How the makers of popular pool software are attracting spa retailers
By Andrew Lisa
In 2016, a mobile app called Pokémon Go took the gaming world by storm. Within a week of its release, it topped Candy Crush as the world’s most-played game. Soon, the media were captivated by stories about players falling down staircases and wandering into restricted areas, so mesmerized by the game they forgot they were walking.
Pokémon Go was the world’s first blockbuster game based on augmented reality, which overlays digital images on real-world landscapes through mobile devices. Today, the same technology is poised to revolutionize the way spa retailers sell their hot tubs, plan backyards and educate their customers.
Pool Studio … For Spa Retailers?
Since its 2001 debut, pool builders have been using Pool Studio to plan backyard layouts, design pools and present plans to customers. The software, however, was long perceived as an investment spa retailers couldn’t justify.
“You’re dealing with a much smaller budget when you only have a spa,” says Noah Nehlich, founder of Structure Studios, which makes Pool Studio. “For swimming pool builders, it makes sense to budget for design time up front. With a spa, it doesn’t make financial sense and it doesn’t make sense in terms of time.”
All that, however, has changed. Pool Studio has attracted a loyal following of spa retailers by releasing features just for hot tubs — and the company is developing a spa-specific, augmented-reality application Nehlich says will change the industry.
Outside the Spa Looking In
Pool Studio’s 3D Image feature is already popular among hot tub retailers. The tool allows users to superimpose a 3D model of a hot tub over the backyard space, demonstrating for customers exactly how a hot tub will look on their deck.
The pared-down tool avoids the considerable learning curve pool builders encounter when using the software’s full version.
“They won’t be using many of the advanced functions because they’re doing more limited projects,” Nehlich says. “That’s what makes it super easy. If you’re doing a pool or landscaping, there’s a lot of drawing and design that goes into it. Here, you just drop in the assets we’ve created.”
Those assets: a digital library filled with 3D hot tubs and spa accessories that users simply drop into photographs of an actual backyard space. “It cuts the design time down to five or 10 minutes,” Nehlich says.
Inside the Spa Looking Out
Just as the software allows users to project how a spa will look in a yard, retailers can also flip the vantage points and project the surroundings as seen from inside the future hot tub.
“You could take several pictures of what the customer would view while sitting in the spa, transform it into 3D with the click of a button, then make a 360-degree photo that they could share on Facebook,” Nehlich says.
As a bonus, the software helps customers visualize the importance of empty space, which is needed to accommodate accessories like cover lifts and steps.
Nehlich projects his augmented-reality feature will be ready in spring 2018. With no other known software companies offering anything similar, it will be another in a long series of firsts for Structure Studios.
“Imagine picking a specific spa model and dropping it into the real world with the exact dimensions,” Nehlich says. “Now you can walk around it and look inside it — and it’s the exact scale that it will be in the real world.”
Following the company’s model of developing powerful, user-friendly software, hardware retailers will only need an iPhone or iPad to use the feature.
“Augmented reality,” Nehlich says, “will be the turning point of visualization for spa retailers.”