SLOWLY BUT SURELY online booking has overhauled everything from ordering takeaway to booking hotels, but some industries haven’t quite caught up.
One industry yet to fully embrace technology is that of hair and beauty salons, where the bookings are still traditionally taken over the phone using pen and paper.
An Irish startup called Beutifi is looking to cash in on the niche by giving salons a place where they can facilitate e-bookings.
Beutifi founder and chief executive Richard Spence said the company’s plan is to simply “move the industry online”.
“Our own industry research has shown that that up to 70% of bookings are still offline and over 85% of salons are still unable to deal with online bookings,” he said.
“To me it is crazy that only 1% of (salon) bookings happen online. That’s not from a lack of customers wanting to book online, they just can’t because there are no facilities to do so.”
Today Beutifi announced it acquired UK booking service SalonAddicts and Spence said his team is focusing on growing in the territory, where it will take on other booking services like Treatwell. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.
“(SalonAddicts) have a large customer base, so it made sense to make a move to acquire them, giving us 1,000 new salons in UK,” he said.
“In Ireland we are now the largest provider of online booking for salons and have plans to move into even more European cities as we continue to scale.”
Benefits for salons
Spence said the hotel industry is a great example of a sector that has embraced online booking, but it is not as easy for salon owners.
“Salons always need new customers and are looking to tap into the next generation of 16- to 18-year-olds. This age group get nearly everything they need online so it makes sense for salons to be there,” he said.
“However, salons are typically small businesses and owned by the person who runs it. They don’t have the time to run their online presence.”
Managing the online presence of salons and developing partnerships with big salon groups like Style Club is how Beutifi makes ends meet.
By paying a monthly subscription fee of €25, salons advertise their services on Beutifi, show availability times, and take in online bookings from users. For €50 per month, salons also get their own branded website.
Even in Ireland, where Beutifi has expanded rapidly since its mid-2014 launch, the company faces an increasingly crowded marketplace with Treatswell and other rivals like Myzanadoo and WhatSalon all jostling for customers.
Nevertheless, this year the startup forecasts it will grow the value of the bookings it takes for salons from €2 million to €10 million.
It has the backing of Enterprise Ireland and the NDRC, which invested a combined €45,000 in the startup last year, according to its most-recent company filings.