Getting Inside The Minds of Today’s Swimming Pool Buyers…
By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.
In 2015, The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) initiated a research program with the world-famous Gallup organization to find out why U.S. pool owners bought their pools, and – more importantly – why non-pool owners DIDN’T buy a pool. Sponsored by nearly a dozen different APSP member companies, the surveys were completed in early 2016. The result is more than 100 pages of charts, data and in-depth analysis, professionally explaining in plain English the surprising conclusions of this survey.
The only way to see ALL the data and summary reports from Gallup is to contact APSP headquarters and pony-up the $15,000 access fee. OR, you could try to squeeze into the (already sold-out) 90 minute presentation I’ll be giving at the Atlantic City Pool and Spa Show this Wednesday, January 25, at 8:30 AM.
Fortunately, I’ve been given permission to share a few of the more interesting tidbits with you right here in this article.
Reinforcing What We Already Know…
The survey reinforced some of the more common perceptions about owning a swimming pool, such as:
- “Pools are expensive.”
- “Chemicals and maintenance are a concern.”
- “Northern states have a very short swimming season, while southern states can use their pools practically year-round.”
- “The decision to buy a pool can take a long time – frequently six months or more.”
These statements will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with our industry, so let’s shift gears and take a look at some of the more unusual results.
Some Surprises and Insights…
To find out what non-pool-owners think, Gallup surveyed 2834 homeowners who were considered “wealthy, but-don’t-own-a-pool”. (“Wealthy” was defined as anyone making more than $75,000 per year.) Here are some of the more unusual surprises from the survey:
More than two thirds of current pool owners STRONGLY AGREE that a swimming pool is an IDEAL place to spend more time with the family.
Now look at the DISCONNECT with NON-POOL-OWNERS. The majority of them said that one of their most important goals in life is to relax and spend more time with their family/kids/grandkids/spouse. (That should be EXCELLENT news for pool builders!) But surprisingly, barely one quarter of these people believe that a swimming pool would be a great way to get those benefits. (Most non-pool owners think the primary purpose of a swimming pool is “to cool off” when it’s hot outside.)
Insight/Lesson #1: You should spend more time helping non-pool owners visualize and understand how owning a swimming pool can solve one of their greatest goals in life – to spend more time with family.
Another top goal of non-pool owners is to make their home more beautiful and enjoyable. In fact, one third of these people had already made what they considered a “major expenditure” in the area of home improvements in the last two years. (This includes such things as home remodel, landscape remodel, etc.)
The shocking surprise here was that 48% of these non-pool-owners did NOT believe that a swimming pool would enhance the beauty of their home or yard. In fact, more than a quarter of these people STRONGLY DISAGREED that a pool would add beauty to their yard.
(My goodness! What sort of backyard swimming pool photographs are they looking at? Maybe I’m crazy here, but I can’t help thinking that if you show photographs of your pools to a homeowner, and they don’t get excited about it, you’re obviously doing something wrong.)
Insight/Lesson #2 Pay close attention to the quality of photographs you’re using in your brochures, your sales meetings, and on your website. If your photos don’t look like they came from a magazine, you should seriously consider hiring a professional photographer, and start getting some high-quality photographs.
(This may not be a big surprise to more experienced pool builders, but I still found these results to be rather humorous, and worthy of further consideration.) Gallup asked these pool owners if they knew how much a brand-new inground swimming pool will cost, and 85% of them said YES. Here’s what your perspective pool buyers think a new pool will cost:
- 56% believe they can get a new inground pool for less than $30,000.
- 30% believe they can get a new inground pool for less than $20,000.
- And 7% believe they can get a new inground pool for less than $10,000.
- Only 12% of the homeowners believe a new pool will cost more than $50,000.
A pretty large portion of North American homeowners clearly have no idea how much a new inground pool is going to cost. (Only 15% of the homeowners would admit that they have no clue about the cost of a new pool.)
Insight/Lesson #3: Remember that “sticker shock” is likely to occur no matter what sort of budget they had in mind. So keep your emphasis on (1) how much happier the family will be, and (2) how much more beautiful their yard will be. As we all know, it’s the perceived value of an improved and more enjoyable life that will pull them past the sticker shock, no matter the price.
It might also be smart to become well-versed in discussing financing options. (The survey showed a surprising disparity between a homeowner’s comfort with home and/or automobile financing vs. financing a swimming pool.) An intelligent discussion about home-equity and long-term home value increases may be just the thing to push some of your more hesitant buyers to a YES decision.
Some Other Surprises from the Survey
The restrictions on the Gallup survey data prevent me from going any deeper into the results, but I can share with you these anecdotes about what’s in the complete report.
You’ll be relieved to know that the majority of pool owners would prefer to buy their pool chemicals from a local, non-mass-market retailer. (Only 6% of pool owners said they prefer to purchase their chemicals online.) But you MUST offer the two things that are explained in the survey.
You will be SHOCKED to see how many pool owners do NOT consider “pool professionals” to be the best source of information regarding how to properly maintain their pool.
The survey confirms that the pool industry has not yet created a “unified message” about the overwhelming virtues of our product. The boating and RV industries, by comparison, have spent DECADES promoting the virtues of “health” and “family time” and “cherished memories” through their products, while downplaying some rather obvious negatives.
The downsides of pool ownership are minuscule compared to our greater competition(boats, RVs, home remodeling, etc.), but our target market simply hasn’t learned it or heard it yet. To keep our industry strong, and help it rebound with the same strength as our competing industries, we must shift our collective message to “How much happier your life will be when you finally get that swimming pool.”
Some Facts about the Survey
- This $150,000 survey was commissioned by APSP and sponsored by a number of APSP partner companies.
- There were a total of 40 questions for the owners, and 25 questions for the nonowners.
- Gallup received a total of 1628 responses from current pool owners. This was restricted to homeowners who installed their pool in the last five years.
- Gallup received 2834 responses from homeowners without swimming pools. All these non-pool owners had a minimum annual income of $75K, while 75% of them had an annual income of $100,000 or more.
- 76% of these nonowners were specifically considering spending a large chunk of money on either a car, a home remodel, a second house, or land, rather than a swimming pool.
The complete results of the Gallup survey – including all questions and responses, and more than 75 insightful charts – are available for purchase through APSP. For more information, contact Lisa Grepps at (703) 838-0083 Ext. 179, or Lgrepps@apsp.org.