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Augmenting Reality

Setting up the showroom for AR presentations

How many people come into your store, fall in love with a spa and wonder out loud, “Do you think this will fit in my yard?” Now, with augmented reality, you can easily and quickly answer that question for customers. This is the present and near future of retail: A fairly seamless home-to-store-to-home experience.

You have probably heard of virtual reality (VR), which requires special goggles that allow users to look at a 3D environment created like a video game. If you are using VR goggles in your store, please provide paper devices to cover the goggles, or they must be sanitized between users because of COVID — but more importantly, head lice.

Augmented reality (AR) looks at an overlay of an existing product in an actual environment: your customer’s space. A customer can see many models in their space without leaving their chair at home, in your store or both.

Bullfrog Spas has used augmented reality for some time, and Watkins Wellness recently launched an augmented reality for Hot Spring and Freeflow Spas. Ideally, these allow a customer to view hot tubs three dimensionally in the backyard. If they choose to do this in store, a sales associate can guide them. This is ideal for less tech-savvy people.

I downloaded the Hot Springs app on my iPhone 11. Within one minute, I was viewing a spa unit in my backyard. It was easy! I saved the photo just as a customer would to bring to the store.

Informing Customers

So many customers are looking at your websites today, so this is your first shot at getting them interested in this technology. Ideally, AR mentions should be on your website landing page.

Postcards are another way to promote AR to customers — colorful, informational cards with a QR code to download the app or link pull up the webpage at home. Postcards have shown lasting marketing strength through the years for all spa-buying generations. Emails can work, but many of us are so inundated by them that they often land in junk mail.

Setting Up a Showroom Space

If you have an empty corner or wall in your store, consider a full wall-size photo blowup mural of a backyard space — without a spa. The purpose is to use it for the AR app to show a variety of hot tub units in the same background.

People who come in without knowing about AR can envision their hot tub in your space and play with the app before they go home and try it. The outdoor scene should be well lit from above, so it appears to be in daylight.

If your mural is a night scene, which could be kind of fabulous, consider painting that area of the ceiling a navy blue and adding tiny white LED lights overhead to look like stars. Make sure the wires are a dark color so they blend with the sky. With a night shot, test it with your AR app to make sure the lighting works and doesn’t just show up as a dark wall.

Perhaps you have a pergola just hanging around with no spa to put underneath. That can be a great photo op for the AR program. It can show how the spa fits under the structure as well as potentially sell the pergola. If you don’t have it already, add artificial grass under the pergola. Make sure it’s not astro turf but the realistic-looking fake grass. You can find it at Lowe’s or Home Depot, as well as many local stores. Add some potted bushes or trees (real or fake) to soften the edges of the grass and pergola.

Watkins has developed several marketing pieces that describe what the customer will see and gives them the QR code to use in store. If you are working with a different manufacturer or doing this on your own, please add signage that clearly describes what the app does and how to download it. Assume that your customer is not tech savvy.

Augmented reality allows customers to start their exploration at home and continue it in the store. While it may seem out of reach for smaller retailers, many manufacturers are looking at it now. It helps increase sales by answering the No. 1 question: “How will this look in my yard?”