Features

Steam Therapy

An upsell opportunity consumers don't know they really want
By Martha Orellana
March 28, 2011

Steamshowers can be the bathroom–remodeling upsell opportunity that is yours for the asking.

But you have to ask. “It hasn’t occurred to many homeowners,” said Linda Settler, showroom consultant at Advance Plumbing in West Bloomfield, MI. “They don’t realize they can have this luxury at home.” Andrea Ivancich, owner of Seattle Interiors, agrees, noting that homeowners “don’t realize how easy it is to add” steam to an existing or new shower.

Steam therapy is an idea whose time has come: a resource-friendly luxury with a highly credible claim to wellness that is surprisingly easy to include as part of an overall bathroom remodel.


HEALTH & BEAUTY SECRET YOUR GRANDMOTHER KNEW

Familiar to a generation of spa-going women, steam therapy is also familiar to generations of women who steamed their faces with a towel over their heads. “Women especially—I’m one of them, I know!— we want to take care of our skin,” Settler said.

Baby boomers are a key target for Settler, who also promotes the wellness benefits of steam. In addition to hydrating skin, steam therapy can also:
• soothe tired muscles;
• promote restful sleep and tranquility;
• enhance and, in many cases, actually improve breathing.
In fact, when combined with various aromatherapy options, a steam shower can serve a grown-up version of the old Vicks Vaporizer that many boomers remember from their childhoods.

“I have long recommended steam therapy for its health benefits and use it frequently myself,” said Andrew Weil, M.D., and author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health. “Unlike the dry heat of most saunas, steam soothes the nasal passages and respiratory tract, relieves congestion and clears the sinuses. It relaxes mind and body and neutralizes stress.”

Other complementary features, such as music speakers and chromatherapy, can literally help you romance the sale of a steam shower, positioning it as great couples-time refuge. According to Ivancich, even price-conscious consumers will choose steam with a soaking tub, instead of a whirlpool: “They realize they will actually use that steam shower, whereas many have already had whirlpools that they didn’t use.”


BUDGET-FRIENDLY & RESOURCE-FRIENDLY

A bathroom remodel is the most opportune and affordable time to incorporate a steam shower. Once you are already “behind the walls” to do other plumbing and electrical work, you can easily add a steam generator as well. Just make sure your contractor encloses the shower properly and installs a watertight compartment door.

“Intelligent” steam generators operate from a single platform that can be easily expanded without bulky add-ons for sound, aroma or color therapies. This equipment should allow positioning up to 60 ft. from the steam shower enclosure itself, even on another level in the home if space considerations demand it.

Bring the idea alive for clients by showing them a working steam shower. The best-engineered steam generators are about the size of a briefcase, noted Ivancich. “Once they understand that the generator can be located in a cabinet or closet, it’s an easy sell.”

Showing a range of steam head shapes and finishes is as essential with steam showers as with any other decorative plumbing element. Settler says her customers like being able to choose between round and square controls and steamheads in various finishes to complement the shower fittings.

Unlike with most custom-shower applications, steam showers also offer a compelling green angle that appeals to eco-conscious homeowners. That’s because a steam shower typically uses only 2 gallons of water and a negligible amount of energy to generate the steam for a 20-minute session.


SELLING THE TECHNO-GEEK & THE SOCCER MOM

It doesn’t hurt to get technical for a bit during your pitch. Open up the steam generator to explain how the motherboard makes steam simple and intuitive for both user and installer. Leading steam systems are easily scalable, using plug-and-play technology to add more luxurious spa benefits to the system without bulky add-ons. State-of-the-art control technology permits remote wireless activation of the steam shower via cellphone, iPad, computer or your home automation system’s control pad.

Don’t be afraid to get technical during the sales pitch. Open up the generator and explain how it works.


For safety’s sake, the top-rated steam shower brands have invested to achieve certification by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), as well as CE and NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) certifications. Hassle-free, auto-cleaning systems that clear the generator of stagnant water after each use are key to closing the sale: How many homeowners care to flush the system manually after every session?


SIZE CAREFULLY

A variety of considerations will inevitably impact steam shower performance. These include construction materials, such as tile, stone, glass block, concrete or other nonporous materials; room size (including height up to 8 ft.); and special design features, such as large slab areas. The key to customer satisfaction is accurate generator sizing to accommodate these variables in a way that will optimize the end-user experience.

With this in mind, Mr. Steam is providing designers and consultants with a downloadable app to simplify the sizing process, while also making it more accurate. Using their smartphones, designers can quickly enter room dimensions, material types, style and finish options through a series of pull-down menus.

Steam showers are among the rare, non-consumer-driven sales that offer professional bath designers and consultants an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a product’s intrinsic value while also winning a prospective client’s trust. “It makes people feel good to hear that they can get something like a steam shower,” said Settler. “These days, everyone wants the spa effect in their homes.”


Martha Orellana serves as VP of sales and marketing for the Western half of the United States for Mr. Steam, a Long Island City, NY-based manufacturer of steam showers and towel warmers for residential and commercial use.
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