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On-Demand Massage TherapistFrom time to time, a new concept hits an industry and generates such an impact that it causes a major paradigm shift and creates something called disruptive innovation, a term coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen. In the spa industry, massage-on-demand services, such as those provided by Soothe and Zeel, are making an impact. According to Michael Tompkins, co-CEO of Palm Health and the chairman of the International Spa Association (ISPA), this type of service—which provides consumers access to massage providers who will perform services at the location of their choice with short notice—is the perfect convergence of convenience and technology.

Soothe offers massages with as little as an hour’s notice, seven days a week, from 8 am to midnight, in 19 markets in the U.S. and Canada. Zeel is currently available in seven major markets in the U.S. Services can be booked in as little as an hour or up to a month in advance, seven days a week, 365 days a year, between the hours of 8 am and 10:30 pm. Both services provide access to therapists who are vetted, background-checked, and licensed. 

While this instant availability could certainly impact the bottom line for spas competing for clients in these markets, many see it as an opportunity. In fact, Spafinder recently partnered with Zeel, making it the exclusive provider of in-home massages to Spafinder Wellness 365 customers. Pete Ellis, chairman and CEO of Spafinder Wellness, says he thinks this is an ideal option for clients who may not be able to travel to a spa, thus opening up the market to an even wider potential client base. “Many people are not able to book an appointment at their favorite spa on the day they need a massage, and others may have mobility issues or are moms with children at home,” he says. “Our goal is to use technology to make wellness services available to all, when they need them, and Zeel provides a way to reach more people. As crazy as it may sound, I can see spas taking advantage of this new technology to send their therapists to clients through Zeel or other similar companies. The world is changing, and adapting is necessary for success.”

Tompkins agrees, pointing out that when people think about spa, it creates awareness for the industry. “I’m of the mentality that more is more,” he says. “We’ve tried for three decades to educate the consumer on the benefits of spa services. This new way of service delivery being on demand is just another venue to that message. My hope is that it will mean everyone incorporates spa into their lives somehow. It’s a win-win. Our customer receives the benefits of our work while it strengthens the sustainability of our industry.”

Execs from both organizations say they have every intention of working with spas and are able to help them service last-minute bookings and to help tackle overflow when their spas are at capacity. As for the future, both companies plan to expand to more markets. Tompkins also predicts hotels without spas getting in on the act with on-demand massages in hotel rooms and the possibility of other on-demand services that are traditionally only performed at spas, such as facials. “Just yesterday, an esthetician asked me if I knew of any on-demand apps for facials,” he says. “Clearly the word is getting out, and other service providers are listening.”