How to choose the best salon software; The ultimate guide
Choosing salon software can be daunting. Whether you’re changing from pen and paper or a different software, you might consider several factors; should you have a cloud-based or installed system? Do you need a lightweight booking app or a full management system? What are your marketing plans and your budget?
The decision you make can directly impact the smooth running and success of your salon for years to come, so we have put together this guide to help you choose the best salon software.
If you need any further advice or prefer to ask your questions directly, you can also call our expert new business team on 01202 311826 or find out more about SALONGENIUS below:
How big is your salon, and are you actively trying to grow?
If you are a one-(wo)man band and most of your clients are regulars or coming through recommendations, you probably only need a basic salon booking system to help you keep track of your schedule each day.
Meanwhile, if you are a larger salon or you own multiple businesses, you should choose a salon software that doesn’t just keep track of your appointment book, but also tells you about your business performance and helps you manage your staff and market your clients.
A comprehensive salon software system will act as a digital salon manager who helps identify strengths as well as areas of improvement. It can tell you who your best performing staff are, which stock never moves off the shelves, and how much you could grow your yearly revenue if you reduced your no-shows or increased your prices.
Often with salon software, the more comprehensive systems come with a higher price tag, but if you factor in your potential growth as a result, you’ll often find that the increased revenue is more than enough to cover the initial cost.
Do your customers want to book online?
Most people are incredibly busy with their daily 9 to 5, so it can be difficult to find the time to call or pop into the local hairdresser, spa or beauty salon. That’s why a lot of clients like to book online, as they can quickly log in on their lunch break or after work.
In fact, research has shown that 35% of clients like to book outside of business hours. That’s 35% more business that you could potentially be losing out on!
Online bookings allow clients to book appointments from a mobile phone, tablet or PC at their convenience. Our service bookingsGENIUS can be linked to your website or Facebook page for quick and easy access, so that clients can book themselves in the very moment they thought of you. This is especially important if you have a largely millennial clientele, as they tend to want to manage everything online.
Different providers offer online bookings in different ways. Some will charge you a fee or percentage per booking, which can get costly if your online bookings really take off.
bookingsGENIUS is included in most of our packages and can be added for a small sum when it isn’t. We only charge a set monthly price with no additional charge per booking, so a good month for bookings never ends with a hefty bookings bill for you.
Read more: The benefits of online bookings
Do you have many rooms and services?
If your business offers a mix of hair and beauty services – perhaps you do hair, nails and waxing, you’ll want to take an extra close look at how the system handles multiple rooms and services.
For example, you may have several beauticians who can perform waxing, but only one room which accommodates for this service. In this instance, you’ll need a system which makes sure you don’t accidentally double book the room on the basis that both therapists are available. Similarly, it should be quick and easy to book a client in for a haircut and colour followed by a manicure.
Some systems are more geared towards smaller salons or a select set of services, which is fine if that’s what you offer and you plan to stay that way. However, you might end up with a lot of extra steps along with difficult and unreliable bookings procedures if you decide to expand.
So, before you choose your new salon software, ask for a live demonstration of the system and make sure it can handle bookings exactly the way you need it to without any lengthy workarounds.
Should you get cloud-based or locally installed salon software?
There are pros and cons to both cloud-based and locally installed systems and it’s not always obvious at first glance which systems belong to which category. However, it’s a question worth asking when you look at any potential salon software. Here’s why:
A locally installed system is installed directly onto your salon’s reception computer and stores all your salon data on site. Meanwhile, a cloud-based system stores all your client and appointment data online and usually requires an internet connection at all times.
The most important factor here is your internet connection. Are you confident that the connection in your salon is generally quite fast and that your internet provider will solve any issues quickly? If not, consider what would happen if you lose your internet connection on a busy Saturday afternoon. You could find yourself with no access to your cloud-based system along with your appointments, client data and allergy tests – potentially for hours or even days!
If this is a concern of yours, you may be better off using a locally installed system such as SALONGENIUS, which will work with or without an internet connection. With this, your data can still be backed up to a pen drive or the cloud, so that you can quickly recover it if your computer is in any way compromised. You can also get the best of both worlds with remoteGENIUS, which lets you access your SALONGENIUS system remotely from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
How much is it really going to cost?
Some systems are more or less ‘pay as you go’ – you pick a package based on your needs and your number of staff, then you’ll have it for as long as you’re paying in the monthly fee (or for the length of your contract). With others such as SALONGENIUS, you pay a set amount to cover the cost of your software and once paid, you own the system.
The latter means that once your system is paid for, it’s all yours and your monthly cost is significantly reduced. Then you can choose whether to continue paying for additional ongoing services, or you can simply keep using the system for free. This works out less costly in the long run for many.
You’ll also want to look into any costings on top of the system. For example, what does your potential software provider charge for SMS credits and loyalty cards, and is there a charge for each online booking? Make sure you tally up all your expenses to see if that low-cost system really is as cheap as it seems.
Furthermore, you should consider how the system can impact your profits. A full management system may come with a higher monthly cost, but will often offer superior reporting, marketing and time-saving features which will boost your profits in the long run.
Read more: How to save time in your salon
How do you want to market your salon?
Marketing is all about understanding your clients and figuring out what makes them tick. Are they savvy millennials who will only book an appointment after checking your salon’s online reviews? Are they busy professionals looking for quick-fixes and flash sales, or are they long-standing regulars who appreciate getting something back for their loyalty?
Salon marketing can be done through direct SMS, emails, social media, loyalty cards or even your own salon app. The choices are endless! So, think about where your clients are and how they tend to communicate, and make sure your future salon software can reach them on their preferred platforms. If you have clients of all ages and genders, choose a salon software that offers marketing in a few different ways.
When you have a diverse set of clients, it’s also essential to have a software that will let you segment different demographics for marketing. For example, if you want to promote your new anti-ageing treatment, you may only want to do so to your clients over 50. This has the benefit of happier clients, as they get more personalised offers, and will also make your marketing more cost-efficient as you’re not wasting time and money contacting those who are unlikely to take up the offer.
SALONGENIUS customers can contact their clients via SMS and email and have a range of loyalty schemes to choose from including loyalty cards, gift cards and referral schemes. Furthermore, they can gather verified online reviews through salonspy.
What is your staffing situation?
In the salon business, it’s not uncommon to have different types of staff. You might have some employed stylists and some self-employed ones, managers, apprentices and receptionists. Likelihood is that they’ll have different systems and structures for wages and commission, so you’ll want your salon software to accommodate for this.
It’s also a good idea to look into how the system handles staff targets and reporting, as this can be used to motivate your salon team and boost your bottom line.
Furthermore, you might want to restrict your salon software system based on who is using it. For example, by stopping your apprentice from seeing the staff performance figures or your financial reports.
When you’re looking for a new system, make sure that it will suit all your circumstances before you sign any contracts.
Read more: How to motivate your salon team
How much support do you need?
If you’re running a busy salon and something goes wrong, you’ll want a solution right away from someone who understands your business.
At SALONGENIUS, we have an entirely UK-based, five-star support team which is available to customers from as early as 7am to as late as 9.45pm to ensure every salon is catered for. Furthermore, we have local engineers across the UK for salons who want someone who can pop into the salon for face-to-face support and training.
How do you keep your salon data safe?
IT security may not be at the front of your mind as a salon owner, but there are a number of factors in which it affects your salon. Firstly, GDPR requires you to keep your clients’ personal data safe. This means taking appropriate measures to ensure it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.
This is one reason many are currently moving from pen and paper to salon software – it’s often far more secure (and convenient!) to keep client data safe through passwords, fingerprint readers and automated backups, than locking up sheets of paper.
Furthermore, small businesses are frequently targeted by hackers in cyber-attacks such as ‘ransomware’, which locks down your data and only lets you access it if you pay the attackers a sum of money. Common reasons for loss of data are also theft, flood and fire.
For this reason, it’s essential that you check how secure any potential salon software is and how your data is backed up. With SALONGENIUS, you can manage your own backups or use our secure automated backup service, fallbackGENIUS to take the worry out of backups.
Do you need hardware?
Hardware can be anything from computers, to tablets, tills, receipt printers and fingerprint scanners. If you’re IT savvy, you might want to be able to pick your own kit. However, if you feel that your expertise is firmly in the fields of hair and beauty, you may want to go with a software company which can supply the ideal hardware for your system.
This saves you both time and hassle as you won’t have to deal with multiple retailers to kit out your reception desk, or multiple customer support centres when things go wrong.
At SALONGENIUS, we offer everything from PCs to barcode scanners, PDQ machines, receipt printers, tills and even phone and internet contracts. We also offer full support for any hardware purchased from us, giving you a one-stop shop for all your salon’s software and hardware needs!