Change is in the air, and it’s here to stay.
It is needless to say that everything has changed in the past six months, but while some things may slowly return back to ‘normal’, it is important to understand that certain things will never be as they used to pre-COVID, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. From new hygiene standards to the end of front desks and virtual options galore, we chatted to Hema Prakash, APAC General Manager at Mindbody about the future of spas and clinics.
What are the key points of difference for businesses when it comes to the ‘new normal’?
HP: As customers return to salons and spas, we expect the beauty industry will find a ‘new normal’ with the customer experience looking and feeling quite different.
New hygiene requirements, coupled with a surge of demand, will make walk-ins a thing of the past. Salon owners that replace walk-ins with a waitlist – and effectively communicate this new way of working to clients – will prevent clients from walking out of their salon without an appointment and booking in to another. It’s important for businesses to implement waitlists and consider opening up bookings earlier than ever before.
One of the most noticeable key points of difference will be the removal of the front desk. Salons and spas offer high-touch services and cannot inherently follow strict social distancing rules. In order to reduce in store contact we will see a contactless check-in trend and of equal importance, the requirement of pre-payment of appointments. This month we launched Mindbody Bowtie.ai technology in Australia which enables businesses to have a ‘contact-free’ virtual receptionist. The artificial intelligence features assist businesses, namely spas and salons, by automatically booking clients, answering questions and enabling live chat over SMS. With Bowtie, businesses gain access to efficient “digital desk employees”, preventing the need for clients to check-in using a shared phone or tablet.
What are the new trends we are starting to see throughout the beauty and wellness industry?
HP: One of the new trends we have already experienced and we believe will continue to remain relevant is virtual consultations. As salons and spas are pressed for time, implementing virtual consultations will eliminate the extra time required for cleaning and losing a chair.
We are also starting to see the growth in popularity of boutique grooming and beauty businesses that specialise in niche service offerings. This can be attributed to their ability to adapt their limited service menu to health and safety protocols. During lockdown a lot of Australians turned to ‘self-care’ as we collectively felt the loss of a service we regularly relied on. Now restrictions have lifted, more Aussies are looking to treat themselves to beauty services than ever before, including increased spending habits on boutique wellness offerings.
We are starting to see the growth in popularity of boutique grooming and beauty businesses that specialise in niche service offerings.
What are steps business owners need to take in order to stay current/in demand?
HP: We don’t envision staying in demand being a difficult task for established businesses as spas and salons are experiencing a surge in customers returning to beauty salons and spas since reopening. However, that’s not to say that businesses should not consider innovations to stay current in the market.
Three Steps to Stay Current:
- Review and update your service menu: As business owners prepare to re-open to full capacity it’s the perfect time to review your service menu. Could you offer a new service? Could you drop some of your existing services and focus on more popular offerings that drive revenue? There are going to be a lot of people who have eagerly awaited your business reopening—make sure you are offering services that are the most in demand but also make the biggest impact on your bottom line. Ensure all your offers are accessible and payable online or via your branded app, where applicable.
- Consider your pricing: It is important to protect your bottom line and some businesses are considering a “COVID-19 tax” of around 5% on services, given the cost of remaining open. However, keep in mind that some customers will have been affected by the pandemic in some shape or form. Consider offering ‘return to salon’ deals which will help entice your customers to return quicker and more frequently to your business. Regular memberships are critical but equally important is the introduction of new clients and creating appealing customer packages should be top of mind.
- Increase your social media presence: If COVID-19 has taught the industry anything, it is how important it is to stay connected with your customers. Increase your social media presence by sharing regular business updates including available appointments, answering FAQ’s and Government guideline updates.
What do you think are clients’ biggest concerns right now when visiting a spa or clinic?
HP: Naturally, cleanliness is top of mind for returning clients. Beyond implementing cleaning measures, it is important that beauty businesses over-communicate the cleaning guidelines they have put in place to put customers’ minds at ease. Many Mindbody studio owners have designated cleaning pages on their websites, EDMs and social media posts to communicate their cleaning and social distancing measures.
Will virtual wellness services stick around into the future?
HP: Definitely – virtual offerings will continue to be a part of the ‘new normal’. At Mindbody we launched the Virtual Wellness platform during COVID-19 which enabled fitness, beauty and wellness businesses to upload and share pre-recorded videos to their customers or create a live video stream via direct and secure links.
Many businesses have now diversified their revenue stream by maintaining their virtual offering alongside their in-person services. Outside of virtual consultations, we can expect to see salons and spas using the virtual platform service to host customer tutorials and live stream industry events and classes. As a consumer myself, I look forward to the evolution of our industry.