Replacing Pen and Paper: How to Choose the Best Beauty Salon Software for Your Business [with CHECKLIST]
As a salon owner, you’re not just in the business of making people look good; you’re also in the business of making them feel good.
Unfortunately the current crisis has stopped all of us in our tracks. The truth is that your business is impacted and revenue numbers are hit.
The world may be on a pause at the moment, but things will turn-around soon.
Soon enough your clients will visit you for things that they’ve missed the most— styling their hair, shaping their eyebrows, getting their makeup done and so on.
But here’s the thing…
When they come back visiting, they won’t be coming to you just for a service, but for pampering themselves (they missed you!). That said, a big component of making your clients feel good then will also lie in their experience they have at your salon.
With so much time spent in isolation, a good business experience will be a top priority in their mind.
If you’re able to delight your clients and make doing business with you feel smooth, efficient, and easy, they will naturally feel better and be more likely to come back.
And this is where having great beauty salon software will come to your aid.
The right solution can streamline your operations, speed up the booking process, and improve client communications — all of which contribute to a better business experience, not only in the future, but also when the dust settles on this pandemic.
Not only that, but a good online salon booking system can free you from distractions and admin mind clutter, so you can focus even more of your attention to serving your customers.
Beauty salon software can be an excellent investment if you select the right one. This is particularly true when you’re coming from a pen and paper system. Doing things manually may feel safe and inexpensive, especially if that’s what you’re used to, but managing your business using pen and paper eats up your time, makes you prone to human error, and limits the potential of your salon.
So, if you’re still using manual methods in your business, it’s high time that you switch to modern salon software.
Which is exactly what we’ll talk about today.
This post will walk you through the process of selecting the best beauty salon software for your business.
Go through the steps and pointers below, and keep them in mind when you’re shopping around for the right platform.
Figuring out the best beauty salon software for your business
It’s tempting to immediately jump into research mode to see what salon solutions are out there, but before doing that, it’s worth taking time to look at the internal components of your business. Doing so will help you determine what you need in a salon management solution.
Below are the factors you should consider.
1. Iron out your salon processes
Think about the different procedures you have in your salon, specifically when it comes to the booking and client experience. What types of information do you need from clients when they’re scheduling an appointment? Do you require their payment details to collect deposits? What is your cancellation or no-show policy?
The answers to these questions will help you figure out the features you need in a salon platform. For example, if you need to take a deposit prior to scheduling a service, then the software you choose should have the capability to do so. Or, if you have a specific no-show policy, then your salon platform should help you implement it by allowing you to charge certain fees.
If you haven’t done so yet, document your salon’s policies and procedures so you can refer to them when evaluating different solutions.
2. Look at your existing shortcomings
This isn’t always easy to do, but you need to take a hard look at your shortcomings and areas of improvement. When you’re using pen and paper to manage your business, for example, then there are likely processes in your salon that feel cumbersome and need to be automated.
Ask your staff for input. What are the tasks that take the most time? How will software help them be more productive?
Most importantly, identify your top customer complaints or needs. Are they looking for an online salon booking portal? Do they want you to remind them about their appointments via text?
Take note of the answers that you uncover at this stage and use the information to find the right software.
3. Figure out your budget
Next up, you should determine your budget. There’s no one best answer when it comes to how much to spend on your salon software, as the right figure will depend on the size of your business, your appointment volume, and the features you require.
But to give you some ballpark numbers, a solopreneur can expect to spend around $25 a month on salon software. If you’re a growing business with around 2-5 team members, then you’ll likely spend around $50 a month. Meanwhile, larger operations with more than 10 users should budget $80 or higher per month.
Beauty salon software fees should be seen as an investment, rather than just a cost. Remember that the right system can expand your reach by allowing clients to find your business and schedule appointments online. Salon technology can also elevate your clients’ experiences to keep them coming back.
While a pen and paper system is technically “free,” it limits your business, slows down your staff, and doesn’t do much for the customer experience. All of those factors end up costing you more in the long run.
The bottom line? While it’s fine to be prudent when it comes budgeting for beauty salon software, make sure to put on your investor’s cap and calculate the ROI of having the right platform in your business.
4. Consider the apps and tools you’re already using
Take note of the hardware and software that you’re already using, as these things can point you in the right direction. For instance, if you’re already signed up with a particular payment processor, then you’ll want your salon software to integrate with it so you can easily accept payments.
Think about the web and mobile apps that you’re using. Do you have a Google My Business listing? Are you planning to grow your Facebook and Instagram followers? If so, choose an online salon booking system that can connect to these websites and apps so you can get the most out of them.
5. Think about where you want your business to be in the future
Don’t just look at what your salon needs today, create a roadmap of where you want it to go in the future. Iron out any expansion plans that you have. If you intend to open up another location or hire more staff, for instance, then choose a solution that can support that. Even if you’ve temporarily put those plans on hold, it will eventually happen, isn’t it?
Have a think about any features or experiences that you want to offer in the near future. Do you want to start taking online salon bookings via Instagram? Are you looking to further personalize your client’s experiences?
Write everything down.
It’s important to choose a software provider that can grow with your business. The last thing you want is to end up with a solution today, but then have to shop around for another system down the line because your existing platform can’t keep up with your growth.
6. List the features you need
At this point, you should have a clear idea of where your business is at, where it’s going, and what you need to connect the dots.
Hopefully, all that info isn’t just living in your head. You need to document your software requirements, because:
a) putting things on paper helps you get crystal clear on your needs;
b) it also ensures that you don’t miss anything when shopping around and selecting a solution.
To help you out, here’s a handy salon software feature checklist you can use and tailor to your business.
- Staff calendar management
- Service categories
- Lead times and buffers
- Double-booking prevention
Online Appointment Scheduling for Salons
- Online salon booking portal
- Booking buttons and links
- Social media booking
- Google appointments
- Recurring appointments
- Appointment reminders via text
- Appointment reminders via email
- Integration with your payment processor
- Secure payment processing
- Secure credit card data capture
- Invoicing features
Sales and marketing
- Salon review collection and promotion
- Marketplace promotion
- Gift certificates
- Sales and discounts
- Easy import and export of client lists
- Booking history
- Client profiles
- Client notes
Add-ons and integrations
- Calendar apps
- Website builders
- Payment processor
- Social networks
- Search engines
Note: Every business is different, so you may not need all of the features above, or you may require more. Whatever the case, use this list as a starting point and customize it based on your salon’s requirements.
Shopping around for beauty salon software: 3 tips
So, you already know what your business needs in a salon management app. Now is the time to put on your researcher’s hat and explore your options.
Note that this stage can be overwhelming if you come unprepared. One of the reasons why it’s so helpful to have a clear notion of your needs (and have a checklist while you’re at it) is there are tons of salon management software to choose from.
There are literally thousands of options out there and if you go into your search without a solid idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll end up going down the rabbit hole of salon programs and you’ll waste precious time.
That said, if you’re already crystal clear on your needs, here are some tips to help you zero in on the perfect salon software.
1. Get info from software review and comparison sites
Online reviews — at least the ones from credible websites — can offer a wealth of information that you can use in your research. There are sites dedicated to software reviews, and we highly recommend checking them out.
One of our favorites is Merchant Maverick, which publishes in-depth on reviews on software solutions. These articles are super detailed, but they’re also organized and formatted in such a way that they’re easy to read and digest.
Pro tip: read through the comments section to see what other users are saying about the software.
Other review sites include:
It’s also worth checking out the website Software Advice, which allows you to select apps and view their features side-by-side. This makes software comparisons a whole lot easier.
Note: Software Advice is a great tool to use when you’ve narrowed down your choices to around 3 software providers. Having too many options can make the comparison process more complicated, so choose your top 2-3 solutions before using these websites.
2. Talk to similar business owners
Input from other business owners can be incredibly insightful, so seek them out whenever you can. Talk to your salon owner friends and get their opinions. Ask them about the solution they’re using and how they’re finding the experience. What are their favorite features? Which aspects of the platform leave a lot to be desired?
You could also seek input from online groups. Both Facebook and LinkedIn have industry-specific communities where members can ask questions and share their thoughts. Here are few groups that you may want to check out:
- Salon Owners Support Group
- Salon Owner Sharing Ideas & Marketing
- Salon Owner Mastermind
- Salon owners Support (S.O.S.)
- Salon Professional Network
- Salon Today
- Salon Pros Who Want Business Growth
- Hair Stylists, Barber & Salon Pro Tools
3. Watch a demo or take a trial
Reviews and second-hand feedback are useful, but the best way to determine if a solution is right for you is to see it in action.
Before making a decision on what platform to use in your salon, make sure you get a good glimpse of how the software works. Check with the providers that you’re considering to see if you can demo the software. Many companies offer video demonstrations of their platforms. Or you can search YouTube to see what’s out there.
Better yet, if you have the option to take a free trial, take advantage of the opportunity. Sign up for an account, enter your information, and have a play with the system. Use the trial period wisely by setting up your booking website and actually scheduling appointments. Doing so will allow you to determine whether or not a solution is a good fit.
Note: Software demos and trials require time and attention, so it’s best to save this step when you’ve narrowed down your choices to 2-3 providers. If you’re still considering 5 or more platforms, do further research by reading more reviews or talking to other salons.
Ready to shop around for beauty salon software?
If you’ve made it this far, then you’re ready to start shopping around and evaluating software solutions for your salon. The process can take time, but keep going. A pen and paper method may seem convenient, but think of the revenue generating opportunities that you’ve missed in the absence of a beauty salon software, especially during this pandemic.
The right salon software can transform various areas of your business — including operations, staffing, marketing, and client services, so the effort to find the best one is more than worth it!
And if you’re looking for a beauty salon software that not only supports and helps you sail through during this pandemic, but lets you book more clients when the dust settles, talk to us.
Sign up now and use Genbook free for 60 days. 2 Months for the price of 1!