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Reimagining Skin-care Education

November 1, 2016 | 9:07 AM
The Skin Authority retail kiosk with the iPad which connects consumers to a virtual skincare coach through Skype or Facetime.

Educating clients on skin-care products can be challenging, even for salons with strong skin-care departments. For relaxation purposes, estheticians maintain treatment rooms as quiet zones, and a follow-up conversation about retail can be lost as clients head to check out and estheticians hurry to their next appointment. In addition, the almost prescriptive nature of skin-care products makes it difficult for front-desk personnel to answer questions about specific skin conditions and the best products to address them.

Celeste Hilling, CEO and founder of Skin Authority.
Celeste Hilling, CEO and founder of Skin Authority.

A new virtual system from skin-care manufacturer Skin Authority is hoping to elevate the education process and make communication easier for the salons, spas and fitness centers that carry its products. Celeste Hilling, company CEO and founder, has amassed an army of 3,500 skin-care experts who are virtually available through Skype and Facetime on smart phones and tablets. Clients can access a skin-care professional through kiosks in salon or spa retail area or through their own portable devices.

“Technology is changing the way that consumers want to be touched,” Hilling says. “It is empowering consumers to have what they want right away. And while Amazon and other online vendors are chipping away at retail sales, I thought it was time to make the professional the center of the dialogue and give clients guidance that ties them closer to the salon or spa.”

Working with salons over the years, Hilling realized that when salon clients have skin-care questions, estheticians are frequently unavailable because they are in treatment rooms with other guests, and other salon employees frequently don’t know enough about skin care to talk about it.

“Using the MySkinAuthority app on the iPad in the kiosk, a stylist can help a client access a skin-care professional who can answer questions, or curious guests roaming the retail area can access a professional themselves,” Hilling says. “And through Skype or Facetime, the Skin Authority coaches can also see the guests and their skin, which helps them assess skin conditions and recommend products.”

Clients can pick up recommended products right off the retail display, or they can order a product that the salon might not carry. Clients can also use the app on their own devices, consulting with a Skin Authority coach from the privacy of their home and ordering the products they need. And if they do so, the system asks users the name of the salon they go to, and Skin Authority shares the revenue from the online sales with the salon.

Although the system currently is being used by a few big spas and fitness centers, Hilling is currently working with distributor Salon Services to roll out the program to hair salons and day spas in the Northwest.

George Learned, co-owner and vice president of Salon Services.
George Learned, co-owner and vice president of Salon Services.

“I think the virtual skin coaching is brilliant,” says George Learned, co-owner and vice president of Salon Services. “In recent years, we’ve seen salon owners shy away from offering skin-care services because building up that space and keeping skin-care professionals is a big investment, and client education always has been one of the biggest obstacles. But with this system, even salons that don’t offer skin-care services can still sell skin-care retail.”

In fact anyone in the salon can help sell skin care—even when the client has a question that stumps them.

“Say you have a guest who comes in with a severe gluten allergy and needs products that are gluten-free,” Hilling says. “Using the kiosk and accessing a virtual coach, a hairstylist, nail technician or a massage therapist can help a client answer that question.”

The app also connects salon employees and their clients to videos from users, research reports and important professional websites on the skin-care topics, such as skincancer.org or vitamindcouncil.org. In addition to the live chats, clients can send messages to their coach once they’ve tried the products, or coaches can follow up with clients.

Laurenn Cutshaw, vice president of marketing for Total Woman Gym & Spa.
Laurenn Cutshaw, vice president of marketing for Total Woman Gym & Spa.

“The kiosk and the system is inviting and appealing for the clients, and predictable, reliable and consistent for the spa or salon,” says Laurenn Cutshaw, VP of marketing for Total Woman Gym + Spa, a fitness company with multiple locations throughout southern California that is using the Skin Authority kiosk. “It helps take the manpower weight off the organization yet delivers a level of personalization to the guest that many places don’t have the technology or the staff to provide.”

Cutshaw also likes that the kiosk gives the guest access to the full range of products, even if spa or salon has limited inventory space and chooses not to carry all the SKUs in the line.

“But the clients still get the products as soon as possible, and the salon or spa gets the commission for the sale,” Cutshaw says.

“In addition, the kiosk (and the coaches available through it) is always trained on the latest products, and it never calls in sick,” says Learned, who believes salons can solidify client loyalty when they help guests with their skin-care needs.

Salon Services is beginning to roll out the line and the kiosk to VIP salons in its network, and will be hosting events in Seattle, Portland, OR; Salt Lake City, UT; Scottsdale, AZ; and Spokane, WA in early 2017. To learn more, visit salonservicesnw.com.

“When it comes to skin care, consumers have a lot of questions,” Hilling says. “This system was not designed to replace the salon or spa, but rather to elevate them by giving them and their clients easy access to knowledge. Clients stay with a brand longer when they are engaged at the brick-and-mortar level, and they need the human touch to stay connected.” 

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