Salon software has quickly evolved to offer users much more than a digital appointment book, with a huge range of solutions to make running a beauty business easier and more efficient. Jessica Swift, chief technology officer at Exec Software, which develops the Salon Exec system, predicts the next big advances will be in software capabilities rather than revolutionary new technology. “We are living in a world of greater self-employment, flexible working and a digital economy. All businesses will need to find ways to work in a more collaborative manner with suppliers and outsourcing companies to drive efficiency,” she says.
From this point of view, she explains, for businesses to focus on what they do well and grow, they will need a software system that can support collaborative working with staff, suppliers and other businesses.
“Systems need to provide the backbone to multiple businesses and enable their interactions and collaborations. For example, telephone answering services should be using the same business platform as the salon and be able to switch between multiple clients to work with each in an efficient way,” she says. Salon Exec will imminently launch a new collaborative working platform “with modules designed for multiple businesses that will enable service providers to switch between clients”.
This will also enable self-employed therapists and techs to manage appointments in conjunction with the salon. “Freelancers need to manage their businesses but also work with the salon that may be taking their bookings. The freelancer will link to the salon and both will have the booking, enabling the freelancer to work with multiple salons and salons to work with multiple freelancers, all from one business platform and each from their own perspective,” explains Swift.
The platform was developed with the impact of digital taxation in mind – now set to come into effect for small businesses in 2019 – whereby businesses and self employed workers will be required to submit quarterly profit reporting to HMRC. A salon’s accountant will be able to work on the same platform to carry out their work alongside the salon’s other operations, making it easier to maintain accurate filing.
Ronan Perceval, founder and chief executive at salon software company Phorest, agrees that the future of salon software is more comprehensive technology platforms that process “everything from purchasing stock from suppliers to hiring future staff”.
While most salons still use software primarily for scheduling appointments and probably haven’t fully explored other functions, Leonie Wileman, chief operations officer at Premier Software, thinks this will soon change as systems become even easier to navigate.
“Ease of use is at the forefront and the key move now will be how the software is utilised,” she says. Premier is releasing its redeveloped salon software offer later this year, built on the model of its Core platform for spa, wellness and fitness businesses. “The new software will retain all the functionality of Premier Salon, but its capabilities to help monitor a business will make it far simpler for managers,” says Wileman.
It’s increasingly rare for consumers to make a decision on where to spend their money before checking out online reviews. In light of this, software providers are working to help salon owners feel more in control, with extra features that help them manage their online profiles and keep up with others competing for clients’ custom.
Phorest’s new Online Reputation Manager feature allows users to monitor ratings, with a real-time view of reviews as they’re posted online. Users can also use the feature to automatically invite regular clients to post a review, which is then published to Google, Facebook or Yelp. “The feature will help our clients increase and improve their online visibility which is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to boost their businesses,” Perceval says.
Salon Genius collaborated with review site Salon Spy to integrate a feature that also generates text-message reminders for clients to write a review after a service. It encourages clients to post all ratings to Salon Spy so salon owners can have greater control over feedback and rectify problems quickly. Plus, reviews are monitored to ensure spam or defamatory comments aren’t published.
Aside from salon software’s core functions such as online booking, stock control, staff performance and automated marketing – developers are now looking into ways to bring technology into the treatment room and make it part of the client experience. “You can now have access to previous appointment notes, client history and before and- after photos; crucial to understanding your client on a more personal level,” says Trevor Jennings, general manager of business technology company Shortcuts.
Taking the idea even further, the developer’s latest release is face-mapping technology, which allows the therapist to create an on-screen record of which areas of the face received which kind of treatment and which products were used and recommended for homecare. “This is linked with all stock levels to ensure you always have everything in stock and never run out on a client,” adds Jennings.
Used in conjunction with Shortcuts’ before-and-after photo feature, these developments paint a picture of a fully digital treatment progress record, with all information sent straight to the salon’s database and automatically updated with each visit.
Similarly, Salon Genius’s My Genius app takes traditional paper-based consultation forms onto a tablet for a slicker way to conduct consultations and keep client records updated. However, David Pickering, managing director at Salon Genius, says that with ever-more sophisticated technology, the security of personal data will become an increasingly important responsibility for the business owner. “Easier and more consistent methods of recording information and its security will become an essential part of the industry. Businesses will have to assume the responsibility of client care and the maintenance of sensitive records on behalf of the client,” he says.
With such a huge potential for collecting new types of data from clients, Wileman agrees that developers will have to make sure security is increasingly tight: “Every software system will need to be secure and able to withstand cyber attacks, and as hackers become more sophisticated so will our software.”
In the clouds
“The mass migration to cloud software will be key for salons in 2017,” says Ryan Baker, co-founder and chief executive at small business software company Timely. “Business demand always follows consumer demand and salon owners increasingly can’t imagine a world where their entire salon management system isn’t available to them any time and anywhere.”
This idea links in with that of a fully collaborative platform encompassing all people and other businesses with a part to play in the running of a salon, where input and updates are collected constantly and changes made daily. “It’s very clear that if you don’t have a cloud solution you will fail in the long run. It’s the only way forward that makes any sense for businesses,” adds Swift.
Timely launched its app last year, working directly with Apple to give users this kind of mobility. Compatible with Apple devices, the app can also integrate with payment devices like EFTPOS and receipt printers to link all devices and operations in the salon with one central, cloud-based database that can be accessed anywhere. “The future for salon software is a seamless work-life experience,” says Baker. Other developers are striving to create this seamlessness by developing separate compatible devices that take care of point-of-sale duties and link with the main platform.
In June, Treatwell Connect (the salon software system from treatment bookings site Treatwell) will launch an iteration called Cash in the UK. “It is essentially an electronic cash register that will allow our partners to check out their customers, reconcile accounts, produce receipts and do basic stock management,” explains Treatwell founder Lopo Champalimaud. Treatwell Connect also recently launched an app linked to the cloud, and Champalimaud says more than 50% of its partner salons are already using it.
However, Champalimaud says that one area in which most software systems still don’t link up is appointments made through online treatment booking sites such as Treatwell. Most software leaves users to receive notifications of these separately, then manually input the bookings into their digital calendar. Champalimaud hints that integrating these bookings is on the agenda for Treatwell Connect: “We expect to see an increase in integration with marketplaces such as ourselves, so that bookings will seamlessly integrate with salon software systems,” he says.
With all the benefits that cloud-based solutions bring, we can expect to see developers making sure every new functionality that gets added to software systems links and syncs with the virtual database, to continually feed users with up-to-date information that lets them run their businesses as efficiently as possible.