Customer preferences w.r.t salon services have changed and for good reason. The nature of the salon business is that of contact, proximity while delivering services is usually a given. Unfortunately for the industry, social distancing has been one of the key precautionary steps the world is following in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the other hand, grooming and beauty services are essential for the well-being of the society. Here is why. The need to look good and consequently feel good is a primordial human need that feeds our self-esteem and the lack of it also affects us adversely. Consequently, to fulfill this need, the industry must ensure that customers are confident enough to come back to salons.
Customers prefer salons that have a good track record of following safety and hygiene protocols, salons where all service providers have certifications of training in COVID related heightened safety protocol, salons that have a quality team and a measurement and metrics of compliance to safety norms.
“COVID-19 has impacted the very foundation of the beauty and wellness business – i.e. human touch, which includes both physical contact as well as an emotional connection. Detailed safety measures and enhanced protocols are top priority for customers today. At Lakmé Salon, we have implemented 55 measures designed with the help of a panel of doctors for the utmost safety of our staff and customers. Customers are also demanding quick and result-oriented treatments that give long-lasting results like the Dermalogica 15-minute Zero-Touch FaceFit and Eye Lift treatments and TIGI Copyright 5-minute SOS treatment for their hair,” says Pushkaraj Shenai, CEO, Lakmé Lever.
“Consumers are more aware now, and their first question for a salon is always regarding hygiene and precautions taken by the brand. Consumers are visiting salons less frequently but are spending more time with each visit to ensure they get maximum number of services and treatments done,” adds Krishna Gupta, Founder & MD, Lloyds Luxuries.
Impact on Footfall
“There’s been an increase in footfalls month-on-month, the revenues have also been decent. With every round of lifting of restrictions, the customers’ confidence is increasing and so is the recovery. Across India we witnessed a recovery in footfalls, which is now at almost 60 percent of pre-COVID levels since the lockdown has been eased.
We are also hopeful that with the onset of the festival season, there will be a boost in recovery as we all like to be groomed and pampered during this time. From our side we are ready with the latest fashion and beauty trends that we will deliver with complete compliance to safety protocols, just as we have been doing for the past four months and more,” states Vikram Bhatt, Founder, Enrich.
“Our consumers have been locked away for most of this year with fewer occasions to socialise. While they were hesitant during the initial days, their confidence is retuning. Footfalls have been increasing steadily across our salons. We have seen the customer visits accelerate month on month across the 150+ towns that we operate our 450+ Lakmé Salons. Stringent screening, personal protection gear, continuous sterilisation, single use kits, zero touch protocols have increased consumer confidence. With the festive season, the footfalls have increased steadily across salons,” says Pushkaraj Shenai, CEO, Lakmé Lever.
“We have seen footfall growing steadily with a 40 percent growth, month over month and we are currently at around 85 percent of pre-COVID level footfalls. However, our sales are much lower, considering a lot of our customers are utilizing their annual membership which is pre-purchased. The big difference is in malls and in cities where the numbers of COVID cases are higher,” Krishna Gupta, Founder & MD Lloyds Luxuries states.
Home Salon Services
The home salon service is now a part of the mainstream offerings of most of the brands as consumers are opting for services in the luxury of their own houses.
“At Enrich, therapists from salons in the catchment render expert services. This helps to showcase the convenience and safety of services in the comfort of one’s home. The purpose of Enrich coming to customers’ homes is to provide services in an environment of the consumer’s choice, where they feel safe and comfortable. Since it is an extension of Enrich which is well established, people appreciate the detailing and care in our services,” says Vikram Bhatt, Founder, Enrich.
However, many brands are still refraining from providing such services.
“At Lakmé Salon, we are staying away from home services. We believe that our experts and clients will have the safest service experience in the controlled environment of a Lakmé Salon with stringent measures and checks in place. Our entire team – housekeeping staff, experts, salon managers, office teams and business partners – have undergone rigorous training in the new safety and hygiene measures to ensure complete adherence to protocols on ground. We are constantly monitoring these through our audit teams to ensure that the highest safety standards are met. Our customers have also voted in our favour – with 96.7 percent finding Lakmé Salon safer than their home,” says Shenai.
“We do not believe in this concept, as its extremely difficult to provide the same levels of experience and quality of services at home, especially in these times. Hygiene is extremely important to us and we feel it is difficult to monitor this and keep a strict protocol when services are offered at home. It is convenient for some customers, however it comes at a large cost. This is the service industry, and we provide an exceptional experience, which is only possible at our barbershops,” adds Gupta.
Online: A Bright Future Ahead
Brands are creating a lot of content, to make customers more aware about the quality of their products and its benefits.
“At Enrich, we see the future for us is in being more inclusive and holistic. Before we were largely offline, operating from salons, but now we have strengthened our online play as well. We provide information and bookings on our website and mobile app along with offering retail aftercare products. Similarly, before we were predominantly about services and products comprised only about one fourth of our services revenue. We are setting up to increase focus significantly on product sale as well, as it allows us to optimize revenue and realization. So, online and offline, services and products, salon and at home, a significantly higher omnichannel play is what we see, and technology will be the big enabler in providing a seamless experience across these channels,” Bhatt states.
“We have recently launched one of the first subscriptions for hair products for customers to enjoy our most popular products. Apart from this, visibility on several platforms and online marketing is helping us increase our sales online,” shares Gupta.
How Bright Is the Future?
Accepting the reality of working from home, physical distancing and wearing mask, it has become much less important to wear makeup. By contrast, skincare and hair-care appear to be benefiting from self-care and pampering trends.
“However, the salon industry has responded positively to the crisis, the footfalls in salons has come back to about 60 percent levels. Services like haircuts, hair wash, manicure and pedicure have currently been in demand, since the salons re-opened,” says Bhatt.
“Going forward there are a few significant changes I foresee for our industry, says Shenai, “and they are:
– Safety = Care! Customers will place their faith in brands they trust, based on their processes and services.
– Strong safety and hygiene measures are here to stay. This is the new normal for the salon industry.
– Consumers will be willing to pay a premium for result-oriented and time-efficient products and services.
– Customers will demand enhanced services and experiences from their favourite salons
– Evolved consumers will expect higher standards of expertise as per global standards.
– Consumers will vote for sustainable beauty and wellness with their time and wallets.
“We need to ensure that we focus on hygiene and safety, this is paramount to gaining trust and will eventually lead to success for everyone in the industry,” concludes Gupta.