Business experts at KAO Hub Network provided a crystal ball to show salon owners what the salons of the future will look like…it’s time to transform!
In a gleaming mid-century hotel overlooking the Costa Del Sol, salon owners talked shop and learned how to grow their businesses to new heights. This was Kao Hub Network’s 2023 outing, and it had eyes firmly focused on “the salon of the future.”
Business coaches and salon owners themselves took to the stage to explain where the salon world is going, and why owners need to play catch up to ensure long-term success. The pandemic is so last year, we’re firmly in the flux of change, and it’s sink or swim for salons, agreed the speakers.
The future’s top players will be upselling experts, and it will be a core part of a stylist’s role. Teams will be entrepreneurial and take commercial charge of their columns each day. They will also have faith in themselves as knowledge experts, not just providers of standard salon services.
AI? They’ll harness the best of it to make daily operations easier while offering sensory, holistic experiences that the internet can’t beat. If you weren’t lucky enough to attend Kao’s Hub Network 2023 and you feel inspired by these visions of the salons of the future, read on…
But change should start now, and salon owners must focus on the “little wins” that add to the bottom line, explained salon business expert Liz McKeon.
Failing to upsell retail is a huge missed financial opportunity for salons, this we all know. But Liz outlined why it’s so important; “customers are three times more loyal if they buy homecare from you.”
The day of the single salon service is over, she stated, and all team members must be on board with this idea and know all the price and results details of the products their salon sells. But don’t wait until clients are walking out the door, start at the consultation stage and weave it in throughout the service.
For too long, stylists have felt awkward about promoting retail because of cost, but in her experience, Liz has found that “when clients spend more, they feel happier.”
The best businesses will have a two-pronged approach, they will have “tweaked their business model to get more money” as well as produce happy clients. It will be about having fewer clients coming back more often, spending more. They will focus on having the right clients for them, she added. This includes taking ownership of your column and re-booking your best clients and not prioritising the ones you don’t like.
Staff have a big part to play here. They must forget the conveyer belt mentality and look to the financial potential of their column each day; “you need everyone on your team on your money bus,” Liz told the audience.
Empowering teams to be more commercially minded may be core to future salon success, but business coach Bianca Miller had her own word for it, ‘intrapreneurship’.
She advised owners to hold team meetings to inspire entrepreneurial thinking and encourage staff to become part of the future of the business. “You need to inspire your team to become the solution to the problem. What else could they be doing to get the business ahead? How can customers have better services? They need to be innovative.”
Want to find new customers and keep the ones you like? That’s down to hunting and farming. Hunting involves the reach out including marketing ads, having a goal list of clients, and connecting with journalists. Farming is tending to the business. “Go to existing clients and ask for feedback including referrals to inspire growth.” You can even ask your customers to become brand ambassadors, she added. It’s as simple as a hair swish in an Instagram story!
Social media helps salons target new and existing customers, and KAO’s marketing head Nathan Agland had a trendy new AI tool to talk about.
Chat GPT can be used by salons to fast-track their social media content production. Simply type in what you want it to produce and hey, presto! Want to write three Instagram posts complete with emojis about your new summer balayage services for textured hair? ChatGPT will automatically produce this, and anything else you want! What a time-saver for already busy stylists!
On getting that crucial commercial exposure, speaker and performance coach Claire Brumby had something to recommend – guerrilla marketing. A creative and low-cost way to promote your business, she used it for her healthy crisp brand Scrubbys Crisps. After seeing a viral image of a model posing in underwear covered in crisps, Claire hired a photographer and posed in a similar way, just with her own packets of crisps! “Get creative, disruptive, innovative, and think about where you can get your guerrilla on!”
Caroline Sanderson, salon owner and business mentor (also known as the Salon Jedi) said successful salons of the future need to change outdated business models. When she was told that her salon wasn’t profitable she shifted gears to managing a high-performance team who could run the business without her. Since then, she has hit some great milestones, including a 2k+ bill from a single client payment. She changed the tone on typical services, instead of restyle services, Caroline uses the term “redesign experts.” Her parting advice? Don’t fear the VAT threshold; “that stops you pushing forward to the top 1 per cent.”
The best of the bunch will also provide a sensational client experience that they can’t get online, explained Jack Stratton from Insider Trends. He had some good news for salon owners, despite the rise of online purchases, IRL still has strong appeal; “83 per cent prefer to shop nearby instead of online if they know that something is immediately available, so stores are still relevant.”
Great for salons stocked with retail products ready to sell, but what is the customer spending appetite? Jack drew on his knowledge once again; “consumers are worried about cost but not that much, they still treat themselves to luxury products and services.”
Jack believes that “slow luxury experiences” are highly desired among customers, and salons can offer ones that go beyond actual hairdressing. He gave the example of Barber & Parlour in London’s Shoreditch, and how it is a co-working space and a cool spot for drinks as well as a place that cuts hair; “the customer has a haircut and then buys into all the other services.”
Brand expert Bernd Wagenknecht gave a clearer projection of what sort of experiences the salons of the future will offer. Services will be specialised and stylists will have “excellent craftsmanship and passion” for what they do. In Bernd’s words, the outcome will be less “bling” and more about “the principles of less is more.”
The stylist, he continued, will take on the role of healer as well as hair expert, and will connect the client to other service providers like dermatologists and doctors. He then explained what future salon spaces will look like visually. Think sensory designs that calm body and soul and people able to network and collaborate creatively “without any boundaries.” There will also be people exercising and having coffee as well as enjoying beauty and hair treatments; “salons will become a holistic collaborative campus, involving beauty, physical and mental health.”
The salons of the future will require many things to operate; and for most salon owners, it’s going to take a lot of work to get there, you better get started!