Salons and spas are a major target for daily deal companies, however Anne Kelley wasn’t sure that was the direction she wanted Wet Salon and Studio to go when she began handling the Austin salon’s marketing efforts last year. Rather than work with the traditional deal companies, Kelley opted to focus her digital efforts on creating a mobile website and partnering with Belly to implement a rewards program that encourages loyalty rather than deal-seeking.
What were some of the biggest marketing challenges Wet Salon was facing when the owners brought you on last year?
It took [the owners] a while to get into technology. They only built a website within the last two years, and they were doing paper tickets for the first 10 years of their business. Right before they brought me on, they integrated a salon software system and built a website. For them, that was a big jump, to not just focus on doing everything by hand. The platforms we use that are user-friendly have made a really big difference for them, because they are not into the computer stuff.
What are some of the platforms you’re using that are especially user-friendly?
The software system that we use at the salon is called STX Salon Transcripts. For a really long time, [the owners] were scared to use something like this, but then they found a system that was really easy to use. That’s [what drew us] to AppStack. We knew we needed a mobile site, but we had spent so much money on the website two years ago, and that was just at the beginning of the mobile boom, so they didn’t design the website with mobile-friendliness in mind. I was actually about to start looking into how we could get a mobile site when AppStack contacted us, but I was terrified about a) how much it was going to cost, and b) how much time we would have to invest in rebuilding a site we had just done.
What was it that made you want to work with AppStack specifically, when there are so many companies out there offering to help businesses build mobile sites?
They contacted me, so that initiative was really good on their end. When I went to their site and saw that all I had to do was plug in information to the template, and I realized how easy it was going to be—because I had already decided in my head that it was going to be difficult — I was like, “Oh.” I mean, I did it in a day. Besides finding images, all the information and content were done.
What was the process like for setting up your mobile site?
[I went] through to see what their template was, and what kind of information you could plug into it. [They] wanted me to list our services, and there is a place where I could put my stylists and photos of work they have done. [I was] just going through and seeing what was available to plug in and then finding that content or that information on our website. Customer service has been awesome. Any time I have had a problem, I have contacted someone over there. Even if it’s something like, “I can’t get this image right,” [the rep] has been like, “Send it to me and I’ll resize it.” That’s pretty amazing.
How do the fees or costs work with AppStack?
It’s really inexpensive. We do pay-per-click. If [our mobile site] has been clicked on 50 times, then it is not going to come up. So, once 50 people have clicked on it, then it doesn’t come up anymore [that month]. But that is our option; it’s our choice to cap that number. I could say, “Let’s do 100.”
And that helps you control costs?
Exactly. We pay a flat rate every month, and once it caps at , we don’t get charged anymore. Honestly, we have reached that capacity every month and we could go up to more—which I would be totally willing to do, because if it’s working then it’s working. [AppStack] also shows who has clicked on the phone number and directly called our business, and who has found directions [through the mobile site].
How do you gauge the ROI for your mobile site?
Being able to pay per click is pretty straightforward. Customers would be looking at our [traditional] website and getting the same information, but it’s definitely a lot easier and it looks much better on the app. And the [AppStack] template is really cool. At first I was unsure about having a template, but it is so clean and it is nice not having to think about that. It can just be done for you.
Switching gears, I saw you’re also using Belly for customer rewards. How did that come about?
We are contacted about once a week by somebody asking us about a daily deal, and if we want to be a part of Groupon or whatever. The owners have never been interested in anything like that because we have been here for so long and we have clients who have been coming here the whole time we’ve been open. We want to reward the people who have been with us, rather than reward somebody who has never been here before. Then Belly came along and introduced their [platform] to us. We pay about $50 a month, which is really not that much in marketing terms, but we like rewarding the people who have been here and are a part of our family. It’s a lot more fun than just being able to [offer] 50%-off a haircut. We have one reward that’s a serenade by our stylists, and we also have a photo-op with the owners. We do have VIP treatments; you can get a conditioning or a scalp treatment, but we don’t have 10%-off products. It’s stuff like that that makes [clients] feel like a part of our family. I like that a lot more than just giving somebody something for free.
How does Belly work, from the customer’s perspective?
We have signs right at checkout, and the iPad catches a lot of people’s attention. It’s a new iPad that’s right at the front, and it catches people’s eyes. To get it started, you scan a free card—Belly [offers] a credit card size and a keychain size card. You scan it, put in an email address, and then you’re registered. [When clients come in, they] can either use the card, type in their email, or scan the app on their phone.
Going forward, where do you see your marketing efforts headed at Wet Salon?
We have focused a lot less on traditional print advertising, but I still think we’re going to continue with that. We have a lot of local magazines in Austin that people read more often than other things, so there is still room for us to do advertising in that. But, I think we will continue to decrease in print ads. Then there’s social media. Who knows where Facebook is going right now. It has been really great, as far as free advertising. I think that AppStack and Belly are both going toward the future. I [especially] like Belly. My whole wallet is full of punch cards, and when I go somewhere I can’t even find the punch card for that place. I think [Belly] is a good idea, and I think it’s going to be pretty big.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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