When is technology the problem?
We constantly debate how to disrupt Amazon and break its hold on the consumer, but that’s not our biggest problem. What’s holding us back is our inability to ensure the bricks and mortar, social and online shopping experience is completely seamless for the consumer. But to do that successfully we need strong specialist technology that understands our industry and can keep up with changes in and beyond it. At the moment, it simply doesn’t exist because distribution, multi-locations and retail software have never been a major focus for salon software. I know; I’ve researched every system currently available and nothing will fit exactly what my business requires. As I see it, there are three big tech challenges facing the world of beauty and no technology system offers a solution to all three:
- There are no systems out there that allow you easily to customize reports. I need an IT department to bend the system to suit my business. If my model works, and with 100 locations and more than 600 staff I am pretty confident it works, why should I change to fit with what the software companies are offering? I want to be able to mold what I have to suit what I need.
- Salon businesses are diversifying but tech isn’t keeping up. The salon software specialists are too limited, while the non-specialists simply don’t understand or deliver what we need for this industry. I want to reach a point where my stylist can recommend a product and if we don’t stock it, she can get the iPad and organize purchase from another of our stores or our warehouse and have it shipped to the client’s home next day. We should be able to link with an external supplier so if we don’t have it in stock, we can get it for our clients from elsewhere, while making it seem as if it’s coming from us. The consumer has been conditioned to expect this from fashion retail and if we can’t replicate it we can’t compete. At GS we currently need three separate systems to provide this service. It’s hardly seamless.
- And why are there so many hurdles to linking with other third-party companies? Google Pay and Apple Pay may be relatively new, but PayPal has been around for years, so why can’t we offer that to clients? And why can’t we link to third-party merchandise companies without costly software integration fees? Some of us would rather partner with an external gift card company that uses our supplier’s own brand. The ability to integrate our systems with others is crucial if we are to really mount a challenge to Amazon and online store shopping as a whole and retain and grow the potentially life-saving income stream that retail represents.
Small locations, even medium-sized locations, can’t carry huge inventory and so risk losing sales to Amazon and other online sites. But what if we had technology that could bridge the gap from salon to distributor, enabling a seamless system where the distributor sends direct to the consumer, while giving the salon the sale. These software advancements are desperately needed. Perhaps the answer is for us, North America’s top chain, to sit down with a preferred software company in a strategy session to look at how we can meet the consumer demands.