With the continued shift from brick & mortar shopping to online shopping, salons are seeing their retail numbers affected by clients who used to buy products in the salon but now order from their phones and laptops. As salon owners themselves, the folks at SalonBiz could see the trend and had to ask themselves what salon owners could offer that online shopping could not. The answer: SERVICE.
The goal? Coming up with a way to appease the tech-savvy client who relates to her world through her phone, while keeping it an authentic service experience. The result is an app that could transform the industry.
SALON TODAY recently spoke with SalonBiz owner Edwin Neill about the new Pocket Salon app, a free customer-facing app for salons that run SalonBiz.
SALON TODAY: How did you come up with Pocket Salon app and how is it different from other client-facing apps in the beauty industry?
Neill: When we looked at what apps were out there, there were a lot of service finder apps—you want a massage and you find all the places that offer massage in the area. But we do business with high-end salons, and we wanted to increase the intimacy between the client, the salon and the service provider. Stylists are friends on social media with key clients, and owners no longer can stop it, so why not use technology to make the link even stronger between the three?
ST: Give us a quick run-down of what Pocket Salon can do.
Neill: Pocket Salon is an app for individual salons to offer their clients. It’s a white label product, so the customer downloads the app, then goes in and finds their salon. It loads with the salon’s logo on the home screen so it really feels like it’s the salon’s app.
If the client is an existing customer, once they enter their email address they can see products they’ve previously bought and services they’ve had, as well as product recommendations. They can rebook a prior appointment in the app itself by looking at their stylist’s availability, instead of calling the salon. Recommended products show when booking, so they can ask to set those aside for the appointment.
The client has the ability to text her stylist about her upcoming appointment and tell her something like “I want to go shorter this time,” meaning the client has started the consultation through the app. Future versions will allow a client to upload photos for hairstyle inspiration.
Once they’re at the appointment, they can check in without waiting for the front desk, which sends a notification to their stylist that they’re ready. While they’re in the chair, they can look through the products they use and add a product to the service ticket for pickup when they’re done.
At the end of the service, the client can check herself out in the app at the chair, tip in the app (with suggested gratuity levels pre-calculated for them), and skip the front desk entirely.
ST: What challenges have you run into in developing the app?
Neill: Color service booking is one of the biggest challenges we found, because it’s often more than one service, and there’s color complexity to take into account. For color, we figured out a way to rebook a prior service and add highlights and a cut. When they’re in the service, if they add something on—say, a gloss—the stylist can add it in their stylist app, and because all platforms are linked and updating, it shows up on the Pocket Salon app, in their SalonBiz software, in the iPad app and in the Stylist App. The app also has a split screen that allows the guest to see two service providers’ availabilities at the same time. That way she can book her cut and her color service at the same time.
ST: What are some of the benefits of moving so much of the process into the hands of the client?
Neill: Using this app will lower the cost of booking appointments, reducing what salons are spending at the front desk. We think it could increase the salon’s bottom line. Now, front desk and management costs represent 8-10 percent of a salon’s budget, and Pocket Salon can take those costs to 6-8 percent, adding a minimum of 2 percent to the salon’s bottom line. Staff in the salon can be more focused on concierge service, recommending retail and making the guest feel comfortable.
ST: Any kind of technology introduction or conversion can be complicated. How is the setup process for Pocket Salon?
Neill: It’s simple, everything is centered on your core software and is app-based and web-based, meaning live-updating across platforms and apps. If you already have online booking, it’s super, super easy. As long as we have your client’s email, we can access their history.
ST: How are salons getting the word out to clients to use the app once it’s set up?
Neill: We developed a kit to introduce Pocket Salon to salon guests with mirror talkers and door stickers to get current clients to download the app along with an email campaign. Then there are always operators at call centers, as well as service providers letting clients know about the app.
ST: Any final words about why this new app is so exciting to you and to our industry?
Neill: The thing that gets me excited is that Pocket Salon addresses much about what we are hearing that customers don’t like in today’s salon experience, which is the lack of ease of use and communication. This app enhances the stylist’s ability to communicate. The client can look at it and understand what they will be charged for a service. It makes for a seamless, easy experience and addresses profitability by reducing front desk payroll.
It helps tie a client’s loyalty to their salon and makes it easier to tie it to retail. It shows them the products that are recommended from a stylist who knows their hair, not from an algorithm, which is everything online shopping can’t give them.
This is how we can satisfy the client’s desire to shop and experience a brand on demand—putting the salon right in your guest’s pocket.