Taking your retail effort online is a great idea—in theory. Look before you leap to ensure you have the management resources and time to make an electronic venture profitable for your spa and beneficial for your clients. Here are some key considerations:
1. Factor in time and budget. While West-Harrison says online retailing is a great investment, he warns budding online sellers not to harbor unrealistic expectations of selling 100 products overnight. “Get an e-commerce site up first, before launching an online store,” he says. “Spa software can help you put items online and handle payments, but the main problem is figuring out who will handle orders and manage packing, shipping, etc.” And in our society of instant gratification, West-Harrison reminds spa owners that it’s crucial to inform clients exactly how long it will take to receive their orders.
Eva Kerschbaumer says that running EsSpa’s online skincare operation is the most difficult aspect of her business. “Most of our vendors do not allow online sales of their products,” she explains. However, EsSpa is considering launching its own brand of products for electronic selling purposes. “Selling online requires a lot of up-front detail work, patience and constant updates,” Kerschbaumer cautions. “For those just starting, I’d recommend creating a blog and engaging visitors in discussing ideas, trends and lifestyle choices. Find out what people are looking for, get them to talk about it, and then start selling them products.”
2. Publicize your e-store. An e-commerce site is not a build-it-and-they-will-come endeavor. Without proper promotion, you’ll find that online products gather virtual dust much like in-store retail that gets neglected.
Phillips reminds spa managers that they are competing with major companies, such as Sephora and Ulta, that market their online wares consistently and constantly. “Online sales can be a third profit center, but only if it’s promoted aggressively,” Phillips says.
Make your online component an “integral part of your marketing matrix,” says West-Harrison. “Mention it via newsletters, follow-up emails, business cards, social media—anywhere to help build awareness for your offerings.”
3. Incentivize electronic purchases. Yes, an online store allows clients to shop in their pajamas any time of the day or night, but what is truly driving guests to visit your online store, and return?
Oasis’ Schoenberg incentivizes clients with offers exclusive to online shoppers. For instance, “During the winter holidays we have something called ‘25 Days of Oasis’,” he says. “People sign up for emails advertising different promotions every day.”
Soukup recommends bundling printable, online gift cards with other gifts, similar to what an online flower shop might offer at checkout. “Offer to package the gift card with a robe or candle,” she suggests, adding, “All types of gifty items sell well online.”
4. Offer “prescription refills.” Speaking of incentives, what better way is there to keep clients coming back than by letting them make repeat skincare orders from the comfort of their couches? After performing a skincare analysis in the spa, custom-recommend products via a spa prescription card that directs guests to your online retail center. “This gets clients into the habit of coming back when they need refills,” Phillips explains.
While you may not be ready to leap head-on into the mobile-ordering business, there’s nothing complicated about promoting specials and promotions via texts. “Text messaging gets a tremendous response,” says Schoenberg. “It helps spas raise awareness, and vendors can help by providing copy for specials on new products.”
Make it a point to ask clients for their cell phone numbers when they fill out their intake forms, and include a box to receive “exclusive offers via text,” Schoenberg advises. “Keep text offers relevant and infrequent, and clients will look forward to receiving them.”