Only a few years ago, the words “cell phone” and “salon” would conjure images of an easy way to entertain your child while mommy got a haircut. But that’s all starting to change. A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 56% of American adults are smartphone owners as of May 2013, up over 20% from 2012. And if you’re the owner of a hair salon or spa, you might have noticed – more and more of your customers are already using their smartphones during your interactions. (For risk management strategies for salon and spa owners, check out our article "5 Ways to Protect Your Salon, Spa, Beauty Parlor, Massage Parlor, or Barber Shop.")
“There’s an app for that” – It’s not just a slogan anymore, but our reality. The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population by the end of this year, reports Cisco Systems, Inc. And with this explosion in mobile devices comes an equally lucrative explosion in mobile apps.
Lori Heffernon, owner of Oasis Day Spa in Madison, Wis., chose to take advantage of the app frenzy. She took a class on mobile app creation as a part of a business development program, and created a usable app for her spa.
Insureon was lucky enough to have Lori share with us her experience of creating a mobile app. Here are some of the dos and don’ts Lori shared with us:
Do try to do it yourself. Many companies now offer “app-in-a-box” software that can be learned with ease. With pre-designed interfaces, you are able to pick the pictures, titles and layouts that best fit what you want the app to do. Though the money-saving aspect is great, Lori says creating the app herself was not only more cost efficient, but also allowed her to become a trendsetter and authority figure.
“The more knowledge, the more you invest in yourself – the better you’re going to be,” Lori said. “ When people call on me, I can supply the knowledge behind it myself.”
Do use your app to solve a problem. One of the biggest problems Lori had was cancellations. There was no way to efficiently reach out to her regular customers when an appointment became available. Frequently this contributed to revenue loss. But instead of just dealing with it, Lori included a feature that let customers know when an appointment became available and offered a first come, first served special price.
Because the app uses push notifications to send information directly to clients’ cell phones, the risk of having an e-mail go unread is avoided. Most of the notifications are opened. The reason?
“They can’t get into their phone unless they’ve seen it,” Lori said.
Using push notifications to advertise new services, and special offers for openings for the day has proved effective.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, we get it booked,” Lori said.
Do offer an incentive. Lori’s app offers regular customers exclusive specials and deals. But this sometimes isn’t enough to get people to download the app.
The New York Times featured Magic Beans, a Boston-Area children’s store, as an early adopter of mobile apps for small business. However, as the app was used in 2010 – when only 62.6 million Americans had smartphones, according to EMarketer.com – only 5 percent of Magic Beans clients took advantage of it.
But now, in 2013, over 137 million Americans own a smartphone – double the number from 2010. And with more and more businesses expanding into the mobile realm, Lori thinks it’s crucial to give your customers a good incentive to let your business take up space on their phones. Lori gives her customers a $10 discount – she believes by requiring her customers to “do an action” to receive a reward, they become active customers, and not just consumers.
Don’t be overbearing. By limiting the number of notifications they send a week, Lori uses her small business mobile app “as a tool to make people happy” – not to annoy them. Though she doesn’t expect them to keep the app forever, the time they use it allows for many happy repeat customers.
“It’s been an easy communication tool with them and us,” Lori said.
Do use your app to extend your existing marketing techniques. Oasis has offered a Groupon in the past. Lori said that having a mobile app with exclusive specials available was helpful in turning new customers into regulars. Lori said the popularity of daily deal sites like Groupon has driven down the price customers are willing to pay on salon services, especially massages. Through her mobile app, she is able to offer customers similar deals with the same ease – without having to involve a third party that drains profit.
Don’t take on more than you can handle. Because the app does not store secure information, such as credit card information, Lori sees the app as relatively low-risk. But she knows not to take her chances by doing everything herself.
“Everything’s changing – the Internet is always moving faster than one person can know or keep up with,” Lori said. “We do our best to stay up to date as much as we can.”
You can never be too safe with dealing with cyber risk. Along with consulting an IT professional, insureon recommends speaking with your insurance agent before implementing a mobile app and seeing if you should include Cyber Liability Coverage into your existing General Liability Insurance.