Up until about five years ago, mobile phones were used primarily for making phone calls and sending text messages. Today, more than 56 percent of American adults own a smartphone, and 55 percent of adult cell phone owners use the internet on their mobile phones, according to Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project study. What’s more, according to ABI Research, 1.2 billion smartphones will enter the market over the next five years. The explosive growth of mobile technology has changed the way businesses tackle their internet presence. Today’s on-the-go consumers have the ability to make restaurant reservations, shop for clothes, book flights and hotel rooms, and so much more right at their fingertips. As a result, an increasing number of spas have realized that in order to stay competitive, they must optimize their mobile websites to offer online booking and other convenient features. “Smartphones are everywhere today, becoming the primary device that consumers use to reach the web in their day-to-day life,” says Dan Chandre, vice president of strategic development at SpaBooker. “If spas don’t have mobile-optimized versions of their websites, smartphone users are highly likely to bypass their website and view a competitor’s website.”
It is important for spas to have a mobile website that is easy to navigate, as mobile devices generally have small screens, therefore making it harder for clients to view and scroll through. “Mobile is a slimmed down version of the bigger online presence of a main website,” says Stephany Toman, director of marketing and public relations at SpaBoom. “Availing the consumer of contact information, hours of operation, location, services, and the newest and greatest available at the spa means when they do a quick check, they’ll be up to speed on the spa’s information and ready to make an appointment.” Spas with difficult-to-navigate websites risk losing clients to competing spas with optimized sites. “Having relevant information readily available—or not—could mean the difference between gaining or losing a potential customer,” says Paul Pagliaro, president and CEO of Milano Software. “People generally have less patience with mobile devices, so you don’t want customers to lose interest in your spa because large images or an overabundance of text drags the site down.”
A consumer-friendly mobile website requires a well-thought-out design. Mobile devices “have less space for aesthetic elements and need to get very quickly to the point,” says Chandre. Meredith Ellis, visual designer at SpaBooker, recommends the use of consistent branding throughout your site, optimized images and button sizes so they’re easy to view, and easy-to-read typography, like sans serif, to give users a streamlined mobile experience. Also, because different devices and screen sizes determine how the site’s content is displayed, it is important to prioritize the placement of basic information and features to avoid awkward breaks, cropped graphics, and hanging indents. Spas should also feature similar core content like services, functionality, and contact information on both desktop and mobile sites. “This approach reduces the number of people who may become frustrated with mobile’s seemingly limited options and click the ‘desktop version’ option on their devices,” says Ellis. “The convenience of an informative and functional mobile site creates a continuous journey for users and makes them twice as likely to want to repeat the experience.”
In addition to mobile websites, the use of text messaging and an automated system can also help attract and increase business. You can contact clients through a mobile automated system with promotions for events such as birthdays, anniversaries, or occasions like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. “Mobile marketing is becoming the next big thing,” says Matthew Wiggins, co-owner of ProSolutions Software. “The ability to automate your communications can have numerous benefits if you are using the right system. An automated system can be used to contact customers to remind them of upcoming appointments and follow-up with customers after they visit your spa and also send occasional reminders to lost customers who haven’t returned. Both of these uses can increase your client retention and your client rate of return, which are incredibly important.”
Spa booking on mobile devices is a lucrative option for spas and a convenient option for clients. “Consumers operate in a 24-hour continuous fashion, and online booking allows the business to operate in the same way,” says Chandre. “The option of online booking is becoming the standard, and lacking that option shows a reluctance by the business to provide its customers with a standard and appreciated convenience.” Mobile booking is also helpful for the spa staff, as mobile access allows the staff to focus on in-house guests and spend less time on managing the appointment book, and also offers flexibility because it allows them to check their schedules while on the go.
Spa booking has proven successful for Grand Traverse Resort and Spa (Acme, MI), which developed a Digital Concierge platform. Designed for smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers, the Digital Concierge aims to provide relevant information about the property and the surrounding region directly to current guests. “The Digital Concierge allows our spa to stay connected with hotel guests who are checking in,” says Dawn Olsen, spa director at Spa Grand Traverse. “This feature allows us to run specials when needed, as well as remind our guests to book with us as soon as possible, so that they are not arriving on property without spa appointments. Spa online appointment requests allow the guest to make a quick and easy decision about booking—immediate gratification in a very busy world.”
Additionally, many spas also offer clients the ability to make purchases, such as gift cards and retail items directly through their websites. “We all know that today’s spa clientele is more technologically advanced,” says Wiggins. “For the first time since the development of the internet, more purchases are made online than in shops. The ability to sell retail items, gift cards, and book appointments through the business website is simply expected now. When a potential customer cannot find these standard options on a spa’s website, it makes the spa look old-fashioned, behind the times, and frankly, cheap.”
Mobile payment features are especially beneficial to resort spas. “The adoption of mobile payment processing means more opportunities for sales from anywhere, such as retail areas, spa cabanas, and salon and nail stations,” says Molly Southern, marketing manager at SpaBooker, which offers a mobile payment app that allows spas to swipe credit cards, take payment for services and products, and apply specials and promotions when relevant. The Spa at Hilton Orlando (FL) uses SpaBooker software installed on iPads to share spa information with hotel guests in hopes it will entice them to book a service during their stay. “We use our iPad to send staff out to the pool to engage guests visually with pictures, talk about treatments, and book appointments,” says Sheila Bracewell, director of spa and fitness. “We can look at availability and book in real time, all from the comfort of the guest’s lounge chair or cabana. If a guest already has a service booked, we can use the mobile site to upsell or add on. We usually send out two staff members, one with the iPad and one with frozen grapes or cool-infused towels, plus our brochures and information on any specials we may be running. It is fun for the staff, and guests love it.”
In today’s society, it is not only necessary for your spa to have a mobile website, but it is also highly recommended that you utilize as many other mobile platforms as possible, including Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter. These social media sites allow you to connect with many current and potential clients on sites that they frequently visit. According to a Microsoft Tag infographic on mobile statistics and facts, more than one-third of Facebook users access the site through a mobile device, and 50 percent of Twitter users access the site through a mobile device. This offers you the opportunity to educate clients about your business and offer special promotions for “friends” and “followers.” “Nowadays, spas can utilize mobile marketing to attract new clients,” says Michelle Perroton, business development manager at Demandforce. “They can use Apple’s Passbook or Google Now to store appointment information and stay top of mind with their clients. Spas can also promote mobile-only specials for those browsing on a mobile device.”
The use of mobile technology among adults does not seem to be slowing down, which is why there is no better time than the present for you to optimize your spa’s website and offer the mobile conveniences many clients have come to expect. And while there is more to a successful spa than a mobile presence, a mobile website can only enhance your spa’s reputation among clients and the competitive spa market.
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