedback loops and continuous engagement with our target audience. We utilized a variety of methods to gather input, including:

  • Surveys and Questionnaires: Distributed to homeowners to gauge interest in and potential value of the proposed tools and services.
  • Pretotyping Experiments: Early, minimal functional versions of tools like the Carbon Footprint Calculator were introduced to selected audience segments to collect qualitative and quantitative feedback.
  • Engagement Analytics: We analysed engagement metrics on our platform and social media channels to identify content and features that resonated most with our audience.

Refining the Shortlist

The insights gained from these feedback mechanisms were invaluable in refining our shortlist of tools and services. Solutions that received strong positive feedback or demonstrated high engagement were prioritized for further development. Conversely, offerings that failed to resonate with our audience or did not effectively address identified needs were reconsidered or reconfigured.

Continuous Engagement

Recognising that customer needs and market dynamics are ever-evolving, Cariboo Digital committed to maintaining an ongoing dialogue with our users. This commitment to continuous engagement ensures that ButterCup remains responsive and adaptable, capable of introducing new tools and services or pivoting existing ones to better meet homeowner needs.

Through this meticulous process of identification, evaluation, and refinement, informed by robust customer feedback, Cariboo Digital has ensured that ButterCup is positioned to offer meaningful, impactful solutions to the "Renovators and Home Improvers" segment. This approach not only enhances the value proposition of ButterCup but also solidifies our reputation as a customer-centric organization dedicated to fostering sustainable living practices.

Creating Our First Pretotype:

Incorporating the concept of pretotyping into the development of the "Carbon Footprint Calculator" for ButterCup was a strategic decision aimed at validating our innovative approach to sustainable living solutions. At Cariboo Digital, we understand the importance of ensuring that our solutions not only resonate with our audience but also effectively address their needs before significant resources are committed to full-scale development. This understanding led us to embrace pretotyping, a methodology designed to test the validity of a product concept at the earliest possible stage.

What is a Pretotype?

Pretotyping, a term derived from "pretend" prototyping, involves creating a simple, low-fidelity version of a product to test the core idea with real users. Unlike prototypes, which are more developed and closer to the final product, pretotypes allow us to gather user feedback and measure interest with minimal time and financial investment. This approach is particularly valuable in the tech and innovation sector, where the rapid validation of ideas can significantly influence the direction and success of a product.

Applying Pretotyping to the Carbon Footprint Calculator

The rationale for selecting the Carbon Footprint Calculator as our first pretotype was multi-faceted:

  • Immediate Relevance: Given the increasing concern among homeowners about their environmental impact, a tool offering immediate insights into one’s carbon footprint was deemed highly relevant.
  • Ease of Implementation: The basic functionality required for the calculator made it an ideal candidate for pretotyping, allowing us to quickly gauge user interest and engagement levels.
  • Feedback Opportunity: This pretotype would provide us with direct feedback on the calculator's usability, desirability, and the accuracy of the information it provided, informing further development.

Expected Outcomes and Mission Alignment

By introducing the Carbon Footprint Calculator pretotype, we aimed to achieve several outcomes that align with Cariboo Digital's broader mission:

  • Engagement Measurement: Tracking how users interacted with the pretotype would offer clear indicators of the market's interest in such a tool.
  • Iterative Improvement: Feedback collected from users would be instrumental in refining the concept, ensuring that the final product truly meets homeowner needs.
  • Mission Fulfillment: The pretotype aligns with our mission to make sustainable living more accessible. By starting with an easy-to-use tool that provides actionable insights, we're lowering the barriers to sustainable home improvements.

In essence, the development and deployment of the Carbon Footprint Calculator pretotype embody Cariboo Digital’s commitment to leveraging innovative methodologies like pretotyping. This approach not only ensures that our products are deeply aligned with user needs but also exemplifies our dedication to fostering sustainable living practices through smart, responsive solutions. The calculator pretotype is a first step in a larger strategy to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools needed to reduce their environmental footprint, marking a significant milestone in our journey with ButterCup.

In Conclusion

As we wrap up this part of the journey with ButterCup, a product born from Cariboo Digital's commitment to innovation, it's a moment to reflect and look ahead. This journey has shown us the power of starting with real people's needs and using those insights to shape a product that can truly make a difference.

We've taken you through the steps from understanding our customers, creating personas and customer journeys, to identifying a significant problem we aim to solve. ButterCup, with its focus on making sustainable living accessible, is a testament to our process of turning ideas into solutions that matter.

Our work is far from done. The insights we've gathered are just the beginning. Here's what we'll continue to do:

  • Iterate Relentlessly: We'll keep refining ButterCup, ensuring it meets the evolving needs of our users.
  • Value Feedback: Engaging users for feedback to learn. It's the compass that guides our development, ensuring we're always moving in the right direction.
  • Make Data-Driven Decisions: Every hypothesis and opportunity we explore is backed by data, from user interactions and feedback.

We're going to continue exploring sustainable living and your experiences, your challenges, and your successes are what have the potential to shape ButterCup. Visit us, share your thoughts, and be part of crafting a tool that changes the game for sustainable living.

Explore ButterCup and Share Your Feedback →

Curious how these techniques can help you build better products for your business? We want to share our expertise. Get in touch with us today, and let's explore how we can apply these strategies to bring your ideas to life. Together, we can create products that not only meet the market's needs but also drive meaningful change.

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