How I Am Tackling An Offline Industry With My On-Demand Startup
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Launching a tech-based business can be daunting enough, but when faced with guiding the behavioral and business habits of an entire industry from offline to online the challenges are not to be underestimated. One of the most dangerous phrases in the business world has to be: “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
On a basic level, there are areas in which tech has infiltrated the daily practices of beauty salons, mostly by adopting a desktop booking system (two of the most common are Shortcuts and Manage My Spa). These programs serve as no more than a simple online calendar and offer no other digital integration with the day-to-day operations of the business. The beauty service industry has yet to be convinced by the notion that customer interaction can be or should be digitized, noting that usually the ritualistic activity of visiting your favorite hairdresser means that they know your kids’ names, favorite magazines to read, and do all they can to make you feel at home.
The fear from most salons? Removing any part of this customer-to-outlet communication (even during the booking process) and replacing it with a digital experience will mean that a part of the customer service aspect will go underserved.
The truth of the matter is of course quite to the contrary. Digitalizing the time-consuming and tedious booking process, as my startup BEEM does, enables salons to respond faster and more efficiently to clients, maintain and utilize accurate data collection, and finally, it allows the business to review booking trends. This can help the business determine things like peak days and hours, together with the most requested services- leading to better staffing and tailored market offering.
The key highlights from your pitch deck have no place when convincing an offline business to adopt an online schema- owners don’t want to know about the perfect UI you’ve created and the revolutionary functionality you’ve attached to the backend. They want a simple, concise and clear version of what you do and why they need it- with a little extra sparkle on top.
MAKE YOUR BUSINESS RELATABLE TO THE TECH NOVICE
My job so far in this journey has been to glamorize tech, as I’ve found a slick logo and brand, paired with active social media platforms, go a long way in this. Approaching offline businesses with a portfolio of numbers and stats certainly impresses a room of my fellow ‘treps, but it hasn’t proved to be a viable sales technique to brick-and-mortar vendors (at least not in the first interaction). Opening the door with a quick how-to explainer video of how your technology works -make sure this doesn’t exceed 30 seconds- and making the app or CRM relatable with phrases like: “It’s basically Uber for the salon industry,” or “It’s like WhatsApp but with costumer data,” have proven to yield much more positive results with businesses that aren’t inclined in the direction of tech.
HIGHLIGHT EASE OF INTEGRATION
Bringing all points back to a simplified and improved customer experience at the salon may seem like your winning route, but as I’ve found, it’s actually not. Salons want to ensure that their customers are happy and they are always looking for ways to stay ahead of the competition. The more you sell them on how undisruptive and fluidly intergraded your system can be to their current process, the more positive the response. It’s not that these industries aren’t open to change, but, unlike in the digital world, a human decision will be the deciding factor as to whether or not they want to work with your business, and the less of a headache you can make it for the decision-maker, the more responsive they will be.
PRESENT SIMPLE SOLUTIONS
One of BEEM’s main USPs over our competitors has been creating an external system to slowly ease our salons into the digital sphere rather than rushing in with a fully integrated, fully customizable application for each branch complete with tricky log-in processes and more data than the receptionist actually needs. If you’re asking the salon staff to take more than five minutes on a platform, you’re asking too much.
Our solution was to offer something that’s already made, already works and all they have to do is plug in an iPad. We removed the stress of having to find someone in the salon who can handle computer or tech errors (this is usually the receptionist), and giving them additional responsibility in an unfamiliar area. BEEM handles every part of the backend and troubleshooting process, all the receptionist has to do is confirm a beauty appointment in three taps– no extra effort required.
It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Baby steps, an incredibly focused solution, and that little bit of extra branding sparkle have been my three keys to unlocking the digital beauty landscape. Once you’ve overcome these hurdles, you will have successfully guided your offline industry down an online path. My only problem now? Convincing the receptionist to keep the iPad charged.