Closing The Digital Divide in the Beauty Industry
Finding simple solutions to help you run your business in the technology age
By Ray Fisher
The digital divide between beauty consultants and technology is starting to close, but it is still very vast. What we will attempt to look at in this article is where the needs of the beauty community are and where we’re heading as it relates to technology being a pivotal tool in the stylist, barber, and student’s arsenal of tools to perfect their craft.
Over the last few weeks, I sat with and interviewed over 50 stylists and barbers as I took a trip to Atlanta for Bronner Brothers. I came with a central theme: understanding where they were in the industry and what best worked with them for technology; and also what didn’t work for them. One of the things I walked away from these interviews understanding is that there are a lot of stylists, barbers and students who are not aware of what technologies are out there to help them.
At the student level, what I got was that the schools aren’t sure on what to use to help the students understand their business and how to track it on a day-to-day basis once they become professionals. Many of the educators and school owners have challenges in understanding what’s out there and how to incorporate it into the curriculum. They are growing in the technological realm themselves and are overwhelmed by everything that’s out there at this point in time. This makes it difficult for the students to understand what they really need as a tool or component to learn and track their craft in business from a technological standpoint. They often get sucked into using expensive tools that don’t necessarily help them meet the needs of understanding and growing their business. They’re also overwhelmed with all the features that are put out by companies, and just don’t understand where and how to get what they need out of these apps. They need something at a basic level that will help them understand how to track time, money and clientele. This is what I recommend they look for.
At the individual professional stylist level, they are overwhelmed with what is out there in the mobile stores. There’s no true universal path on tracking sales appointments and clients, so stylists and barbers either attempt to create their own—which in some instances is not a bad idea, but they waste a lot of time creating a solution that they feel is great but isn’t scalable and doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of their business—or they get sucked into expensive solutions that are convoluted with a bunch of features that they really don’t need, which in turn creates a cycle of dissatisfaction with a lot of products that they don’t understand and ultimately don’t really use to their full potential. Many of these applications don’t have great customer support at the price points that they are investing in. We are starting to see a pattern here.
At the business or salon level, there is a trend that continually happens because there is no true education. It usually all depends on who is crafty enough to be a salesman and convince them to use a certain product. Some providers of services at the salon level look for specific characteristics in their search for technology solutions—like tools to aid their business’s focus on time, money, client and mobility for instance.
Gocha Hawkins, owner of Gocha Salon in Atlanta and cast member of L.A. Hair, told me that as a business owner, she looked for some of the following things in apps:
- good reporting
- cash monitoring
- potential growth
- inventory tracking
- customer retention solutions
One of the points she emphasized was if she couldn’t see it on her phone, she didn’t want it. Beauty industry providers have long understood the value of their smart phones as tools. The industry is attempting to get to that point, but not a lot of companies have successfully gone from being a true point of sales brick-and-mortar solution to a user-friendly mobile solution.
There are some companies out there that are pushing the envelope, and later we will evaluate a lot of these companies to see who is really penetrating this market successfully.
Students, professionals, and business owners need to do their research, as there are in fact solutions that will meet their needs financially and practically once they understand what they’re looking for. It doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles and you don’t have to pay a large amount of money to do key things like track your time, your appointments, and your cash flow. If you can find the right technology to become proficient at achieving these things in the beauty industry, you are way ahead of the game.
The thing about technology is that it changes so rapidly and you have to be careful not to lose sight of what your goal is. If something works for you, use it; if it doesn’t, there will be something else out there to try. Don’t be afraid to put something down to try something new.
In the technology world, we have a secret that I’m about to share…We collaborate with other people via forums, blogs, and searches on topics. We get stumped on how to find solutions out in this information age. Siri, Alexa, and Ok Google, are not just for entertainment. Use these search engines to navigate the information highway. Finding what you need is right there at your fingertips or at the end of your voice.
We as technologists envision better ways to help you utilize your craft to the point where voice recognition could be used to book appointments, check appointments, and do all the things with your clientele lists and campaigns to successfully run your business from a watch or tablet.
I’m dating myself, but I was telling my partner recently that we are truly in the George Jetson-Star Trek Age with technology and information management, and it is really cool.
About Ray Fisher
Ray Fisher is an experienced Senior Software Tester with over 20 years of Information Technology experience. He is also the co-founder of the STY-LIST app.