Bullfrog Spas offers high-tech VR to dealers
Last year at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo, the Bullfrog Spas booth could have been at the Consumer Electronics Show. In New Orleans, the company unveiled its virtual reality experience, which it then made available to its dealers to use in their showrooms.
With virtual reality, users wear a headset and watch a 3D video they can interact with. At the trade show last year, you could design a life-size Bullfrog Spa on a relaxing patio, choosing the model, colors and JetPaks you wanted.
But virtual reality wasn’t a long, white-boarded idea the company had been thinking about for years and years. It started working on a VR experience because of the positive response to a different branding piece, the Water Reimagined project, says Samson Madsen, creative director at the company. The project included a video that outlined the product, plus the company’s pillars of manufacturing and focus.
Madsen says its sales team and dealers reacted emotionally to that video, which currently has more than 53,000 views on YouTube. It wanted consumers to have the same reaction to its brand, but knew no one would sit in a showroom to watch a 17-minute video. So Madsen put together a test, and it became clear VR was the right answer.
Madsen had a background in filmmaking, but the company had to create its own camera rig to get the realistic look it was going for. Creating the virtual-reality videos was extremely time intensive, Madsen says, but the response was worth it.
“Nobody was expecting it,” Madsen says. In addition to the spa design program, the company had also pared down its Water Reimagined video into a VR format. Bullfrog made adjustments to those after the show and in February rolled out the VR program to dealers. The technology requires a significant resource to maintain and support, Madsen says, but he has seen from both a positioning and opportunity standpoint that it’s worthwhile.
“It solidifies the fact that Bullfrog is a technology frontrunner,” says Justin Winkelbauer, store manager at The Great Escape in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Winkelbauer says he offers all his spa customers the chance to try the VR headset. Not all customers jump right in and absorb the message, he says, but is adamant the virtual reality program will continue to add value.
“A lot of people 15 years from now could be expecting to go into a store, put on glasses and figure out what they want electronically, as opposed to doing it physically,” Winkelbauer says, “and if Bullfrog is smart enough to be one of the first people to jump on board with [virtual reality], imagine how much farther they’re going to be ahead of the game.”
Bullfrog’s digital marketing manager Jake Ricks says taking a more involved role in helping dealers become better retailers will help it keep pace with rapidly changing retail. “It’s not going to get easier for the small, independent retailer to compete,” Ricks says, “unless they make the changes that will put them in a strong position to compete moving forward.”