Folks who work in the high-touch spa industry are not generally considered to be tech-savvy. In fact, many spas have challenges utilizing their own software management systems. But we are entrenched in a tech wave we cannot afford to ignore. The combination of falling smartphone prices and widespread adoption of mobile applications, such as GPS, web browsing, and on-the-go Twitter and Facebook usage, presage a new method of communication between clients and businesses that is only growing in popularity. Industry studies estimate that 95 million smartphones will be sold in 2011, just in the U.S. Is your spa ready?
Smartphones are changing the way clients interact with businesses, as the devices tend to be with them throughout the day, and clients may take action on an idea at a moment’s notice. “Forward-thinking retailers are devising mobile strategies to address each stage in the consumer purchase funnel—awareness, engagement, consideration, conversion, and loyalty,” says Tobi Elkin of eMarketer.com, who has written a report on the trend. Elkin notes that retailers are using diverse tactics, including text alerts, coupons, product ratings, store locators, and location-based apps, to make it easy for clients to find and do business with them through their mobile devices. The company also estimates that as of December 2010, 26 percent of U.S. mobile phone users were using smartphones, and that number is expected to continue to grow exponentially.
Starting with the top of the funnel—awareness—you want your business to be able to be “found” by consumers who want to find the nearest spa. Because most smartphones have GPS capabilities, the device is easily able to pinpoint the location of a user and make recommendations of options in the vicinity. This location-specific capability is one of the biggest differentiators of mobile versus desktop technology, and SpaFinder released an iPhone app in early 2010 to facilitate searches emblematic of its name. The SpaFinder app can be downloaded free from iTunes and shows the user a map with tags of the spas in the area that are members of the SpaFinder network. Consumers can tap on the tags to learn more about the services and prices of a particular location and can even book an appointment if the spa is using SpaBooker software. Applications like this, which enable consumers to quickly and easily find your spa, are often the first step toward gaining them as clients.
Once the consumer has identified a potential spa, the engagement and consideration portions of the sales funnel are the next areas in which spas can utilize mobile technologies. Spas should, at minimum, ensure their websites are optimized for use on a mobile device, or even potentially develop their own mobile application. Optimizing your website for mobile use involves creating clean, simple interfaces and eliminating flash components to facilitate speed and simplicity of usage. However, creating your own downloadable application is a terrific option with long-term benefits. Rancho La Puerta (Tecate, Mexico) recently introduced its own iPhone application, and the team is happy with the response. When planning a visit, the app can be used to access virtual tours of the grounds and facilities, learn about the green commitment of The Ranch, and get detailed information on packing and preparing for the visit. It helps create realistic guest expectations. Guests are also provided with all of the information they need to remember for travel to The Ranch, and the mobile app means that the information is always at their fingertips. Once on property, guests can access class schedules, weather reports, an events and entertainment calendar, and even check the lunar phases. On the issue of the intrusiveness of phones in spas, marketing director Peter Jensen says, “We consider smartphones as more of a mobile device than a phone; many guests use their devices to read books and play games but are not bringing them to use for telephone calls.”
The Rancho La Puerta app was developed by MacroView Labs, which now has several spas as clients. CEO Aron Ezra explains the MacroView process: Rather than charging an upfront fee for application development, which could range from $10,000 to $50,000, MacroView charges a monthly fee, which begins at the onset of the development process. Using this method allows the software professionals to maintain your application, constantly updating code and adding features, such as social media integration, as they become available. Ezra feels mobile applications are great fits for spas, as the demographic that enjoys spa-going is likely to already own a smartphone and be engaged with the technology, and the app helps to deliver the sense of high-end client care that is consistent with a spa.
When it comes to converting a prospect into a sale, mobile options can also excel. Spas using SpaBooker cloud-based software, whether or not part of the SpaFinder network, receive a mobile-optimized interface, which allows easy and intuitive appointment booking. Daniel Lizio-Katzen, COO, shares that each month, about 15 percent of appointments booked by clients are coming from mobile devices, and that number is growing. “These devices are with us all of the time, it’s just good business sense to make it easy for clients to interact with spas this way,” says Lizio-Katzen.
One of the most impactful results of mobile technology may be its ability to impact client loyalty. Demandforce offers a web-based system that automates customer communication through email, texting, and social media and includes features such as two-way text messaging appointment confirmations and reminders. This service cuts down on overhead while maximizing appointment utilization rates. The Rancho La Puerta app also includes healthy and nutritious recipes and a collection of stretches and yoga poses that a client can use at any time. Jensen remarks that the marketing department can also utilize the app to send reminders to guests to rebook or to target promotional offers to specific areas of the country. They also love the green aspect of cutting down on printed information they give to guests. Jensen estimates that by the end of 2011, one-third of all Ranch visitors will have downloaded their app.
Another loyalty-building option is the Survey on the Spot mobile application tailored specifically to the spa and salon industry, developed by On the Spot Systems. The software allows businesses to create branded surveys to instantly capture customer feedback from their mobile devices, including iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Android and BlackBerry devices. Spas can use this real-time feedback to react quickly and ensure client satisfaction. From a business standpoint, many spa and salon property management systems now offer mobile versions for use as a complement to their systems.
The marketing opportunities with mobile devices are extensive. Clearly, mobile technology is here to stay, so don’t wait any longer to start exploring ways that your spa can benefit.