In today’s fast-paced and on-the-go society, smartphones and mobile devices are changing the way people live their daily lives. According to Pew Research Center, 64 percent of American adults now own a smartphone, up from 35 percent in the spring of 2011. And these days, it seems, everyone is glued to their phones. In fact, research from software analytics company New Relic indicates that, on average, people check their mobile phones 150 times per day—or about every six minutes. Consumers are on their phones for myriad reasons, including email, social networking, text messaging, and internet searching, as well as online shopping, banking, entertainment, and keeping up with the latest news. Mobile devices are making it easy for consumers to do it all right at their fingertips.
The growth of mobile technology over the past few years has forced businesses to put serious time and effort into improving their internet presence. It’s no longer acceptable to simply have a website that can be accessed on a mobile device. In order to stay competitive, spas must optimize their mobile websites to be easy to use and offer features like mobile booking and shopping. “Most consumers make first contact with a spa online before they visit, so it is important that a spa maintains a compelling website,” says Imran Zalfackruddin, CEO of Milano Software. “Furthermore, websites must be optimized for mobile access, as this is a preferred means by which your prospect or customer will interact with your online presence. If your website does not render well on a mobile device, you risk alienating a significant portion of online shoppers and potential customers. Having a mobile-friendly site will ensure that clients spend more time on your website and most likely schedule an appointment or purchase a product.”
Another reason businesses need to optimize their mobile sites is that Google recently modified its system of ranking websites to ensure the best Internet searching experience for users. These changes to the ranking system can negatively affect the visibility of businesses with non-optimized websites while companies with optimized mobile websites will likely gain visibility. “A growing number of spas have incorporated mobile into their business strategies, because mobile technology provides spas with an edge over their competitors,” says Roger Sholanki, founder and CEO of Book4Time. “With Google’s involvement in mobile search results, it is imperative for spas to have a mobile-optimized website. Google now prioritizes mobile-friendly webpages on all mobile search results, and labels websites to inform users if a website has mobile-friendly functionality and display.”
In order to create the most enjoyable mobile experience for clients, it is important that spas build a mobile site with a well-thought-out design that features a simple user interface and is compatible for a range of devices, including mobile phones and tablets of varying sizes. “Responsive designs have the ability to recognize and respond to any movements, such as transforming the webpage orientation from landscape to portrait when a user turns on the smartphone,” says Sholanki.
The site should also be easy to navigate with buttons and links that are accessible, and the font should be easy to read, like sans serif. “There’s nothing worse than going to a mobile site where images and videos fail to load,” says Tanisha George, director of vertical markets at Booker. “It’s important to remember that prospects visit a website for a reason, whether it be to schedule a treatment, learn more about your services, or purchase an item. Your mobile website should not hinder them from taking action.”
Perhaps one of the most important features of a mobile website is mobile booking. According to George, more than 30 percent of all online booking occurs between the hours of 7 p.m. EST and 9 a.m. PST, which is generally outside of the normal hours of operation for most businesses. “It makes a lot of sense, as people live busy lives, juggling work, families, and leisure activities,” she says. “They schedule appointments when it’s convenient for them, and unfortunately, it’s typically when the spa is closed. If a spa isn’t taking advantage of online booking and e-commerce opportunities, there’s a good chance that they are missing opportunities to grow their business and increase revenue.”
A spa’s mobile website should also offer an option for clients to make purchases, such as gift cards and retail items, in addition to booking services. Many of these bookings and purchases are spontaneous or impulsive actions. “It is important that the spa provide the capability for their customers to make a booking when that impulse strikes, or they lose the opportunity to secure that booking, which will result in lost revenue,” says Zalfackruddin.
According to Frank Pitsikalis, founder and CEO of ResortSuite, the spa guest of today wants to define his or her own experience more than ever. “Your guests are on the move 24/7, and having an optimized website for mobile allows them to take your spa with them, book treatments and classes, look up directions, and link to the spa’s social media pages quickly and easily,” he says. Therefore, while an optimized mobile website is important, spas should also consider developing an app to send notifications, special offers, appointment reminders, check in clients automatically, and keep constant contact with customers. “Mobile apps are another great way for spas to engage their customers,” says George. “Think about it—when’s the last time you spent a day without your cell phone? Like many people, these instances are far and few between, as our mobile phones are always with us and are constantly in use. When a customer downloads an app, they’ve given your business access to prime real estate on their phone or tablet.”
Research conducted by Booker discovered that more than 40 percent of spa and salon consumers say they would use a mobile app if the business offered one, while only 25 percent of spas provide apps to their customers. “Utilizing a custom-branded mobile app is a great way to engage with your clientele, encourage customer loyalty, and increase frequency of visits,” says George.
Technology is constantly changing and improving to enhance the digital experience. John Harms, founder and CEO of Millennium Systems International, believes that enhancements to mobile software and apps will allow spas to offer clients an even better experience. Microsoft and Apple, for example, offer mobile-users a computer-like experience with the ability to display mobile contents on monitors and LCD screens when available, he says. “If I’m looking at my email on my phone, I see it in a mobile format, but once I tell it to display on my television LCD screen, the experience becomes a full-blown email like I would see on my computer.” Also, geopositioning and GPS make it possible for consumers to easily search and locate businesses and services. GPS and mobile beacon capabilities are also effective in locating nearby guests and sending them promotional alerts. “Spas can now use GPS to see if a guest is on or near property and send them last-minute service openings,” says Pitsikalis. Sholanki credits another software enhancement, Apple Pay, with vastly contributing to mobile commerce, because it enables consumers to not only search but also pay on their smartphones.
Once a consumer lands on a spa’s page, spas must do all they can to optimize the experience to keep the consumer on their site and willing to come back, which is why real-time personalization (RTP) is becoming an important feature. Real-time personalization tracks behavior within a website to help create targeted, personalized experiences for individual buyers through various channels, such as web, email, mobile, and display advertising as they walk through the buying process. According to George, it allows spas to send the right message to the right customer at the right time that’s tailored to their needs at that moment. “I foresee this becoming a very useful tool for the spa industry,” she says. “Spa owners spend a ton of money to get visitors to their websites, but are they doing everything that they can to optimize the experience once the consumer lands on their page? In many cases, the answer is no, and RTP could offer a viable solution to help spas stand out from the day-to-day ‘noise’ consumers experience.”
Love at First Site
An optimized mobile website and a mobile app are not only recommended but often expected among today’s tech-savvy consumers. According to George, more than 50 percent of all local searches begin on a mobile phone, and nine out of 10 of those searches lead to an action, such as booking an appointment, making a referral, or purchasing a product or gift certificate. A well-thought-out and easy-to-navigate mobile site shows current and potential clients that the spa respects the time and lifestyles of its clients enough to make it easy to find information and book treatments at their convenience. “For many spas, their potential clients’ first interactions with their spa will take place on a mobile device,” says George. “It’s in every spa’s best interest to make sure they’re making a good first impression, because they may not have a chance to make another one. Studies have shown that 57 percent of consumers say that they won’t use or recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. Furthermore, not having a mobile-optimized website is similar to closing your spa one extra day each week. That’s a high price to pay for lacking the convenience that customers have come to expect.”
Check out software from these companies to mobilize your spa’s marketing efforts.—Jennifer Nied
Millennium Systems International
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Shortcuts Salon & Spa Software
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