Sneak Peek

Marketing with virtual showroom tours

Virtual showroom tours on hot tub dealer websites are a cutting-edge way to market, with retailers showing off merchandise long before a customer steps foot into the showroom.

“The hot tub industry is surprisingly competitive,” says Lucas Medina of Creative Energy, a California-based spa retailer. A big benefit of virtual tours, Medina says, is that they offer customers a chance to look without any sales pressure. All three of Creative Energy’s locations have a virtual showroom online.

“I really like the tech and think it helps people get a feel for the spas when they can’t see them in person,” says Justin Jones, owner of High Country Spas in Francis, Utah, who shot his own showroom video in April 2018. He wanted a way to show potential customers exactly what they are getting in a hot tub. “It just makes sense with the way everything is going as far as online and digital. We do it with cars, houses and commercial buildings, so why not showrooms?”

Jones says it works as a selling tool for folks who can’t or don’t want to come into a showroom. Sometimes he even sells hot tubs sight unseen, thanks to the virtual showroom.

“I have sold a few that the people haven’t seen in person until delivery, and they have not been disappointed,” he says. “It helps with customer satisfaction because they can see exactly what they are getting inside and out.”

Virtual Showroom Creation

Jones says the biggest hurdle to shooting a virtual video of a showroom is the price of the equipment. For owners planning one or two shots, he doesn’t think it’s worth it to invest the initial $3,000 for setup with a Matterport 3D camera.

For Jones, the investment made sense, especially since it benefits his potential spa customers.

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“The biggest benefit is allowing customers to get a feel for the hot tubs without needing to come in,” Jones says. “And, not have any surprises when it shows up.”

Companies like Matterport produce virtual tours for businesses. Pricing varies from do-it-yourself packages — where the dealer records the videos and Matterport converts them — to professional packages that include shooting and editing by an expert. The tours are essentially photos stitched together to create a 3D effect.

Through Matterport, retailers can buy a camera to shoot the footage for around $2,500. It also requires a $29 one-time fee to turn the files into an interactive 3D tour. A cloud plan is needed to run the virtual tour program, too. For a smaller budget, iStaging allows users to create an online tour with a smartphone. A monthly subscription costs around $30 and includes a floor plan builder.

Minimal Maintenance Required

For dealers who don’t like messing with internet maintenance, a virtual tour acts as a nice centerpiece for a website with little maintenance required.

“We don’t find a need to update the virtual tour that often,” Medina says. “If we move locations, we will update the tour. If we’ve changed the showroom dramatically, we will find the time to update the tour. But our showrooms pretty much stay the same.”

While it may not be the first business feature customers point out, a virtual tour has the benefit of physically bringing customers through the door. “I would encourage [other dealers] to consider virtual tours, otherwise there’s a missed opportunity to show off what the customer could be experiencing when they walk in,” Medina says. “If they’re proud of their showroom and the products they offer, why not give somebody the opportunity to check out the business before they even step through the door? There’s no pressure for the customer if they look you up.”