Boost Productivity With Digital Tools and Mobile Apps

Our most recent and upcoming Better Business Digital Supplement are sponsored by Redken, Matrix, PureOlogy, L’Orèal Professional, Mizani, Baxter of California, SalonCentric, Essie and Decleor–this is must-see content that you don’t want to miss.

These digital tools and mobile apps boost productivity faster than you can say “free download.”

Once upon a time, hairdressers’ most important professional tools were the ones they kept in a drawer and sharpened once a year. Nowadays, beauty professionals have a whole host of online tools and apps to help with everything from craft to business-building. These are tools that sharpen you.

➔ Web-based platforms

There are many types of tools available online but the two most important categories for beauty professionals are locators and online booking. There’s a lot of crossover, with many sites offering both features plus—more often than not—a review function. Most integrate with social media in some way; those that don’t are moving in that direction.

General market locators like Yelp, Google and Yahoo provide search results that are derived from algorithms which are proprietary to each one. To keep companies from gaming the system, they won’t tell what drives the algorithms, but most experts agree that engagement across multiple online platforms—social media, the salon’s website and other search sites—is a key factor in moving up in searches.

There are also a number of locator sites that are specific to the beauty industry: StyleSeat, Bloom and Bangstyle, to name a few. Most major brands have locators on their websites for salon customers. Redken and Pureology both have salon finders on their websites that link directly to StyleSeat.

Online booking is perhaps the single biggest game-changer in the salon business today. Clients are accustomed to shopping online, making transactions with a click or a touch of the screen; forced to take that extra step of making a phone call to book an appointment, many won’t. Online booking enables clients to book in the middle of the night, from a subway platform, at the beach, in a noisy nightclub—wherever and whenever the mood strikes them.

StyleSeat is a scheduling/booking site designed specifically for salons and spas. Schedulicity, a more general-interest site, books appointments for everything from restaurants to psychics. Businesses register on these sites to get found, and in the case of StyleSeat, it’s free. On most online booking sites, the schedule lives on their platform, and interfaces with the salon in different ways. Some don’t actually schedule at all, but send an email to the salon with the appointment request, which must then be followed up with a text, email or phone call. Others integrate with the salon’s own scheduling software. This provides a more seamless and comprehensive approach, since the site is able to “see” where actual availabilities exist and book appointments to fill them.

➔ Desktop Software

Salon productivity software has been around for a long time. What’s new and different these days is the ways in which these programs are interacting with social media, and facilitating mobile access to functions like scheduling and reporting.

“Our clients are heavy users of social media,” says Lauren Beatty, product manager for Daysmart, makers of Salon Iris software, which enables users to post directly to Facebook and Twitter from within the program. It also has an online booking feature that allows the salon to embed its booking tool on its Facebook profile, so visitors can book directly from that site.

Millennium Systems International, makers of Millennium salon software, recently partnered with Demandforce to offer online bookings through Yelp, effectively integrating aspects of a review site and social media with the online booking function. Millennium’s scheduling function is uniquely suited to the needs of the salon industry, according to John Harms, company founder and CEO, because appointments can be segmented to allow the stylist to take on other scheduled tasks during downtime, say, while a client’s color is processing.

➔ Mobile Apps

The word "app" was originally short for “application,” a somewhat wonkified term for a piece of software with a fairly specific purpose. It’s used these days almost exclusively to refer to mobile apps, which work on smartphones and tablets. Mobile apps may have companion desktop versions, but the app will usually be scaled down and nimbler, designed to be used on the go. It will also be scalable, meaning the content sizes itself to the device.

Apps have revolutionized beauty professionals' lives, from enabling mobile access to color formulations to capturing client contact information to making it possible to post to social media directly from the chair. In a business where everyone moves around a lot and almost no one works behind a desk, apps are a no-brainer.

➔ Building Your Tool Kit

Start online with appointment scheduling and a locator. Sites like StyleSeat and Google spend loads of money, driving consumers to their sites. Registering there and taking ownership of your salon presence on these platforms means you benefit from the kind of marketing effort even the biggest salon couldn’t make on its own.

Be a student of business. Every beauty show has seminars on digital marketing and social media. Trade magazines like this one, and trade organizations like the Professional Beauty Association, are resources that offer help and advice that’s tailor-made for you.

Determine your level of comfort with technology and let that be your guide. Or find the resources, either inside your organization or outside—as you would if you needed a plumber or electrician—to take on what you need to get done. Are you a pioneer? Most of us aren’t, so it’s better to stay with the tried-and-true. If you are, spread your wings. Just make sure your efforts don’t cause you to lose sight of what’s already working well for you. And be sure to show up in all the places your clients expect to find you online; your competitors will certainly be there whether you are or not.

Ted Gibson strikes again

On Instagram, he has more than 105K followers, and 172K hang on his every tweet. Now celebrity stylist and eponymous salon owner Ted Gibson is in your phone. The new Ted Gibson app enables clients of his Manhattan salon to book appointments day or night, whether they’re stuck in traffic or strolling the High Line. Clients can also check their balance on the salon’s Gibson Girl points rewards system and—if they download the app while in the salon—get 10 percent off their next service. Says Gibson, “We’re always thinking about new ways to reach our customer

Naja Rickette is a living example of the power of social media to level the playing field. The former owner of a West Hollywood, California nail salon, Rickette is now flying solo, glamming up celebrities like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga and doing sold-out pop-up tours around the country. She’s hit the Facebook cap of 5K followers, with thousands more following her on Instagram and Twitter. Fans are hooked by Rickette’s cutting-edge nail designs and upbeat persona, both of which are on display in the nail selfies she regularly posts. “Your posts should always tie in to what you do,” she says.

A lead educator for Essie, Rickette also runs VBP, a consulting business for beauty professionals, which she and partner David Anthony built on nothing more than their accumulated talent and social media savvy. Rickette says the booking feature of StyleSeat has been a business builder. The new company’s first class sold out thanks to the one-two punch of social media and online booking. “I started posting a month or two before the launch, getting people excited. Then when we were ready to start, we did a few posts on Facebook and Instagram: ‘Sign up now. We’re only taking 20 people.’” Because there was an easy way to book online through, the class filled—fast. “I made a profit of $6,000 off three or four posts,” Rickette says.

Because she’s no longer affiliated with a brick-and-mortar salon, Rickette also uses the e-commerce function of StyleSeat for retailing. She links to the site via social media posts and fans click through to StyleSeat to purchase online: instant gratification all around. Says Rickette, “I don’t have to carry any inventory, or do any shipping. And I get commission on every sale, as if I were working in a big salon.”