Approximately 70% of new customers will choose whether to visit a business based on information they find online. Your website, not your front desk, is your biggest first impression-maker. So how do you put your website to work?  We’ve built hundreds of salon websites and have pored over the analytics to find what guests want most in a site.  While we could go on for hours on this, we’ve narrowed it to our top 5 tips for converting web traffic into foot traffic:

Intro Offer: Do you have an incentive for a new guest to book their first service? If you don’t, you should, And it should a focal point on your site. 70% of salon website traffic are new visitors – they’re checking you out, and an intro offer will help make their buying decision easy breezy.  Hint: Measure your web intro offer monthly. It’s a top new client driver averaging about 20 – 40+ new guests per location, depending on your brand equity and market.

Toot your own horn: If you don’t brag about your own salon, whom do you expect to?  Put biggest accomplishments front and center. Win “best of your city” or make the Salon Today 200 list? Partner with a local charity? Do hair for Miss Your-State-Here in her big pageant? Put the good news on your homepage. Guests want a salon they can name-drop; make it easy for them to brag.

Show off your space: Before I go to a restaurant, I always check out photos of their location on Google, Instagram, Yelp and Facebook to get a feel for their vibe (and help me decide what to wear). Interior shots influence buying decisions and help people know what to expect before they walk through the door. Incorporate photos of your space at its cleanest – floors swept, lights on, chairs all pointed the same direction, no messy color bowls muddying the countertops.  Investing in a professional photographer can really pay off, but if you don’t have the funds, your iPhone or a portfolio-hungry photography student can work wonders.

Let the people speak: People WILL read your reviews before deciding whether to come in. 92% of web users read online reviews before selecting a business, and 74% of those won’t select a business with a poor reputation (meaning 3 stars or less). While it’s good to speak highly of yourself (see #2), it’s even better to let others do the talking. Feature a live review feed – one that pulls directly from review sites in real-time – so people don’t have to leave your site to visit Yelp or Google. Have a 1-star review that’s breaking your heart? Don’t let it rule your thoughts. A 1-star review in a sea of 5-star reviews demonstrates more authenticity than a perfect score. Consumers are savvy and can weed out the one-offs.  Hint: Respond to all bad reviews, gracefully and respectfully; this endears you to potential new guests.

Be phone friendly: It’s 2019 and this should go without saying, but your website has to be mobile-friendly. 65-70% of all salon site traffic is from a smartphone, so if your site doesn’t look amazing or work well on a phone, you’re losing customers. They should be able to click-to-call your front desk, book online on their time (late-night online browsing = purchases!) and clearly see your photos without the dreaded pinch-and-zoom. To evaluate your site, visit https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly, and let Google determine if you’re up to par. If you fail their test, I’d make a new website your highest priority.

The importance of a good salon website can’t be overstated. These best practices will help your new guest count, and ensure that you’re getting the right guests and team members for the salon of your dreams. Mix these tips with a showcase of your brand personality: are you a rock waterfall and a shot of wheatgrass? Or are you metal music and constant bookings for extreme chops & fashion colors? Perceptive cyber-stalkers will get to know you online; entice them with your best. Your stylists will be prouder, your guests’ expectations exceeded, and retention of both will soar.

About the Author: Lauren Bakos is Creative Strategy Director of the award-winning Imaginal Marketing Group, a full service agency specializing in the salon and spa industry.  She has taught marketing and social media classes to thousands of salon and spa owners across North America, and has won numerous awards for creativity in marketing. Lauren spends her days chatting with salon owners, dreaming up new ideas, testing them out in the real world, and sharing what works (and what doesn’t).  You can reach her at lauren@immarketinggroup.com.