StyleSeat, the “OpenTable for hair stylists” backed by Founders Fund (via FF Angel), 500 Startups, Ashton Kutcher, and others (including a who’s who of angel investors), is today launching a service called “New Client Offers.” The platform allows salons to reach out to potential new clients by offering discounts or extra services redeemable upon their first visit. The offers will be available in the company’s online marketplace where customers can also browse area salons, search for professionals based on location, speciality or price, read reviews, view photos of the stylist’s work, and then book their appointments directly.
“We did a lot of thinking and research to understand what’s the best way to help grow the businesses of these salons,” says co-founder and CEO Melody McCloskey of the new platform. “We found that the only way a lot of the industry gets the customer in the door is through the daily deal model,” she says, “and there’s a lot of flaws in that model.”
The offers platform is a twist on daily deals, which McCloskey believes is not sustainable for salons, or good for salon customers, either. With daily deals, salons are giving up around 75% of their service price, she says. Plus, they get overwhelmed by a large number of clients, and generally only see a 20% return rate on the clients who came in because of a daily deal. Customers, meanwhile, only get access to the salons offering the “cheap” deals, which doesn’t always mean the better salons. And, she adds, StyleSeat also offers a “more authentic experience” because stylists write about their services in their own words and post photos of their actual work.
With StyleSeat’s new platform, however, professionals will be able to book as many or few deals as they like and they also have the option to offer free services instead of a price cut – something which doesn’t affect their bottom line quite as much. On the backend, StyleSeat’s platform lets salons track statistics surrounding their revenue and the ROI on the deals themselves. They also get access to the customer’s name, email and phone number (for reminders), which is all stored in StyleSeat. The offers will appear like ads on the search results pages and on the profile pages. (See screenshots, above and below).
StyleSeat has marketed itself as a freemium service in the past, but it has actually been 100% free until today. This is the first time it’s monetizing – by taking a 30% cut on the new client offers, which less than the typical daily deal site would take. “We want to be generous about the feature set we have on our platform,” says McCloskey. “Our philosophy is that we want to give you a platform to run your business for free, but when you want to grow you’re business, we’ll take a cut of that.”
She also says that new client offers are the “first of a lot of products” that are in the pipeline. Other products launching soon will focus more on developing a more robust CRM system, with respect to bringing existing clients back to the salon, for example.
Launched in May 2011, StyleSeat has over 55,000 salons and spas onboard, which is up from the 40,000 it reported back in March. It has also booked 800,000 appointments since its launch at TechCrunch Disrupt in May 2011. Stylists can sign up here.