Spas and salons are reopening. But are guests coming back?

Businesses with modern processes see faster recoveries.

Spas and salons are reopening. But are guests coming back?

While the fight with COVID-19 continues, many states in the US have started lifting restrictions on businesses and public spaces. There are vast variations across states in the opening of their economies, but the trend is unmistakable.

The question that still lingers uneasily in every business owner’s mind is whether people are ready to step out and visit their outlets. This is especially true of the beauty and wellness industry. A haircut may be essential. But the bulk of their business is in other services. The worry, therefore, is not about their spas and salons opening, but whether they will open successfully.

The good news, in a nutshell, is “Yes”.

The data speaks in a cheerful voice

In states that have opened, the beauty and wellness industry is bouncing back strongly. Zenoti has vast real-time data on spa, salon and med-spa brands that use its platform. And the numbers we are seeing support an optimistic outlook.

Florida, for example, opened on 11th May. The first week saw 123% bookings compared to the same period last year. During the recovery period, Florida businesses have enjoyed a growth of nearly 25%.

A more representative example may be Missouri. The first week, after the reopening on 4th May, saw bookings at 75% compared to the same period last year. But, within two weeks, this improved to 97%. Business for salons and spas in Missouri is rapidly returning to normal.

Even regulatory restrictions don’t seem to affect this recovery process. Tennessee began reopening beauty & wellness businesses on 6th May with significant restrictions — salons and spas in major cities are only allowed to reopen gradually. In fact, Nashville will allow salons to reopen at only 50% capacity beginning 25th May. Yet, despite all these restrictions, salons, spas, and med-spas have experienced respectable recovery rates, improving from 57% to 73% in a three-week period when compared to the same weeks last year.

(Note: The above data pertains to Zenoti-powered businesses. Detailed numbers can be accessed here.)

There is, therefore, much cause for optimism. Data shows that the future looks bright for salons, spas, and med-spas despite hard hits brought on by the coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean things are exactly like before, and all a salon has to do is open its doors. Our studies have shown that businesses must take specific steps to ensure a successful reopening.

The right to reopen vs reopening right

Scott Missad, CEO of Gene Juarez Salon and Spa, recently shared an insightful perspective on reopening following temporary shutdowns. He said,

“As a salon and spa brand striving to be best in class, we are completely focused on reopening in a profound way. The most critical part of this is ensuring the health and safety standards are paramount for our team and guests alike. Our intention is for our guests to understand that no stone is [left] unturned relative to their safety in our spaces.”

This captures the two key challenges for the beauty and wellness industry today. One, how we ensure the safety of employees as well as guests, and two, how do we clearly signal this improved safety standard to the community.

Most businesses are taking steps toward meeting these challenges. Jennifer Cutillo, COO BeBalanced Hormone Weight Loss Centers, says,

“We have found that investing in personal protective equipment makes our guests feel safe in our stores. Seeing our staff wearing masks and offering masks to our guests helps put everyone at ease.”

Making proper physical preparations — like implementing new sanitation standards — is important but meeting post-COVID expectations means much more. It’s also about finding ways for employees and customers to keep up with all the changes easily and conveniently. And that’s where technology comes in.

The “new normal” is powered by technology

I had published an article a couple of months back that predicted the successful recovery of spa/salon businesses provided they adapted to changed “pressures” — In this, I emphasized technology as the key to adaptation. Recent events have borne this out.

Salons, spas, and med-spas using technology to help in their reopening efforts have a significant advantage. A salon using two-way texting capability makes following social distancing guidelines easy. For instance, customers can wait in their cars until their service provider is ready to see them, thereby avoiding lingering in lounges. Similarly, beauty and wellness businesses with mobile apps can ask customers to use their mobile phone during check-in and check-out to avoid interacting with front-desk staff or touching POS equipment.

PROSE, a national nail salon and spa chain with thirteen locations across the country, experienced first-hand how technology improved their reopening. Beau Citron the VP of Operations at PROSE recently told me,

“We started off by making changes to our physical spaces and adding personal protection equipment requirements for staff and guests. But what really helped us go above and beyond has been the technology that helps us deliver even safer experiences. Our automated two-way texting capabilities and our PROSE mobile app help our guests arrive just in time for their appointments and breeze right through the check-in and check-out process. We maintain social distancing and avoid unnecessary contact easily and with unprecedented convenience. Of course, the important part is communicating expectations with our guests. Making sure they understand why we’re implementing new policies or why we want them to try using our app shows we take their safety seriously.”

All business owners know that communication is key. But, as PROSE experienced during reopening, that rule has never been more important. Implementing new sanitation guidelines and leveraging technology will not inspire customer confidence if they don’t know about the new measures, or don’t understand how it benefits their health and wellbeing. Chris Brown, Owner of 18|8 Fine Men’s Salon, said it best,

“Making sure our customers know how we plan on using two-way texting and our mobile app to maintain social distancing and reduce touch points has been so important to our reopening strategy. Our guests not only see the benefits of communicating and checking in and out with their mobile phones, they also see we really care about their safety. They see we’re going the extra mile, and that builds trust in our brand.”

Effective communication with customers builds trust, allowing them to feel secure about their decision to come in for a service or treatment. Communicating the “why’s” and “how’s” effectively means reaching customers at the right time, through the right method. And technology allows all this to happen seamlessly.

The future of touch

As the recovery process continues, safe interactions will be an essential expectation. So, contactless processes are here to stay. But this is also an excellent opportunity for the beauty and wellness industry because these processes lead to an elevated consumer experience — convenient exploration and booking through a mobile app, automatic check-ins & payments, seamless ratings and referrals, and personalized communication. Technology enables it all. Stephanie Adams at Dermani Medspa, recently told our Zenoti team,

“With Georgia being one of the first states to re-open, we were one of the first medical spas in the country faced with safely re-opening. We systematically took our time to make sure we had all of our policies and procedures in place before opening our doors again to our clients. Zenoti was instrumental in this process. They helped us create new forms for the safety of our clients and our staff. We hope that our process and experience helped Zenoti to help others with their re-opening efforts as well.”

It has been a very gratifying few weeks personally, to see so many of our customers reopen so successfully, and I must admit to a feeling of pride that we played a role in this. But this also makes me reaffirm my commitment to ensure that Zenoti continues to develop cutting edge technology for the beauty and wellness industry.

The logistics around guest experience may become contactless, but the service, as always, touches people and their lives. If you reopen right, they will come…

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