Virtual reality comes to the hot tub purchasing experience

[Another interesting application context for VR and presence is described in this story from the Daily Herald (Provo, Utah). For more information see the Bullfrog Spas website and coverage in Aqua, and watch the 5:41 interactive video on YouTube. –Matthew]

[Image: A customer at Bullfrog Spas tries out the virtual reality program to better experience a hot tub.]

Virtual reality comes to the hot tub purchasing experience

Karissa Neely, Daily Herald
December 7, 2017

For new buyers, purchasing a hot tub is a bit intimidating, but one company is trying to make the shopping experience more interactive.

Hot tubs are a large ticket purchase with a lot of moving parts, and the only way to “test drive” one is to do a “wet test” at a storefront — donning your swimsuits and climbing in. Most local hot tub dealers offer an enclosed room for customers to do so, but according to Samson Madsen, creative director with Bullfrog Spas, there are some customers who don’t feel comfortable doing that.

To educate and help customers with the myriad of choices in spa options, Madsen oversaw the team who recently brought virtual reality into Bullfrog and its dealers’ locations.

“We looked at, is there any way to interact with the product, and experience it without getting wet,” Madsen said.

Virtual reality was one part of the answer. Madsen, who has film knowledge, created a five-minute virtual reality segment that allows customers to sit inside a dry hot tub and visualize the spa experience, while learning about the features, options and technology of the tub.

The virtual reality encounter does not give the user that true wet experience — technology hasn’t quite caught up to that yet. But it does take the customer inside the hot tub, and aims to evoke the peacefulness found within the space.

“It allows customers a very unique shopping experience. When you walk into a showroom with a sea of hot tubs, you think, ‘Where do I start?’ This allows you to interact with the product, and allows a customer to think about the product in ways that weren’t there before,” Madsen said.

Bullfrog introduced its virtual reality headsets and program to dealers a year ago, and they are in 35 locations across the United States. The Orem and Springville locations will be implementing them soon as well.

Madsen said Bullfrog also implemented some other interactive elements to showrooms as well, including a large touchscreen option just introduced last month. Customers can scroll through options on a large tablet, the size of a flatscreen television tipped on its side. Within the options, customers learn about the variety of interchangeable jets — a feature patented and unique to Bullfrog.

“The combination of all of these allows the consumer to spend quite a bit of time with the product, and have a very rich buying experience that allows them to learn about it the way they prefer,” Madsen said.

As part of the same program, Bullfrog launched a virtual spa designer program in June. Bruce Hardy, owner of Tropical Fiberglass Pools and Spas in St. George, this program has been successful in encouraging customer involvement — helping them to visualize the spa in their own space and the features that are most important.

“They can sit there and build their spa right in front of them, and they really like that,” he said by phone Thursday. “When they see the engineering behind Bullfrog, it’s no-brainer. A lot of our customers say ‘Why buy anything else?’”

Madsen said Bullfrog Spas is one of the first in the hot tub industry to implement virtual reality, but he envisions other industries adopting the technology. He even goes so far as to say virtual reality is the “next version of the internet,” and will be adopted and developed in the future more for retail than for games and entertainment.

“The retail experience is not fun now. It’s become a hassle. VR, augmented reality and mixed reality really is going to be the way we experience our world,” he said. “We’re not going to go to stores and shop — we’re going to get into our VR headset or holodeck box, and walk the aisles from there.”

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2 Comments

  1. Shu Hua Li
    Posted December 13, 2017 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    This is a really creative idea! It reminds me the VR application that we discussed before in class. Customers need to download the app and use the app to scan the cube, the smartphone screen will display different games via VR format. I think this one is as same as the cube app. This hot tub VR technology is an excellent idea to attract more people to notice this product and offers them a simulation that they are using the hot tub. It should be fun!

  2. Dominique Carter
    Posted December 17, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I think that the idea could work for people who don’t want the full presence of being immersed in a hot tub, but still want to see what it’s like.

    Personally, I wouldn’t do it, because trying out a hot tub before I buy it is almost like checking the quality of a TV screen before you buy it, but not everybody shares that same love of full immersion as me.

    For those who just want to get an idea of what they want and learn about it without the full body experience, this is an excellent alternative for them.

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