When Opening Your Front Door Isn’t Enough

The return of marketing strategies

As everyone in the industry is acutely aware, the demand for hot tubs is not as superheated as it was during the pandemic. Consumer interest, spurred by wellness trends, remains strong, but the challenge for retailers is how to market to budget-conscious, post-COVID consumers and turn their interest into sales.

“We’ve all had to sharpen our pencils and sell differently than we did during the pandemic, when if you had it, they’d take it,” says Rene Huston, president of Patio Pleasures Pools & Spas in Madison, Wisconsin. She says dealers are adapting their strategies to meet the economic reality that’s anticipated to continue for the next 18-24 months.

To reach customers, retailers are diving even deeper into digital marketing and online platforms, through social media, e-mail campaigns, internet advertising and even TV spots with QR codes. They’re strengthening their website’s SEO and, like Huston, producing educational videos about hot tub ownership. 

Special promotions are once again playing a strategic role, whether they’re showcasing particular products, in-store events or financial incentives. These are excellent ways to move overstocked products that have lingered post-pandemic, says Scott Clark, owner of The Spa and Sauna Co., headquartered in Reno, Nevada. They can also include bundling the purchase with another product, such as a sauna, or offering flexible financing options.

“We find that targeted promotions during holiday weekends provide excellent sale opportunities,” Clark says. “There is a natural end date, and consumers are conditioned to shop when many other businesses are having sale events.”

Partnering with manufacturers is another avenue. 

“We appreciate when a manufacturer leans into supporting their dealers from a marketing perspective and that they have promotions to support us in the process,” Huston says. “Bullfrog Spas is an example. We have their marketing calendar, so we know ahead of time when those incentives are going to land.”

Steve O’Shea, vice president of sales and marketing for MAAX Spas, a manufacturer based in Chandler, Arizona, says his company doesn’t have a national promotions calendar because “markets vary so much that offering a national program doesn’t allow dealers to do what works for them.” Instead, their approach is “to work on a custom basis with our dealers.”

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Some retailers are returning to another strategy: “We have been a vendor at Costco for many years,” Clark says. “After a hiatus during the pandemic, offsite big box events are back and seeing success.”

Others are fine-tuning their showroom experience. 

“It’s amazing how many people want to do a wet soak,” Huston says. Rather than having traditional tropical decor, her showrooms feature set-ups that give customers an “at-home, relaxing in your backyard” vibe, complete with a beverage center. While they soak, whether it’s before, during or after hours, customers can savor a drink — “which they seem to enjoy,” she adds.

Another strategy is connecting through community. This could be a Veterans Day giveaway or Make-A-Wish event where retailers partner with media or organizations and gain brand recognition as well as leads. 

For today’s consumers, the bottom line is paying for their purchase. 

“During the COVID era, financing was less important to secure the sale,” Clark says, though his company has focused on financing for several years. 

Huston’s company also offers financing options, but pricing does not drive its sales process. “We are firm believers that the No. 1 reason somebody buys is not price-driven,” she says. “While our marketing message may have an offer attached to it, during the sales process we’re very mindful that we’re not selling off a price.” 

However, the sales team does make sure consumers understand they have price-point choices and different options for buying. “Whether it’s a cash discount or they want to pay by credit card or they want to finance, we have these options available,” she explains. “I think financing where you market a low monthly payment is very attractive. [But] our financing isn’t taken advantage of as much as our cash discount option.”