How To Choose Software For Your Salon Or Spa
For most people, a trip to the spa or salon is a relaxing event, a welcome change from the grind of day to day life. They can’t see beyond the darting scissors and the foil; they don’t know what lurks behind the fleecy robes and the fragrant herbal teas. They have literally no idea how much blood, sweat, and barbicide have gone into creating that tranquil atmosphere.
And that’s the point! You may be running madly around behind the scenes, disinfectant in hand, scheduling and rescheduling, sweeping up hair (or cleaning hair out of drains), and putting out one fire after another, but all your customers perceive is a carefully crafted illusion of peace and decadence. That’s what the beauty and wellness industries are all about, after all. If you’re the owner of a spa or salon, you dedicate your life to promoting life-renewing services for others. A haircut or a pedicure may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it can mean everything to someone who enters your shop feeling tired and worthless and leaves feeling refreshed and beautiful.
It takes a lot to maintain that illusion, though—and not just in terms of the temperament and skill of those you hire. These days, consumers have very specific technological expectations of every business they patronize. Specifically, when it comes to service and hospitality industries, people want to be able to schedule easily (online, if possible) and pay with alternative methods. And that’s where software comes in.
In the following article, we’ll explore the kinds of tools you need to run a successful spa or salon and what to look for when choosing specific POS (point of sale), scheduling, or loyalty rewards software.
Table of Contents
What Features Do You Need?
It’s a hopelessly inane phrase, I know, let’s begin at the beginning. You can’t choose appropriate software for your business if you don’t know what you need. Depending on the type of shop you’re running, you might be in the market for anything from a simple way to track customer information to a complex, multi-purpose booking and payment processing tool. Start the process by considering these questions:
- Do I want software that accepts payments, or am I okay just using a traditional card scanner? If so, do I want to stick to cash and credit cards or do I want to be able to accept non-traditional means as well?
- Do I want to show my businesses calendar online? If so, do I want to show the availability of individual employees as well?
- Do I want my customers to be able to book online themselves?
- Do I want my customers to be able to pay for appointments online?
- Do I need to book physical rooms, services, or both?
- Will I be selling any physical products (shampoos, manicure kits, incense, etc.)? If so, do I need a system that can track inventory?
- Do I want to network with current/future customers via email?
- Does my business currently have a customer rewards program. Do I want to implement one?
- How important is social media marketing to my spa or salon?
What Type(s) of Software Can I Use To Manage My Spa or Salon?
Now that you have a better idea of what you want your software program(s) to do, we can discuss the different tools that are available.
If you’re running a beauty or wellness-based business, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll need a scheduling tool of some kind. And while trying to decipher the cramped handwriting on a traditional paper calendar is all kinds of fun, booking software is just better. No fading ink; no crossed-out words; no crumpled or coffee-stained pages to content with. Just beautifully crisp, Times New Roman appointments, laid out in perfect geometric squares.
Well-designed scheduling software is, quite frankly, a marvel of modern engineering. Imagine a tool that can virtually eliminate double-booking mistakes, automatically account for vacations and times when your employees are unavailable to work, and layout your work weeks in discrete, easily digestible chunks. Is your blood pressure going down, just thinking about it?
But wait, there’s more!
Many booking software solutions come with online capabilities, allowing your customers to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments without having to call in. A few even allow for online pre-payments. These features are appealing for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the less time you spend fiddling with your calendar, the more time you can spend doing literally anything else. Connecting with your clients; upselling hair care products; restocking the linens; eating cheese balls directly out of the bucket—whatever floats your particular boat. Moreover, customers like having the option to schedule their own appointments. I’m a fairly introverted person. Given the choice between a business that allows me to book online and one that makes me call and talk to a receptionist, I will choose the former 100% of the time.
You’re not running a traditional store or restaurant, so it may not occur to you that point of sale software is an option. Generic POS systems usually aren’t suited for use in spas or salons—most completely lack appointment calendars and the ability to book clients, for example—but several POS solutions have been specifically built to handle the unique needs of service businesses.
POS software has the advantage of offering inventory management features—an area where booking tools tend to fall short. If you sell physical products in your establishment—hair brushes, shampoo, essential oils, even paper or card-based gift certificates—a point of sale solution may be essential. POS software also brings robust employee management tools to the table, another area where it excels over traditional scheduling programs. If you want employees to clock in and out, track time, etc., a point of sale solution is far more likely to meet your needs than a booking tool, though some booking software can handle low-level employee management. It all depends on the extent to which you want to keep tabs on the people working for you.
Along the same lines, POS software typically offers much better reporting. Do you want a way to track your busy and times? Chart employee hours and productivity? Break down labor costs? POS systems have got your back.
Finally, not every booking solution will allow you to accept payments, but you’d be hard pressed to find a POS vendor that does not offer built-in payment processing features.
If you’re specifically looking for a POS system to handle your spa or salon, keep reading. And if you want even more suggestions, check out our article on the Top 4 POS Systems for Spas and Salons. You should also read our article on key features to look for when selecting POS software for your service-based business.
Loyalty Rewards Software
Service businesses depend almost exclusively on customer loyalty. A shoe store can get by on one-off clients, but aestheticians, beauticians, masseuses, etc. live or die on the repeat business of individual clients. It helps if you have a way, not only to attract potential new customers, but to create life-long devotees. That’s where loyalty rewards programs come into play.
You can create coupons and loyalty systems the old-fashioned way, of course, with newspaper coupons, flyers, and punch cards, but why put yourself to that trouble when there are much easier ways to go about it? Save some trees! Reserve that ink and toner. Loyalty software provides an excellent way to collect actionable customer information and create sustainable rewards programs.
Most rewards software allows for multiple types of loyalty programs, from tiered structures to points systems. You can offer cash rewards or even create paid membership programs. Different systems work better for different businesses, but spas and salons could easily implement any of these options.
The best thing about loyalty rewards software is that it keeps track of information for you. You don’t have to keep a physical record of card balances, manually check expiration dates, or deal with lost punch cards (and unhappy customers). The software stores all the pertinent data—it knows when people have rewards coming, and can even alert them to that fact electronically.
Email Marketing Software
If you don’t want to use loyalty software, want to implement your loyalty rewards program on a larger scale, need a good CRM solution, or feel the need to bolster up your scheduling tool, an email marketing tool may just fit the bill. Email marketing software gives you the ability to both collect customer data and act on it.
A solid, well-planned email campaign can be an effective way to engage newer customers and maintain relationships with your regulars, whether you’re conveying information about your business, offering specials, or delivering digital coupons. Here are just a few examples of ways you can use email to your advantage:
- Instantly alert customers to changes in business hours
- Introduce new staff members
- Promote seasonal specials
- Deliver coupons
- Send birthday greetings
- Engage former clients with “haven’t seen you in a while” or “hope you come back” offers
- Send appointment reminders or confirmations
Modern email marketing software allows for very specific customer targeting and provides incredibly useful analytics. You can determine which clients are opening emails or engaging with electronic coupons, and use that information to create even better marketing campaigns.
Okay, we’ve talked about what kinds of features you might need and we’ve discussed different kinds of tools your business could employ. Now comes the hard bit: actually finding the software solution(s) that checks all the boxes for your particular spa or salon.
Happily, you don’t need to do much heavy lifting here. At Merchant Maverick, we’ve devoted countless hours to researching and testing the best booking, POS, loyalty, and email marketing software. Read on!
The Best Comprehensive Salon/Spa Management Software
If you’re in the market for a software solution that can handle scheduling, inventory management, employee management, and payments, we recommend MINDBODY, Square Appointments, and SalesVu.
As booking software specifically made for gyms and spas, MINDBODY (see our review) combines strong scheduling and calendar tools with POS and CRM elements. It’s not a good solution for hair or nail salons and is pretty limited in some areas, but if you’re running a wellness business and need a complex system that can handle multiple appointments, take a variety of payment options (including gift cards and Groupon), and provide good analytics, MINDBODY is a reasonable way to go.
Read our full MINDBODY review for a better idea of what this software could do for your business.
Offering a simple yet responsive calendar interface, robust customer booking tools, and built-in CRM and email marketing, Square Appointments (formerly Bookfresh- see our review) is an excellent scheduling tool. Pair these features with the POS capabilities of Square in general, though, and you have a pretty special software solution for spas and salons.
This app also comes the ability to integrate with an impressive array of 3rd-party software solutions, including Quickbooks and Bigcommerce. Overall, Square Appointments is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an all-in-one way to manage your calendar, take payments, and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Our full review of Square Appointments provides more details.
Looking for something a little heavier on the POS end of things? SalesVu (see our review) has got your back. This full-featured POS system works great in a traditional sense, providing tools for retail and restaurant establishments to manage inventory and employees, access reporting and analytics, and take payments in a variety of ways. However, it also provides fairly robust appointment scheduling features for service businesses, a pretty rare offering in the POS software industry.
Reasonably priced, with great customer support and mobile capabilities, SalesVu is an amazing option for spas or salons that need heavy-duty point of sale features and the ability to manage customer and employee calendars.
Read the full SalesVu review if you want to know more about this unique POS system.
You may not want something that can do it all. If you’re looking for a tool to fill a specific niche, think about investing in a more specialized software program.
Best Booking-Only Tools
The following software programs would work nicely in either a spa or salon; they offer great scheduling features and the ability to take payments:
Our booking software comparison page should give you a good idea of what else is available and how these vendors stack up.
Best Loyalty Rewards Programs
Any one of the apps below can help you create a great customer loyalty program:
Check out this comparison of the best loyalty rewards tools if you want to know more.
Best Email Marketing Software
Whether you’re looking for a stand-alone email marketing tool or want something that can integrate with your POS and/or booking software, the following vendors are a good place to start:
Our email marketing software comparison chart is a great way to see how these vendors match up in terms of pricing, customer service, and more.
Let’s be honest: if you run a spa or salon, you’re in a tough business. It requires skill and a deft hand to succeed in this industry, and even small missteps can result in an atmosphere of disharmony or chaos. It may seem counterintuitive, but to create a luxurious, meditative, or tranquil atmosphere, you must use technology.
We recommend trying out one of the full-featured POS/scheduling tools mentioned above if you’re looking to give your business a boost. However, adding even one stand-alone app for loyalty or email marketing can increase your own productivity and make your business healthier. Software is your friend, and can be a very valuable servant. You spend your life catering to others; for once, give yourself permission to let something take care of you.