NanoTouch Materials, producer of NanoSeptic self-cleaning surfaces, recently completed two market research studies as part of a $2 million grant the company received last year. Those studies uncovered business opportunities and consumer preferences that will drive the jan/san industry moving forward, and guide product development in NanoTouch’s Disinfection Technology Lab.

“The way our products are disrupting the jan/san industry is really fascinating,” says Dennis Hackemeyer, co-founder of NanoTouch Materials. “Even though we invented NanoSeptic materials because of the real value of self-cleaning surfaces, the market research showed that the positive perception generated from making “clean” visible was highly valued by both consumers and industry professionals.”

The first study was conducted to gauge consumer feelings about cleanliness in public places and while traveling. This study provides valuable insight for jan/san distributors and BSCs since they are responsible for delivering products and services that create clean facilities in a variety of industries.

Millennials displayed a heightened level of concern over cleanliness in public spaces, with 35 percent of respondents self-identifying as germaphobes. This should be a wakeup call to the jan/san industry since cleaning is an invisible service and therefore does little to alleviate the concerns of this market segment. When polled, 50 percent of respondents said that self-cleaning surfaces that were visible would affect their choice of hotels and 60 percent said that a self-cleaning TV channel guide in the room created a positive perception of the entire property. When asked a different way, 70 percent of respondents assumed the rest of the room and the facility was cleaner if they saw self-cleaning surfaces in use.

The second market research study was conducted by surveying jan/san industry professionals including distributors of cleaning products and building service contractors (BSC) that are responsible for commercial cleaning services. The responses reinforced what was learned from the consumer study. In fact, responses from distributors and BSCs revealed that their customers were proactively asking for self-cleaning surfaces. In this case, the consumer perception was actually driving the business purchase.

“Without visible clues, the perceived value of cleaning products and services can be low,” says Mark Sisson, co-founder of NanoTouch. “It turns out that the real innovation isn’t just the nanotechnology, but also in looking at the concept of clean differently and delivering a feeling of confidence in the cleanliness of their making clean visible.”

This highlights a tremendous opportunity for the jan/san and facility management industry. As a commoditized industry, moving away from client relationships that are based solely on price is a necessity for revenue growth and a healthy bottom line.

“We like to be first-to- market with innovative new products,” says Larry Nedrow with Hathaway Paper. “Not only have we gotten new accounts by introducing NanoSeptic surfaces to prospects, but once they are installed in a facility we get more leads because people see the products and want to know where they can buy them.”

From an industry standpoint, innovation has been slow, and that was obvious from the responses of the study participants. A cleaning and maintenance supplies distributor commented “for the most part, product innovation has remained relatively stagnant, with most of the minimal technology change stemming from order processing software and systems.”

Another line of innovation deals with making JanSan products more eco-friendly. Since NanoSeptic self-cleaning surfaces do not use any chemicals, poisons or heavy metals, they are an innovative new approach to going green.

NanoSeptic self-cleaning surfaces for facilities will be on display in the Innovation Showcase at this year’s ISSA convention in Chicago on October 25. While most of the innovative products on display will be incremental improvements over existing technology, NanoSeptic self-cleaning surfaces define a completely new product segment.