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The ‘high tech’ to your ‘high touch’
Convenience once meant offering spa-goers a few additional weekend hours, but the next generation of clients expects much more. They want services at their fingertips anytime, anywhere, and are fuelling an on-demand economy. This has led to an explosion of spa software with features aimed at enhancing customer convenience, and a host of options for spa owners to choose from. With growing consumer interest in online conveniences, it’s a good bet that those spas not jumping on the digital bandwagon stand to lose clients.
“Modern software solutions for spas provide so much more to business owners than just a fancy digital appointment book,” says Tirena Dingeldein, lead analyst at Capterra, an online peer review site that’s been helping businesses find software solutions for 20 years. Dingeldein suggests that beyond the basics, like client self-booking, simple reporting and marketing functions, some of the more popular spa software features include management of staff, inventory and membership programs.
Dingeldein has seen a growing trend among clients who want to digitally interact with spas, a trend that reflects what Amazon already knows: that consumers – especially millennials and GenZs – do most of their shopping through the internet. “Beyond booking an appointment online, they want to order products, get follow-up care advice and check their loyalty program status from their phone or computer,” she explains. “Some spa software providers have noticed the change as well and have started providing spa owners with solutions that bring a comprehensive digital experience to their clients.”
One provider that has consistently stayed ahead of this curve is Book4Time (book4time.com), which has been in the spa and resort software business since 2004. Book4Time is used by many of the world’s leading upscale and luxury hotel and resort spas, as well as multi-location day spas, including Bliss, Cowshed, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Four Seasons, Accor, Canyon Ranch and Equinox. Sean Anderson, VP of global sales, explains, “These leading brands trust Book4Time because of our experience and advanced capabilities including such features as group booking, yield management, turnaway tracking and wait list management, the widest breadth of integrations with hotel and payment systems in the industry, system reliability and uptime, and world-class 24/7 live phone and email customer support.”
For Amanda O’Shea, spa director at the St. Regis Hotel in Toronto, it’s the go-to resource. She’s worked with a variety of spa software in the past, but finds Book4Time to be the most intuitive. “As a result of this, we are able to spend more time getting to know our guests,” O’Shea says, “to create a warm and welcoming environment that is personalized versus transactional.”
She finds the software’s user-friendly interface particularly appealing, adding, “It requires minimal ‘clicks’ in order to schedule a booking, add notes, check out and modify or book a treatment online, which in turn saves our guests time. From a reporting perspective, we can easily see our most and least popular treatments, compare month-over-month and year-over-year sales and staff utilization, turnaway logs and waitlists.” O’Shea says the software allows her staff to learn guest preferences and assists them in “turning the sail in the right direction.”
But not all spas fit the St. Regis model. A variety of platforms and price points are geared to smaller, standalone or growing spas. Among these, Shedul bears some mention as it offers a full set of functions for free, with no trial period and no limits according to Capterra, which has crowned it as “the best salon and spa booking software available.” Shedul says it is fully mobile optimized as a Web app, and this July launched a new app, “the Official Native App.”
Capterra’s Dingeldein cautions that internet access can be a double-edged sword when it comes to protecting privacy, adding, “Some spa software solution providers are trailblazing and making advances in how businesses can protect their clients. Software that offers these options allows spas to attract clients who value data privacy. For instance, customers are more relaxed if they know their information is secure, and now there is software for spas that is both HIPAA compliant and has increased data security.”
So where does the future lie? Dingeldein explains, “I think it’s a good bet that blockchain and spa inventory management will sync up in the near future.” Blockchain is a shared ledger for recording the history of transactions; you might say it’s like a conga line of friends who only invite their trusted partners to join the line. She adds, “Clients want to know that the products that spas are using are sustainable and responsibly sourced. What better way to prove that to your clients than by using blockchain to verify your supply chain?”
Kicking the software tires
While we are not the experts, our curiosity drove us to kick the tires of some spa software, using free demos offered on their websites. Here are a few we thought were worth mentioning:
Salonist by Shrivra, a five-star software package housed in your smart device, manages all aspects of your spa business with a user-friendly POS system that automates tasks including appointment booking, scheduling and staff management. Straightforward pricing gives you an option between basic and premium on a monthly or yearly schedule. salonist.io
Vagaro, a cloud-based platform, offers an integrated solution to manage bookkeeping, payroll, client databases and inventory management, as well as featuring email and text notifications to clients and automated email marketing. Users can list available appointment slots, and customers can then look for salon facilities nearby and book appointments through Vagaro’s website or the VagaroPro app. vagaro.com
Orchid Medical Spa Software stood out with its focus on the needs of medi-spas and commitment to client confidentiality. It tracks clients, books in new ones and checks for staff availability, in an easy-to-scan, colour-coded system. From client purchase histories to performance reports, commissions and photo/document storage, this software has a lot to offer. medicalspasoftware.com
Milano Software offers a number of innovative software solutions designed for growth and success. Whether it’s generating easy-to-use reports, creating eye-catching promotional emails or collecting client loyalty points, Milano has all the features a salon or spa owner needs. milanosoftware.com
Rosy Salon Software by Floydware is a cloud-based salon and spa management solution designed for small and midsize businesses, with a comprehensive list of functions to support both your front desk and back office. rosysalonsoftware.com
Salon/Spaware is scalable with functions that range in suitability for both the single-operator salon to a fully networked multi-station business. It offers easy touchscreen design, power and flexibility, with a one-step QuickBooks link, credit card module, automated marketing and technical support. salonsoftware.com
MINDBODY, a top global provider of spa software, is designed to help manage spa operations across all functions. It offers appointment scheduling, an advanced suite of marketing features, a secure payment process, plus the ability to track success measures, manage staff schedules and prevent no-shows with automated appointment reminders. mindbodyonline.com