| A model shot from the artists at Umbrella Salon in San Jose, CA.|
Khiem Hoang, business manager of Umbrella Salon
in San Jose, California, was proud of the salon's artistic website, but frustrated that many clients couldn't access it through their phones. "The website is Flash-based, and iPhones in particular don't support Flash," he explained. "Since we are in the Bay Area, which also is the home of Apple, there are about 400,000 iPhone users here who couldn't access our website on their phones."
Hoang's solution was to design an iPhone application just for the salon. He researched it himself and worked to develop a simple application that featured a few photos of the salon and allowed users to directly download the salon's number, access directions to the salon and e-mail the salon desk with an appointment request. He purposefully kept the app simple: "We know they are looking at this information on a three-inch screen and we didn't want to inundate them with words."
It cost Hoang about $400 to develop the app, and he pays a $12 monthly fee to Apple to keep it rolling, but he feels it's money well spent. "We've gotten some exposure to some new potential clients through the Apple website, and people think its progressive that a small business like us has its own app," he says.
To get clients to download the free app, Hoang sent an e-mail announcement to a list of current and potential clients, as well as posted announcements on the salon's Facebook and Twitter pages. The e-blast generated quite a bit of excitement—within a week Hoang reported 562 click-throughs and 40 appointment requests.
And, the word keeps growing. The salon's WiFi allows service providers to help clients download the app while they are in the salon. But, Hoang says many people seem to find the app through word of mouth. "iPhone users like to discuss and share their apps," he says.
The application also allows Umbrella to send short--200 characters or less--messages to iPhones whose users allow notifications. Hoang says he's cautious not to overuse this option, and choses to send notifications for big changes--for example, when the salon is introducing a new service or is featuring a new product. "It's another way to reach people who may not be active on Facebook or Twitter."
Buoyed by the success of the application, Hoang is starting work on similar apps for other phones, such as Blackberry and Droid.