In the age of social media and e-commerce, salons have an opportunity to market themselves like never before. In addition to being a one-stop shop for cuts, colour and styles, more salons are ramping up their retail offerings to offer a vast range of haircare and styling products, tools, accessories and more. While e-commerce has been gaining momentum for years, the COVID-19 pandemic further emphasized the importance of salons having a strong online presence. Not only to generate extra revenue, but also to enable clients to shop in the comfort of their own homes. “COVID gave us a greater appreciation for retail because there were no in- person hair services that we could offer, so instead of retail being the cherry on top of a service, it became the very reason we survived as a business,” says Sam Dassouki, owner of Hair Booth Haus in Calgary. “It was the only source of income we had.”
With a plethora of competition in the e-commerce retail space, it’s important to not let that discourage you from diving in. Instead, let it motivate you to promote your salon’s retail offerings to each and every client walking through your doors, as well as to all of your social media followers.
“I honestly feel like it’s making us all step up in the way we do retail sales in person. I think a lot of stylists complain about people buying products through Sephora or Amazon, but I’ve always felt that these options exist because most stylists are not fully doing their job.” —Kara Firman, owner of Guide Hair Salon, Saskatoon
“COVID has made us hustle even harder. We realize now that self-care is more important now than ever, and people want to take care of their hair with proper home care. COVID also impacted our retail sales somewhat due to the fact that this is an industry where you make connections and build relationships. Guests trust you to educate them on product knowledge, so to not be able to have those face-to-face conversations was difficult. We took to social media to keep talking about our products and engage with our followers.” – Stephanie Crane, owner of Mane Attraction Hair Studio, Brampton, Ont.
“We’ve always focused on retail because we see the value of it both as income and also added satisfaction for our clients who trust our recommendations and have better, longer-lasting results based on the products they purchase. Now more than ever, we have to focus on retail sales. We cannot operate how we were before COVID because of all the [safety] restrictions and therefore, we have to try and make up for it somehow.” –Sam Dassouki, owner of Hair Booth Haus, Calgary
“IT’S IMPORTANT TO BUILD A CULTURE IN THE SALON, IN WHICH YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT THE PRODUCTS YOU’RE SELLING. AS A GROUP, WE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT WHAT WE’RE ENJOYING USING THAT WEEK AND SHARING TIPS AND TRICKS WITH EACH OTHER. THAT LEVEL OF CAMARADERIE REALLY TRANSLATES TO THE CLIENTS.” –MANDY ROGERS, HUNT & GATHER, VICTORIA, B.C.
What’s the Deal with Affiliate Marketing?
The COVID-19 salon shutdown also provided stylists with more opportunities to benefit from affiliate marketing with leading brands. Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which stylists promote a company’s products and can earn a commission based on the number of products sold. Brands such as Kérastase and Olaplex had launched affiliate programs during the pandemic to help stylists earn extra money. Through the program, hairstylists were able to earn a commission on client sales made through a customized coupon code or link—so having a strong social media following and loyal clientele is important! For Angela Lucia, owner of Blunt Coiffure in Montreal, she wanted a solution to earn extra revenue during the lockdown. While she originally considered launching an e-commerce platform, the timing was bad, so instead she opted to participate in an affiliate program with Kérastase. They approached us with the affiliate program, which works well for us because we have a great social media following,” she says. “For me, I get a promo code and I get commission when it is used. With the amount of money it would have cost us to start generating money with e-commerce, the affiliate program helped us make more money.” According to Lucia, an affiliate program is a great way for salons to use their social reach to earn extra revenue. “It takes the pressure off,” she says. “It takes time to have an e-commerce platform. Affiliate marketing gives you the percentage you’d probably make anyway, without doing all the work.”
For some salons, retailing of any sort has been a constant struggle, but not necessarily for the reasons you may think. While some believe stylists are simply not selling as much
as they should be, there’s a much-needed focus on equipping them with product knowledge, which will boost their confidence when recommending products to clients.
“When we listen to our clients, they tell us what they’re struggling with and, in our heads, we are already picking out the products we will use. The problem is that we are not communicating this out loud. Educating yourself on the product so you are confident when talking about it makes all the difference. The more you know, the more confident you become and the more trust you build with your clients.” — Kara Firman, Guide Hair Salon, Saskatoon
“When selling, it’s important to stay true to yourself. I swear by the products [we sell]. For me, it’s so easy to just recommend them. It’s not even for the sale but just to help the client get their desired look. You gain confidence when you give them a recommendation. Remember, you’re the specialist and they’ll believe you if you’re honest with them. My clients know me, and they know that I’ll always recommend what’s best for them.” — Rachel D’astous, owner of DastousDio Salon|Spa, Dieppe, N.B.
“Even though it can make up a massive portion of the revenue for salon business, salon owners often don’t know where to start when it comes to training and motivating their teams. There’s so much content online that it’s easy to get lost regarding where to start. I always recommend reaching out to your suppliers and product representatives for advice.”
— Mandy Rogers, owner of Hunt & Gather, Victoria, B.C.
“It’s likely because [salons] aren’t listening to the market demand. It can be extremely time-consuming; from sourcing to processing orders to merchandising, but you also have to invest time in training your staff on new products or they won’t be able to sell them!” — Gillian Rivers, owner of PH8 Studio, Yellowknife, N.W.T.
We know how special the relationship between a stylist and client can be, yet many stylists aren’t capitalizing on this bond when it comes to providing their clients with personalized product recommendations.
“Your clients trust you. They’ll see that you’re giving them products that are good for them and being honest about it. They’ll see that you’re doing it for them.”
— Angela Lucia, owner of Blunt Coiffure, Montreal
“Sharing our knowledge is part of our service, and can be a huge missed opportunity. Focus on sharing knowledge and not sales; that will come.” —Kara Firman, owner of Guide Hair Salon, Saskatoon
“It’s not about sales but about advice—advising your clientele about what products you’re choosing. Why you’re choosing this paste or this shampoo for her, specifically. It’s about giving the total experience and the best service. — Marie-Eve Medza, owner of Mëdz Salon, Montreal
“We’re the specialists; we’re the ones that are supposed to tell the clients what we recommend. Whether they want healthy blonde hair or their hair to grow, we recommend what we would do or use. You must recommend products based on hair type and what’s needed before they come back to get another service.” — Rachel D’astous, owner of DastousDio Salon|Spa, Dieppe, N.B.
“You have to have good service—from reception to giving a good quality product and taking pride in your work. Retailing doesn’t come before a good haircut or colour, but it’s needed to support a good haircut or colour.” — Frank Cini, owner of Taz Hair Co., Toronto
EXPERT TIP: D’ASTOUS RECOMMENDS MOTIVATING YOUR TEAM WITH SOME FRIENDLY COMPETITION, THROUGH CONTESTS THAT AWARD YOUR HIGHEST PERFORMERS WITH A GIFT CARD OR PRODUCT OF THEIR CHOICE.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
One of retail’s best-known rules is “don’t oversell.” It should be more about having a conversation than a sales pitch—making it more comfortable for both you and your client.
“We don’t sell retail, we recommend it. Hairstylists can feel like they’re being pushy, especially if they lack client knowledge and product knowledge. Remember: You’re not selling your client something they don’t need. You’re simply filling a gap in their routine.” — Angela Lucia, owner of Blunt Coiffure, Montreal
“If [stylists] are looking at it as being a salesman, they have the wrong mentality. It’s not about sales, it’s about helping clients and not recommending something they don’t need, only something they do.” — Frank Cini, owner of Taz Hair Co., Toronto
“WE’VE SEEN A HUGE INCREASE IN ONLINE SALES, AND I THINK THAT AT THIS POINT, EVERY SALON SHOULD BE CONSIDERING HOW THEY CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ONLINE SALES AND E-COMMERCE PLATFORMS.” – MARIE-EVE MEDZA, MËDZ SALON, MONTREAL
E-commerce During COVID-19 (And Beyond)
Since the COVID-19 salon shutdown, some owners have chosen to invest their time (and money) into building an e-commerce platform to make shopping easier and more accessible. Mandy Rogers, owner of Hunt & Gather in Victoria, B.C., admits that she didn’t have the time or budget for an e-commerce website when she opened her salon four years ago. “I had been planning on adding a store to our site but had always thought it was going to be a massive undertaking, so I was quite intimidated to start the process,” she says. “Fast-forward to the initial Coronavirus lockdown. When we closed the shop, it became necessary to throw myself into it in order to save the business.”
From Squarespace to Shopify, there are many user-friendly, retail-focused options on the market. For Rogers, it only took a few days to add all of her retail products online and build her store, which she integrated with her Instagram page.
Marie-Eve Medza, owner of Montreal-based Mëdz Salon, says her salon team decided to launch an e-commerce platform once the pandemic began. “We were thinking about it, but it’s a lot of work and a lot of time,” she says. “During the beginning of COVID, we finally had the opportunity to do it, so we did and it was a very good move for us. We’ve seen a huge increase in online sales, and I think that at this point, every salon should be considering how they can take advantage of online sales and e-commerce platforms.”
Frank Cini, owner of Taz Hair Co. in Toronto admits that having his online shop already set up during COVID was beneficial, but it didn’t make or break his business. “You’re not getting rich off of e-commerce, but we realized retail does increase loyalty,” he says. “A lot of salons, including ours, lost a lot of connections over COVID and this was one way to stay a little bit more connected with clients who were looking for root touchup sprays [and other products] at the time.”
For some salons, such as PH8 Studio in Yellowknife, launching an online shop helped them expand their reach during the pandemic. “We had to get creative—and fast,” says owner Gillian Rivers. “We created an online retail store through Shopify in about a week, and now have over 1,000 products on our website. We did surprisingly well with retail sales. Creating the online store allowed us to reach new customers.”
“I definitely think e-commerce is changing the way salons do business,” she adds. “You’re accountable to your customer because they can compare prices. You need to keep your customer service skills sharp, even with e-commerce.” While salons have reopened, there’s always the concern about a second wave of COVID. Regardless, some salon owners are seeing the benefits of e-commerce that extend beyond the pandemic. “There’s a major opportunity here through these platforms to maintain and grow salon revenue that would otherwise be lost if the professional products were only made available online through large retailers,” says Rogers. “COVID has drastically affected customer behaviour. The convenience and safety of e-commerce cannot be ignored in times like these. We have completely reshaped our retail strategy and focus to meet the growing demand.”
“I still believe it’s important to have an appealing storefront and a physical space for clients to be able to connect and purchase product,” she adds. “There is no doubt however that COVID has shifted a larger portion of sales for businesses to online. If we hope to survive in the long term, we need to evolve how we do business and communicate with our client base.”