Technology Case Study: Salon Apps

By Stacey Soble | 07/19/2010 12:13:00 PM


The next tech frontier in a world where technology is constantly evolving, these owners are the pioneers.

Khiem Hoang originally developed Umbrella Salon’s mobile App as a solution to the problem iPhone users had accessing the salon’s website—now he sees it as a direct connection between their phones and the salon.

NESTLED IN SAN JOSE, right in Apple Corporation’s backyard, is Umbrella Salon. Considering the surroundings, there’s little surprise that Khiem Hoang, Umbrella’s business manager, was one of the first owners to produce a mobile iPhone application for his salon. “I was proud of our salon’s artistic website, but I was also frustrated, because more than 400,000 iPhone users in the area couldn’t access the Flash-based site through their phones,” he says. “We discovered it was more cost effective to develop the App, than it was to reprogram our site.”

The simple App features a few photos of the salon and allows users to directly download the salon’s number, access directions to the salon or e-mail the front desk for an appointment request. “It’s not content rich, but it is information-rich, designed to provide direct connection from the clients’ phones to our front desk,” he says.

A Multi-Prong Approach

Roy Fredericks, co-owner of Austin’s Avant Salon Spa, always hears people comparing and contrasting one digital technology versus another—web versus Twitter versus Facebook versus e-mail. “But great businesses do it all at once,” he says. But what Fredericks doesn’t do, is communicate the same way through each tool. Here’s how he breaks it down:
WEBSITE: “This is our online menu, our brochure.”
FACEBOOK PAGE: “This is the face of Avant. It’s our company’s personality, and should never be used as a sales tool.”
TWITTER: “This is a news feed—a place to broadcast news about charities we support, events and promotions. At Avant, each manager creates a promo daily based on resource availability.”
THE AVANT APP: “This is our ‘salon’ —a place to share and educate through conversation. Salons have always been about where people learn about what’s happening in fashion, music, food, and local events.
E-MAIL: “This is the most-effective, web-based marketing we use. We have a list of 35,000 emails, and we do a monthly communication to all clients for the cost of about $130 a month.”
It cost Hoang about $400 to develop the App, and he says 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 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 its first week Hoang reported 562 click-throughs and 40 appointment requests. “I truly believe people are going mobile and it’s the best way to connect with people and the world instantaneously,” he says.

In Austin, Texas, Roy Fredericks, co-owner of Avant Salon Spa, has always been an early adopter of technology—his salon has been computer automated since 1987, and he launched the salon’s first website in 1997. When it came time to design a salon App, he wanted it to be more than a glorified website.

“We wanted it to be an interactive App-zine that celebrated the faces, music and events that make Austin a great city,” he says. “I’m surrounded by these crazy technology people and I’ve always been into guerilla marketing. This is guerilla marketing at its finest.”

For example, the latest edition of the App-zine revolves around the upcoming Austin Fashion Week and Austin City Limits Music Festival. Through the App, viewers can purchase tickets, add their name to the list of people going, or post comments and images. They can also listen to music snippets from bands that played last spring’s South by Southwest Festival, read the salon’s live Twitter and Facebook feeds, peruse salon imagery, view a collection of fashion, hair and music videos, meet the Avant ‘tribe’ of employees, and connect to the salon.

To encourage clients to engage with the App-zine, Fredericks is giving away a chance to win a free iPad—to enter the lottery, users simply have to download the free app and sign up. In addition, he’ll be using Push Notifi cation to send messages to subscribers’ phones regarding promotions and discounts from businesses that Avant partners with. “This App-zine does what salons have always done—it extends the community. We wanted to add value without marketing—we wanted this App to bring the ‘salon’ part of what we do,” he says.

“According to Nielsen Research, in 2008 there were 2.1 million iPhone users in the United States. In 2009, that number had grown to 6.5 million iPhone users.”
—Khiem Hoang, Umbrella Salon, in a presentation he gave at the Owner’s Forum at Oribe Backstage Las Vegas.

To hear audio interviews with Hoang and the other owner presenters, visit

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Stacey Soble Stacey Soble, Editor in Chief of Salon Today

Stacey has been involved in the conversation of salon business for 14 years—as a reporter, a consultant and as the Editor in Chief of SALON TODAY.

Read Stacey Soble's Blogs You can e-mail Stacey at


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