Tuesday, 27 December 2016 13:34

New Year, New Tools – Maximizing Business Growth in 2017 with New Technology

Written by   Josh McCarter

Welcome to 2017! Are you one of the 53 percent of small businesses that make New Year's resolutions? More than half of business owners say they are more likely to keep business resolutions than personal resolutions. Today's technology makes it easier for spa owners to manage and grow their business without taking time away from the work they love. However, with so many options to choose from, getting started may seem overwhelming. Consider starting with three major functions of the business and finding the tools that can help to take them to the next level in order to make it easy to keep this year's resolutions.

Constant Online Appointment Booking
According to a recent study, 40 percent of bookings occur after-hours, with over one-third of them taking place on mobile devices while customers are on-the-go.1 Many people do not have the time to book appointments unless it is during the rush hour commute or once the kids are in bed. Furthermore, clients who do book during the day may not even want to do so by phone. As a result, it is important to have an online booking option available. If the spa does not offer online booking that clients can access any time of the day or night, a tremendous opportunity is being missed. More than one-third of internet users in the United States find out about small businesses when researching online.2 To capture more than just a website visit in 2017, the spa needs its online presence to include lead-generation capabilities that extend beyond just sharing about the business, what services are provided, and the spa's contact information. Online booking allows clients to check out the spa's full scope of services, choose a professional at the day and time they want, and even get automatic text and e-mail reminders about their appointment, allowing the skin care professional to capture otherwise-lost revenue and increase the number of clients coming through the door. An added bonus is that clients using online booking typically do so by entering an e-mail address when signing up, which provides the skin care professional with a new opportunity to reach out for future marketing efforts.

Jodey McGhee-Conway, founder and owner of Pure Aesthetica in Alexandria, Virginia, has seen firsthand through her business that this feature is gaining popularity among her clients. "Our clients appreciate the ability to manage their appointments online anytime, along with the automatic e-mail and text reminders," she said. But it is not just Pure Aesthetica's clients that are benefitting from the ability to book their appointments online. "Our therapists are most grateful in having mobile access to their schedule, plus e-mail and text communication for new or cancelled appointments."

By routing more appointment scheduling online, the spa and its professionals will have more time to focus on the services it provides and the clients they treat. It is truly a win-win for everyone.

Built-In Review Widgets for the Website
It was reported last year in a survey by BrightLocal that 92 percent of consumers read online reviews when making a decision about a product, store, or service.3
In today's Yelp-driven world, clients pay attention to what others have to say about a business before they even consider looking at services and booking an appointment. In fact, according to the same survey, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations, despite the fact that those reviews are written by complete strangers.

What can skin care professionals do to incorporate reviews into their resolutions for 2017? Think of incentives to motivate the spa's best clients to be ambassadors of the brand and share their positive feedback online. Use those great reviews to the spa's advantage by showcasing them on the website. Find tools that make it easy to collect and display reviews on the spa's website and social media pages with a customizable widget that also provides a feedback loop to owners. This widget allows owners to further enhance the customer experience and respond to negative reviews.

The report also showed that 26 percent of clients looking at reviews also pay attention to whether the business has responded to and addressed the concerns of a client. When a client is unhappy and posts their feelings about it online, it is good practice to respond to their comment and find a way to fix the situation. This practice goes a long way in not only helping to regain the trust of that client, but in showing future clients just how much the skin care professional really cares about their business.

A Point-of-Sale System That Handles More Than Just Payments
Point-of-sale systems can seem overwhelming, however, these systems have come a long way from the old-fashioned cash register on the counter and include a range of sophisticated automation tools that make it easy for any employee to use them. It also logs data to prevent any loss of information.

Automating the payment process for customers is incredibly important and can help business owners avoid having to track and manage customer checkout. Today's point-of-sale systems can do even more than simply speed up the transaction processing. If a spa owner can connect the point of sale with their own business data, such as client profiles and service history, the possibilities to turn clients into repeat customers are endless. This kind of platform would allow the owner to process payments using a stored card already on file, track a client's purchases over time, handle gift certificates or gift cards with the same ease as a credit card, and set up customer loyalty and reward programs.

Connecting the point-of-sale system with a cloud-based business management system can also be beneficial for spa owners. Point-of-sale systems can crash without the ability to be restored. Although that worst-case scenario seems extreme, every business owner must prepare for it. Anything can happen to the spa at a given moment, such as a natural disaster, bad weather, or other unfortunate circumstance. There is always the risk of losing the electronic back-end systems, as well as the very equipment and products used every day. Do not live in fear! Take a few steps to make sure the spa is protected by tapping into the cloud. Using a cloud-based management platform that integrates point of sale with other critical functions ensures that the spa's information is always saved.

Using the point-of-sale system to set up a membership or loyalty program is another way to attract more clients. To get started, the spa owner needs to define a few parameters: action, spending amount, and frequency. From there, the owner can offer perks to motivate clients to complete the necessary requirements to achieve a certain status in order to receive a discount or free service. For instance, if a customer returns five times in one year for a service, they will receive a free pedicure in addition to a discount off products. These rewards easily extend the relationship between the spa and clients and, at the same time, makes the clients feel valued.

Add Artificial Intelligence for Smart Marketing
Broad e-mail blasts and one-size-fits-all promotions are no longer cutting it in today's highly personalized online culture. According to an IBM survey on online shopping behavior, nearly 50 percent of consumers said they want personalized promotions online, which reflects a wider trend of which all business owners should take note.4 Yet, according to a recent report by InfusionSoft and LeadPages, 62 percent of small businesses do not know whether their marketing works.5 If a spa owner wants to grow their business in the new year, it is time to approach marketing differently. Consider borrowing a little technology from the smart products that consumers use each and every day, Siri and Alexa, who can learn and respond to user needs in a more customized way. By applying some of that artificial intelligence to the spa's marketing practices, professionals can take their interactions with clients to a new level.quote

Tools boasting this kind of smart marketing and customer-relationship building are readily available to service small businesses, so local spas can better compete with national franchises and mass-market businesses for the attention of their clients. Some of the better solutions sync directly with a business' management system to access historical customer and transaction data, along with utilization information. How does this benefit a spa owner? There are ample opportunities to fill open slots in the calendar with the highest profit available by promoting them through highly targeted, two-way text and e-mail campaigns. As with online booking, these campaigns create a win-win situation, giving clients a more targeted series of promotions catered to their interests while allowing business owners to identify and sell unused inventory. The result is a lack of empty chairs or massage tables at the spa.

Alayne White, owner of Alayne White Spa in Providence, Rhode Island, takes her targeted marketing very seriously and often looks at her marketing performance to determine how to get the most out of her outreach. "You set up the parameters and then the system does it for you. I try to do an analysis about once every two weeks or more and tweak the parameters to get the most out of it." While White has her hands full with running her spa, she notes, "The system miraculously sends out e-mails or texts to clients.

hese clients can opt in or out, so it is constantly refining the way it sends out these messages so the same people are not getting them over and over. I am noticing that this is booking at least three to five clients a week, maybe more."

2017 is the year to make great things happen for the spa's business, if integrating technologies that will connect multiple operations and make it easier to run the business and focus on the clients. With smart technology to help capture more business after hours, get ahead of customer reviews, leverage client data to improve the experience and make marketing more intelligent than ever before, spa owners are sure to see their resolutions pay off in the growth of their business and brand.

1 Sterling, G. (2016, May 4). Study: 40% of Online Appointment Scheduling
Happening After-Hours.
2 eMarketer. (2016, August). Small Business Marketing Roundup.
3 BrightLocal. (2016). Local Consumer Review Survey 2016.
4 Wegert, T. (2015, June 4). The Future Is Personalized.
5 Infusionsoft. (2016, January, 20). 2016 Small Business Marketing Trends Report.

Josh-McCarterJosh McCarter co-founded Booker in 2010 and has served as the company's CEO since its inception. McCarter is focused on expanding Booker's reach through partnerships and client relationships while creating a culture of innovation and excellence in Booker's offices around the world. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science-International Relations as a Cum Laude Graduate at the University of California, Los Angeles and his Master of Business Administration at the University of Southern California. McCarter currently serves on the board of SpaFinder.

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