Shanalie Wijesinghe, director of education at Boulevard, lends her industry expertise on the most current client behavior trends. 
 -  Photo: Boulevard

Shanalie Wijesinghe, director of education at Boulevard, lends her industry expertise on the most current client behavior trends.

Photo: Boulevard

Spring is my favorite time of year, and not just because of the weather. Spring is the prime time for some of the self-care industry’s best events, with salon owners and professionals from all over the country gathering at different venues to network and discuss the key issues impacting our space. Beyond learning about the latest styles, techniques, tools, and technologies, what I find most valuable about frequenting the event circuit is the opportunity to hear from industry insiders about the most salient trends driving client behavior.

This year, much of the conversation is about what’s motivating clients. With the economy seemingly teetering on edge and consumers increasingly feeling the pinch, everyone is asking a variation of the same question: how can we motivate current and prospective clients to continue frequenting our salons? 

Now, the fact we’re collectively asking ourselves that question is not all that surprising. What is both surprising and illuminating, however, is the emerging consensus around the answer. As we move deeper into 2023, the things clients are most passionate about are not just surprising but often run directly counter to conventional wisdom. Let’s take a look at some of the most prevalent examples. 

What makes a great review is changing 

That great reviews are essential to the health of your salon isn’t exactly new information. But one of the recurring themes I’m hearing on show floors this year is how what constitutes a great review is rapidly changing. Prospective clients increasingly rely on reviews not to ensure that your salon will provide a great cut and color but that it will provide a great experience. Great reviews are about the service, not the services. 

How easy was it to book an appointment online? How prepared are you when clients come in for their visit? How seamless is the check-in and check-out process? Do you make an effort to get to know clients on a personal level? How responsive is the salon to questions? How adept is it at communicating digitally? A great review in 2023 answers these questions and more in the affirmative. 

Data security is a real concern (yes, even for your clients)

One of the hottest topics on the event circuit right now is data security. In some ways, that’s not surprising. Every day it seems there’s a new high-profile security breach exposing large swaths of sensitive consumer data. So, yeah, security is on the mind. That said, until recently, it’s never something I’ve heard salon owners consistently and repeatedly mention as one of their clients’ top concerns. 

It makes sense though. Clients now want a seamless and touchless experience in which all of their information, including their preferred credit card, is collected once and never requested again. That means clients want you to store a heck of a lot of valuable personal information — you better believe they also expect you to protect it. 

If your technology stack isn’t capable of storing and protecting large swaths of important data, it’s time to modernize, and if your staff can’t answer basic client questions about how your salon goes about ensuring data security, it’s time for some training. And no, your salon is not the exception. You’re not too small, too established, too new, or too anything. If you operate a salon, data security matters to your clients. 

Cost sensitivity is real — but lower prices aren’t always the answer 

There’s a consensus among those in the industry that clients are growing increasingly cost-sensitive. Again, not in itself surprising. What might be surprising though is how that sensitivity is manifesting itself. The natural assumption is that cost-sensitive consumers actively seek and desire lower prices. But that’s not at all what I’m hearing. Instead, most of the salon owners I speak with say their clients are fixated not on price but on value. 

Yes, clients are watching their expenses carefully. But to the modern consumer, that doesn’t mean focusing on spending less — it means focusing on ensuring that every dollar is a dollar well spent. They’d rather pay $400 for something great than $200 for something mediocre. One is a great value, the other is not. 

Not accepting new clients is a turn-off — just not for who you think 

Let’s leave the obvious drawbacks of not accepting new clients behind for a second (and to be clear, there are many, not the least which is that even the best salons and stylists in the world are going to churn a few clients every month). In the conversations I’m having, salon owners say that not accepting new clients has become an increasingly big turn-off for their existing clients. 

You read that right. Your existing clients are turned off by your refusal to accept new ones. Why? Because that means they can’t refer friends. And they really, really want to refer their friends! Part of having a great experience in 2023 is being able to tell the world. That’s why we write reviews. That’s why we share our pics and our love on social media. We want to tell others just how great you are. We want to tell them that they should come here too. If you not accepting new clients, you’re taking a piece of that thrill away. 

The big takeaway

Let’s close with the most important of all the trends about which I’m hearing: making your clients look great doesn’t go nearly as far as it once did. Don’t misread or misunderstand — making your clients look their best is absolutely, unequivocally part of your job. 

But it’s only part of it. 

If there’s a prevailing theme present in just about every show floor conversation right now, it’s the intertwining of beauty and wellness. It’s not just about looking good anymore. It’s about feeling good. It’s not just about looking well. It’s about being well. 

When clients come to your salon, they’re expecting to leave with both beauty and wellness. Only they don’t even think of them as separate things anymore. They’ve arrived at a place where they consider looking their best and feeling their best to be the same thing. 

It’s on us as an industry to meet them there. 

About the Author

Shanalie Wijesinghe is the director of education at Boulevard, where she lends her industry and platform expertise to both in-house staff and partner salons and spas. A salon industry veteran with more than 14 years of experience working for high-end luxury salons such as Sally Hershberger and Benjamin, Wijesinghe was previously a sales engineer for Boulevard and blends her knowledge of the beauty and technology industries to help put the company’s partners and employees on the path to success. A Bay Area native and first-generation immigrant, Wijesinghe is a graduate of the Paul Mitchell School specializing in cosmetology, styling, and nail instruction.

 

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