“The Times They Are A ‘Changin”
The lyrics of the Bob Dylan song in the 60’s offered a positive feeling of change, and was a call to action by a frustrated youth. They feIt like they were in a battle! Today we face a series of different battles. An industry that has less people entering, how to retain existing talent, rising overheads, keeping up with technological advancements, online retail competition and meeting todays customer expectations are a few that we need to plan for.
On top of that, the world, our country and our industry have all been disrupted. But it has given most people time to reflect and reevaluate their purpose and their current business model. When we are busy and in a routine, we tend to spend little time in planning for the future. Either because things are going well or because we operate within the safety net of our comfort zone.
We probably don’t grasp the huge implications of the disruption because perhaps, we are still imprisoned by our past. It’s important to consciously live our vision with the awareness that our unconscious history may undermine our conscious intent. We are all swept up in a maelstrom of change which overturns many of the assumptions we have lived with.
Today’s consumer is in a different mindset than pre Covid and they will be in a different position in five years’ time. Because of this, it’s time to decide what we want the next stage of our life to be. We need to decide what we value most, what will create more fulfillment and what will produce more impact. We also need to decide the rules that will guide our decisions, so we have a greater quality of life to contribute to others and our business. We additionally have to ensure our business initiatives are in alignment to where the consumer is heading.
Our industry has been affected with regard to personnel and online retail, and this will continue into the foreseeable future. As a result, we need to generate a new business model that has additional income opportunities with the core of our business being beauty services.
So, Let’s Get Personal
Personalized experiences designed to contribute to the self-esteem of consumers will be the most esteemed propositions in the new economy. First, let’s look at the existing model and see what is required. Consumers are expecting services and retail to evolve from generic experiences to personal experiences.
In order to do that, we need to walk through the salon process with the consumers eyes. We need to dissect every interaction with the customer. How can we make the greeting personal, consistent and excellent? How can we make the consultation more in depth? How can we make the shampoo an even more relaxing experience? What do we need to do to make the service a personal, excellent and entertaining experience? How do we make retail more interactive and personal? and how do we make the exit friction-free and a personal excellent experience?
We need to make the sum of the parts a series of excellent personal experiences for the consumer. We mystify the idea of a personal experience, like it’s a dark art. But at the molecular level, all experiences are just an amalgam of content. Emotional, physical and intellectual content. The difference between a generic experience and a personal one, is the quality of the content.
You Can’t Build the Future with Legacy Thinking!
We are about to embark on a monumental journey into the future of our industry and we need to review what place the existing model has in a new business climate. If you are operating the same model as pre Covid, you are already behind the curve.
In a post-pandemic landscape, at the high end of the beauty industry, only two categories will remain: The average and the artful.
But why is it so important to review the existing business model?
Because power has moved from the producer to the consumer. The progress we have seen in the last 10 years will not compare to the imminent future. We stand at the intersection of rising consumer expectations, and we are moving from mindless to mindful consumption. We are about to embark on a prodigious shift, change and evolution of the consumer and this will have a major impact on the Beauty Industry.
When we look at any new concept or business model, we need to look at it from the consumers perspective first. Because the consumer of the future will dictate the salon of the future. We also need to constantly review our enterprise as the consumer is evolving. After every major business downturn in history, there is always a boom period for the economy. This leads me to feel more and more optimistic about the future. So we need to plan for the future today.
The best way to understand the future is to focus on the people who are going to occupy it. Much like walking through a dark forest with a flashlight, the future comes into focus only a short distance in front of us. So how can we create a brighter flashlight?
In order to look into the future, we need a paradigm shift from owning a salon, to owning a business that happens to be in the beauty industry. If we accept that and evolve our thinking, we then need to emulate the best business practices of successful retailers like Apple, marketers like Walt Disney and service providers like Michelin restaurants. They study the consumer and design their business model accordingly. It’s the same consumer that goes to Starbucks that comes into our salons, and for some reason we think of them as guests. By all means treat them as guests, but think of them as consumers and implement a consumer strategy.
When we rid ourselves of traditional thinking, we can go on with creating the future.
An inhibiter to creating additional income for the business, are the words salon or studio in the title of new businesses. If we eliminate those words, it enables the consumer to not just look at the business as a salon! It enables the business to market additional income opportunities like healthcare, alternative retail, juice, coffee or wine bars, that can be collaborated with local venders. Vidal Sassoon has no additional words on their logo or salon sign. Think Nike, Amazon, Banana Republic etc. Their names have nothing to do with the products or services they offer. It enabled them any other companies to broaden their income opportunities and market products and services outside their core business.
The single most powerful force on the planet today is the electronic connectivity of humanity. It has forever changed the consumer and we need to design our business models to accommodate that change. I do not believe you can operate today with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow. Today’s initiatives are tomorrows minimum standards with increasing rapidity. A goal for the salon business is to have a number of sustainable competitive advantages. Technology is one example. Because the modern consumer has a myriad of choices, we have to offer deeper than usual emotional satisfaction. The personal experience the consumer gets, is the single most factor why people return to a location.
Evolution of The Beauty Industry
About 60 years ago our industry evolved from shampoo & set to wash & dry and we have Vidal Sassoon to thank for that. Nothing revolutionary has happened since. Yes, there has been the addition of retail and we have evolved from service to an experience, but it has been one small step for the salon. We need to take one giant leap for the industry, and further evolve from a generic consumer experience to a personalized one and technology can support that objective.
Let me be clear, the future is not about technology. It’s about an alluring cocktail of touch and digital content. Technology should complement and enhance the personal experience for the consumer. It should benefit the service provider, benefit the salon business and wherever possible, support sustainability.
Salons are traditionally designed around a service business. Today they need to be designed around the emotional needs of the consumer, accommodating the functionality of service. That’s exactly what successful businesses do outside our industry.
Technology has changed all our lives. A maxim of life is that one cannot stand still. Because challenge, excitement and change are heading towards us at great speed!
But it all Starts with a Vision.
17 years ago, who would have thought a single service of waxing would produce sales over $700m? European Wax Center had that vision.
11 years ago, who would have thought a single service of blow dry would be sustainable to build a company that sold for $255 million? DryBar had that vision.
8 Years ago, who would have thought a single service of color would achieve $100 million in sales? Madison Reed had that vision.
5 years ago, who would have thought your bank would be in the same location as your pharmacy? Walgreens had that vision.
Now Heyday Skincare are aiming at emulating the single service franchise model concept.
We have to be bold and step outside our comfort zone. The electric light didn’t come from the continuous improvement of candles.
We shortly will be observing an evolutionary leap in a segment of the beauty industry and a series of events are under way. It has forced a re-thinking of the current business model. The process for the future salon is tied to a model that emulates current and future consumer needs. Wellness services for staff and customers will be part of this new model with relaxation rooms.
We never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change, we need to build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
New Business Model
It’s time for a new business model. One that has technology, wellness and sustainability as part of the vision. When salons don’t engage effectively on their sustainability efforts, they miss opportunities to differentiate themselves from other salons. Rather than gaining a competitive advantage, they leave the financial value of sustainability out of critical conversations!
The Question is, are we prepared for the next 10 years of consumer evolution? Throughout history, pioneers have driven a path to new vistas in uncertain times. This isn’t a time for staying in a comfort zone. This is a time for a clear concise application of a vision that is consumer centric and profit centric.
Achieving a new business model is not something you can outsource. It requires significant organizational introspection, courage, honesty and design thinking. There is no off the shelf solution, no app and no magic to it. Just the willingness to reinvent, reimagine and risk the occasional mistake. Think of it this way; if its not risky, it probably isn’t innovative.
The evolution into a new business model doesn’t change core primary salon objectives. We naturally should continue to ensure we perform the highest standards of hairdressing and offer immaculate service. But when you choose to build a new salon, you need to think of it as the stage on which a wholly unique story will unfold. The more authentic and organic that stage is, the more people will be drawn to it. The stronger the sense of place it embodies, the more inclined people will be to gather there.
The salon is a stage, all the staff are actors, the customers are the audience and our job is to entertain them.
The pandemic has changed people’s priorities. But what if we looked at Covid 19 not a cataclysm, but a catalyst? What if instead of retreating to normal, we forge a path to something better? Better for business, better for our customers, and more sustainable for the planet. As a result, better for our own well-being.
We now have a chance to rethink the purpose and value of our businesses. What if we didn’t only survive the current situation, but grow in spite of it? The future belongs to the courageous and that depends on our mindset. Those with the clarity of vision and strength of will to embrace these opportunities. Those with the passion to resurrect a new business model with a new way of presenting. They will be the masters of the new era, and any salon that adds significant value to the services and retail they sell, has a place in the future.
All of us are futurists, because all of us know the future depends on us. Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs. The future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.
If we want our businesses to evolve, we have to change our form, appearance, nature, character and thinking. Our challenge is to contribute in building a better world. Everyday matters, everyday counts.
We need to connect to the passions people have. As we understand people’s emotions, and as we understand what drives consumers and what matters to them. Then we find ways to make markets, improve their world and improve our businesses. We must up our game to a level that maximizes the potential of our business.
The future for those pioneers that implement this vision is bright. In the fullness of time, we’ll look back to realize Covid gave birth to a new generation of brilliant & creative salons.