We polled a thousand women in London to tell us about their salon booking experience and the results were pretty terrifying if you’re a salon owner. We discuss the context behind the numbers.
Tackling customer churn in the salon industry
What I love about our hyper-connected era is that I can have a craving for ice-cream, hop online and within 15 minutes it arrives on my doorstep, cold and delicious. The experience of making the order is incredibly considered; there is choice, instruction, flow and simplicity in the payment. It’s enticing and easy, it makes me want to do it again as soon as the next craving hits.
With that in mind, I find it baffling that this same era can’t seem to get its head around making it possible to book a hair appointment online quickly and easily. An astounding 90% of all salons in the UK still operate using a paper-based diary, which is why I created Powered by Flossie, technology that helps enterprise hair and beauty businesses and product companies reduce booking abandonment and increase revenue by streamlining their user experience.
I spend about £5,000 a year on services. It sounds a lot, but really it’s not that large — the average Brit spends about £3k (and I justify my extra bit as research into the industry I’m heavily vested in). I’ve been into hundreds of salons and there are some consistent themes. The biggest one being their reliance on the myth that their clients are wedded to them, and will be coming back shortly.
But today, the loyalty myth is crumbling. The threat of irrelevance for the salon industry is imminent and I’ve got the data to support it.
We polled a thousand women in London to tell us about their salon booking experience and the results were pretty terrifying if you’re a salon owner. Loyalty is going and churn is in, the art of shopping around is here — the industry is following the high-street down a discounting path, so profitability is hard. The customer isn’t booking in advance, so cash-flow and business assurance is out the window.
Try these two stats on for size that came out of our recent Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: the problem of attrition in the salon sector survey:
- 43% of women have tried a new salon in the last 12 months and if you’re 18–29 years old you’re 150% more likely to have tried a new stylist in the last year than the over 45-year-old crowd
- One in seven women prefer freelance stylists and if you’re 18–29 years of age, you’re 2.5 times more likely to do this, rather than go to a “traditional salon” than your over 40-year-old counterparts
The reason for moving around? Less than 20% tell us it’s because of the stylist, instead it’s other more modern factors that are driving their churn; discounting via marketplaces actively targeting their custom, social media temptation pulling them away and better designed websites and bookings. Simply put, salons and stylists who are trying to fit into their world are wooing them away from you.
What does all of this mean for the traditional salon? Perhaps not much right now. Population alone can mean that salons are still full and that the impact of this kind of consumer change will take a reasonable amount of time to truly impact.
But tell-tale signs are emerging and they’re the ones you can spy easily in your business. For example, is it harder to get staff to stick around? Do you invest in people only for them to leave? Are you just as busy, but less profitable than you were twelve months ago? You’re having to work harder to make less money, but still are making money and are still popular — just really tired.
We believe that the changing consumer behaviour, if not embraced, is fundamentally changing the way the industry operates and impacting the long-term structure of the industry. I can clearly see a world where the traditional salon is the exception, not the rule and unless technology is embraced, this slippery slope is going to slide right into irrelevance.
It starts with shifting the mindset from reactive to proactive. Nike no longer can rely on you just loving (or even preferring) Nike as your core reason for making them your next pair of trainers any time soon. They invest billions of dollars in tempting you into the next purchase, likely before you even realised you needed them. The salon industry can and should be doing the same. It’s no longer about maintenance, I have a purple rooted and pink tipped balayage, so I feel confident in saying that where my spend is going isn’t in just ‘covering the greys’. We’re fashion-led and curating a look. I am definitely part magpie, and shiny things grab my attention. Beautiful imagery, timely shown in my news feed is likely to pull me in. If it’s from someone I know and trust, then I don’t scroll on by, I click through.
What happens then? Well currently not a lot, as four out of five women told us, they’re experiencing either broken websites, painfully slow illogical processes, and even then nothing marries up. What I saw in the pretty picture was definitely not what I booked (or gave up trying to book).
I get it, technology can be scary — it’s constantly changing and beyond our everyday comfort level scope. For the high-street apparel businesses it’s in some ways decimated them, but for services, it’s the saviour. All that is required of you is to care about the customer experience and find ways to improve it. Start there.
Research conducted by Dynata in December 2019 among 1,034 women in London. Online survey targeted females who are 18–49 years and live or work in London and have had a haircut within the last 3–6 weeks.