Salon-booking service StyleSeat has finally made its way to mobile, after seeing its smartphone usage increase from 15% during the company’s first year (2011) to now 78% of total usage today. Says company co-founder and CEO Melody McCloskey of StyleSeat’s mobile traction, “it’s completely blown up in the last couple of years.” The company, which has today grown to 200,000 stylists in 15,000 cities across the U.S., is growing quickly as well, as it turns out.
In June 2012, StyleSeat had over 55,000 salons and spas on board with its online booking platform, for comparison’s sake. It has now booked over 5.5 million appointments for customers, up from 800,000 appointments also as of last June. McCloskey says that a lot of the company’s growth still comes from word-of-mouth referrals – stylists telling others about the service – which has helped it find deep penetration in two of its biggest markets: the South and the Midwest.
With the new mobile application, consumers can now interact with the brand on their mobile devices, searching for stylists or other beauty professionals, browsing profiles and images, and booking services while on the go. Professionals, meanwhile, can manage appointments, client lists, post photos, update their profiles, and call or text clients from within the app.
The app comes at a time when StyleSeat is working to transition its business to more of a marketplace. This year, StyleSeat has been focused on building out its core platform and feature set, and growing its stylist base, McCloskey explains. Now, things are changing.
“There are a lot of features that stylists are willing to pay for, but we also know that if we were willing to make them free, there would be wider adoption,” she says. As the business transitions into a marketplace, it’s starting to become a balancing act between growth and optimization, McCloskey adds.
Currently, StyleSeat offers a freemium product with three tiered pricing plans starting at $25/month for added features like email marketing, advanced scheduling, reminder texts, and other tools. It also launched new client offers as a way to monetize through on-site ads, as StyleSeat would take 30% of those client acquisition deals.
Today, however, McCloskey characterizes the new client offers as a monetization “test,” while declining to discuss company revenue. Instead, she says StyleSeat has something else in the works for Q1 2014 which will help the company generate revenue. This forthcoming feature is in testing now, and McCloskey won’t offer any details beyond saying it’s related to “consumers spending more on their phone just to get things done, and spending in new ways.” She says it’s related to “client delivery.”
Laughing, I guess “Uber for haircare?,” and McCloskey says, “we’re not discounting it,” noting that Uber founders invested in her business early on. (I wouldn’t take this as confirmation about the Q1 launch, however.)
What we do know is that StyleSeat is poised to announce a Series A round of funding early in the new year. To date, the company has raised $4 million in subsequent seed rounds. With the mobile app now in place, the company plans to rapidly roll out a number of features in Q1 and Q2, to better build up their consumer brand and experience.