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The beauty salon gets an online makeover

Unlike the fashion and homewares categories, retailers in the beauty and wellness services space – such as barber shops, nail salons and massage studios – have largely been unaffected by the rise of e-commerce.

Indeed, the fact that consumers still need to physically walk into a salon to get a haircut or manicure is seen as such an advantage that bricks-and-mortar retailers in other categories have started offering beauty and wellness services as a way to draw people into their stores. (Think Myer’s Kings Domain barber shop, or Topshop’s Cheeky nail bars).

But a fresh crop of startups is promising to change that. Just as UberEats and Deliveroo have given new life to restaurants online, a growing number of apps and platforms are looking to help retailers in the beauty and wellness services space reach a wider audience online and cater to younger consumers’ rising demand for convenience in every aspect of their lives.

Glam squad on-the-go

One of these apps is Lashd, which is launching this month in Sydney. Using the app, consumers can browse a range of beauty and wellness services – from hair and makeup to personal training – and book an appointment with a service provider at their home or another convenient location.

Lashd founder and Perth-based entrepreneur Joanne Pellew says she came up with the idea because she was tired of rushing from one salon to the next to get ready for industry events and red carpets.

“To attend an event, [I would] usually have to work around inconvenient salon times. Finding parking at the shopping centers and navigating traffic would always be a hassle and leave me feeling flustered,” she tells Internet Retailing.

At the same time, Pellew’s daughter is a beautician, so she knew how difficult it is for industry professionals to build successful businesses. That is why the app includes a range of tools for marketing, accounting and other functions.

Pellew is optimistic about Lashd’s potential, given the growth of apps like Airtasker, Uber and Deliveroo.

“[These apps] are testament to how the consumer market is looking for convenient wasy to save precious time,” she says.

Over 100 appointments per month

Another early mover in the on-demand beauty and wellness services space is Soothe.

Started in the US in 2014, Soothe is an app that enables users to book a massage at their home or office and have a qualified massage therapist arrive in as little as one hour.

Since launching in Australia last year, CEO Simon Heyrick says the business has seen significant growth, “especially in Sydney where we now see over 100 appointments per month”.

Heyrick attributes this growth to the rise of on-demand services in every aspect of consumers’ lives, as well as the rise of the experience economy and increasing health-consciousness of millennials.

“Technology has enabled people to take advantage of on-demand services where you formerly needed to make reservations or call a dispatch service. In our society, where ‘instantaneous reward’ has become the norm, [the shift towards] on-demand is inevitable,” he tells Internet Retailing.

Retailers that meet this demand for instant gratification have seen real commercial benefits. Analysts at IBISWorld last year estimated that UberEats, Foodora, Deliveroo and the like contributed to a 2 per cent revenue increase in 2017-18. But according to IBISWorld analyst Bao Vuong, retailers in the beauty and wellness services space will not see the same impact any time soon.

“The state of this trend in Australia today is still quite low among retailers and is not widespread as it is amongst fast-food retailers as of yet,” he tells Internet Retailing.

But Vuong believes apps like Lashd will become more widespread in the long-term, as retailers realise the possibilities of reaching a wider potential market.

“As society becomes more geared towards the internet, the convenience that these apps can provide will be a differentiating point among this large $4.9 billion industry. Those that do not embrace these apps and an online presence (such as Instagram) in the future will risk getting left behind as their competitors stay ahead of the latest trends,” he says.

From food to facials

Matt Dyer and Nathan Airey, co-founders of online booking platform Bookwell, are perhaps uniquely qualified to drive the ‘uber-isation’ of beauty, having previously built the food delivery business, EatNow, which Menulog acquired in 2015.

Since they launched Bookwell launched in 2017, more than 1,000 businesses have signed up to platform, which provides beauty and wellness professionals with free calendar-management software, while allowing consumers to book a range of beauty services – from haircuts to manicures to tanning – online.

“What we’re really offering is convenience and choice. The industry has been quite slow to adapt [to e-commerce] … there are a huge number of venues that don’t have any online booking capability,” Dyer tells Internet Retailing.

Bookwell last week announced a $1.25 million investment from Aussie e-commerce leaders, Gaby and Hezi Leibovich.

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