#8 on the Franchise 500: Great Clips Reinvents the Haircut Experience The #8 company on our Franchise 500 list has an app that's been downloaded more than 10 million times, tracking customer appointments, history, and preferences.

By Patrick Carone

This story appears in the January 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Great Clips

Started franchising: 1983
Total units: 4,513
Cost to open: $136.9K–$258.3K

Haircuts are nothing new, but just about every other aspect of the Great Clips experience is. "Our core business is haircuts," says Steve Hockett, CEO of the top hair-care company on this year's Franchise 500, "yet a key driver is our ability to innovate."

That innovation began in 2011, when Great Clips debuted an online check-in tool to allow customers to view wait times and add their names. It's now the primary feature of the Great Clips mobile app, which was relaunched in 2016 and hit 10 million downloads in 2018. "The app takes the front door of our 4,513 salons and inserts it into our customers' pockets," says Hockett. Once a customer is in the seat, tech takes over again: The stores tap into a global database dubbed Clip Notes, which contains detailed information about each customer's last haircut.

Related: The 3 Most Consistent Businesses From the Franchise 500 List

Social media is also integral to both the customer experience and brand building. "This is a very visual, very personal industry," Hockett explains, "so we looked at the emerging augmented-reality space and identified a natural way to make that come alive." This year, Great Clips debuted its first Snapchat lens, which adds exaggerated, cartoonish hairstyles -- the Bunshine, the Ultimullet -- to selfies, and racked up hundreds of thousands of users. The company saw a direct connection between Snapchat ads and salon sales.

Related: The Most Powerful Brands in Franchising

Customers aren't the only ones benefiting from this tech focus. Significant elements of Great Clips' training programs now sit on a web-based platform that franchisees access via tablet. "We're all in this together," says Hockett.

To see our complete Franchisee 500 rankings, please click here, or view more stories here.

Patrick Carone

Entrepreneur Staff

Special Projects Director

Patrick Carone covers all aspects of entrepreneurship, specializing in the automotive, entertainment, hospitality, spirits and cannabis industries.

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