E-Commerce Made Easy

New platform enables customers to build their own hot tub

Over the pandemic, more and more retailers and manufacturers expanded to let customers complete hot tub purchases through their websites. Yet building and purchasing a custom hot tub online remains a rarity in the industry. 

Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Great Bay Spa & Sauna is one company that’s on the leading edge of e-commerce, thanks to its website at greatbayspas.com.

The company teamed up with its marketing partner, Normal Bear Media LLC. Led by CEO Scott Johnson, Normal Bear built an ambitious e-commerce platform, designed to rival the customization options available to a customer who purchases their hot tub through a salesperson. 

“We looked at hundreds of [hot tub e-commerce] websites all around the world where someone was doing it right, and we really didn’t find it,” Johnson explains. “They weren’t giving that showroom experience.”

We looked at hundreds of [hot tub e-commerce] websites all around the world where someone was doing it right, and we really didn’t find it. They weren’t giving that showroom experience.”

Scott Johnson, Normal Bear Media LLC

He felt that the e-commerce experience needed to allow every possible accessory that a customer could want, such as towel bars and safety rails. 

To build the platform, Normal Bear took cues from Amazon’s website, particularly its numerous search filters. A customer building their own hot tub on Great Bay Spa & Sauna’s website can sort by a variety of features, like capacity, price, seating type, shell shape and brand name. When purchasing a hot tub, the customer can specify their preferred color, cover lift/Smartop, steps or whether they wish to add accessories. Customers can also choose to pay a deposit to lock-in a price, or choose from various financing options. Normal Bear did a lot of research to make sure every possible option was there for a customer to sift through.

As a customer is going through each step of the hot tub building process online, the actual results that match their criteria are shown, as well as the cost. This way, they’re able to compare different spas at a glance. Johnson says this is not only a great sales tool, but it’s also fairly novel in the hot tub industry. 

He adds that buying a hot tub online is still a new experience, but customers can feel confident in doing so, especially because the e-commerce platform includes a chat feature with a specialist. 

“These are early adopters, and it’s not necessarily about how many hot tubs they’ve sold,” Johnson says. “It’s about turning this into a more commonplace situation so that moving forward, the industry is viewed as a safe place to purchase a hot tub online.” 

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Jamie Burson, owner of Great Bay Spa & Sauna, says that the company chose to invest more in its e-commerce platform in 2021. 

“We believe that this is a crucial step in the future growth of our company,” he says. “One of our core values is to make the buying experience as easy and enjoyable as possible. And what better way than allowing customers to do that in the comfort of their own home?”

Thus far, selling their products online has worked well for Great Bay Spa & Sauna, though it hasn’t given up on its brick and mortar location. 

“For us, the decision to go e-commerce was not just about selling hot tubs online,” Burson says. “It was also about convenience for our prospective customers, additional tools for lead generation, additional marketing opportunities and transparency for our prospective customers. We continue to make adjustments and enhancements as we learn what is working and what needs improvement.”

One challenge Great Bay Spa & Sauna had to tackle early on was figuring out how to direct prospects to models and color combinations that were in stock, versus items that had extended lead times. 

“We typically keep a good amount in stock, so for most of 2022, that was not a major issue for us,” Burson says. “Now that the market has normalized some, we can typically turn around a hot tub sale and install within seven to 10 days from purchase.”

Currently, Great Bay Spa & Sauna is investing in content creation to enable its website to act as a virtual salesperson. 

“We will add more convenience features, like a customer portal where the customer can upload photos or videos and have a customized user experience based on their specific model information,” Burson explains. 

Although Great Bay Spa & Sauna is focused heavily on growing its e-commerce capabilities, establishing long-term relationships with customers will continue to be extremely important to the company. 

“After someone places an order online, we contact them within 24 hours,” Burson shares. “We want to maintain the best experience possible before and after the sale, as our customers are our best asset for new business.”