With more people shopping online and using virtual booking systems, is your website up-to-date and ready to be found or could it do with a spruce up? Carly Hobbs looks at where to start.
Working on your website might seem complicated and low on your priority list but with 2021 promising a brighter, more hopeful time ahead, it could be the perfect moment to tap into some tech. “Now is the time to hit refresh, or even consider a complete overhaul,” confirms James White, who creates pay monthly websites for the hair, beauty and healthcare industry (Salonbranded.co.uk). “The pandemic pushed people towards e-commerce and communicating with businesses online. Your website is a shop window for potential clients, and it can be responsive, so tempt them in and show off your professional image.” Whether you’ve already got a website or want to create one for the first time, here’s some easy and accessible touchpoints to make your business a virtual reality…
WHERE TO START
If you don’t already have a website, you need to find a ‘host’. The most popular platforms are WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and GoDaddy. Most of them have free basic plans or options to trial them for a small monthly fee. “Wix and Squarespace offer a platform and design templates that are ready to start building on and have different prices depending on the plan,” explains web designer Julia Ferrari who also hosts online courses to teach small businesses how to build their own (juliaferrari.com). “WordPress is an open source and it’s free, but people feel that it’s more technical. It’s true but there are such great functionalities that are making it very easy to build the pages. Also, WordPress has more potential to add functionalities to websites - you can have payment, memberships, and those functionalities are free or just for a very low cost.” The best thing to do is do some research, see what other salons are doing and don’t always go for the cheapest option. They often have add-on costs and you want to be able to easily access a helpline if something does go wrong. All of this will boost your confidence and creativity.
Before you start, think about how you want it to look - it needs to be aesthetically pleasing, but that’s not everything. “They should offer simple navigation and be optimized to rank high on Google search. It’s worth looking at other businesses in the industry, especially to find inspiration from those we admire but that doesn’t mean you should copy that - every business is unique so your website should be unique too. I like to visit Awwwards which is a website that shows off awarded sites and Pinterest and Instagram are great for inspiration too,” continues Julia.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
How much budget to put aside will be dependent on who hosts your online set-up but it will often be determined by how big your business is. As you grow you might want to add more onto the site and have a shop or training area or even customer support. As a rough guideline though, expect to pay between £20 and £30 a month. If you’re looking for someone to build your website, make sure you get between 3 and 5 quotes in. Ask for examples of sites they’ve done for similar businesses to yours and make sure you’re both on the same timeframe. Depending on experience their prices will vary but remember, this is a worthy investment for your business and could see more income being generated.
Plus, while you definitely don’t want to give any rights to a web designer, getting help with your website can save you time, money and stress. Companies like salonbranded.co.uk provide bespoke monthly packages to get you up and running quickly from around £29 per month.
“It's not just products that can be sold on your website but gift vouchers, experiences, workshops and services too,” says James. “Don't try and compete with big online retailers - the advantage you have is talking directly to your customer with advice and recommendations.” You also have the ability to create client bundles tailored to your regulars, especially during seasonal periods. The possibilities are endless; from click and collect to work around any tier restrictions, pre-ordering so clients can pick up their favourites at appointments and even sending gifting ideas as a follow up or post-treatment service.
Three easy ways to add a shop:
1. Add an e-commerce function to a current site with SquareUp.com, which allows you to add a free online store. There’s no monthly fee, instead you pay 2.5% per transaction to them, so no outgoings to begin with.
2. If you’re starting your site from scratch, integrate an e-commerce function from the beginning. The main web hosts allow for this. For example, WordPress has a plug-in called WooCommerce which is free and can be integrated with different payment methods like PayPal or Stripe.
3. And if you have a strong social following why not consider the new Instagram shop feature?
MAKE IT PERSONAL
“The main thing to consider when looking at your website is ‘Does this represent me?’,” says Danielle Collins, a face yoga expert, who has 700 schools under her brand (faceyogaexpert.com). “A website is the first impression a customer gets of you and it should show your personality, what you offer and what your brand represents, i.e. it should clearly show your ‘why’. Your ‘why’ is the reason you do what you do. You could share this ‘why’ by talking about your journey or a significant moment that lead you to starting your business. People don't want to just buy from an unknown, they want to be part of a community, get to know a person and connect with a story.”
Images are crucial too as the last thing people want to see is unprofessional shots and pixelated products. “I would highly recommend having some stock images,” advises Julia. “You can always find a local photographer that would be happy to take some photos in an exchange for services - like a hair colour or massage? There are also some nice photos on Pexel and Unsplash - you just need to make sure you credit the photographer.”
“Make sure your website is secure with a SSL certificate,” says Danielle Holmes, managing director of Blacknovadesigns.co.uk, who work with small beauty brands to set up sites. “You can tell by checking if your url reads http:/yourwebsite or https:// - the ’s’ in the latter confirms it is. This is especially important if you take payments or process booking data through the website. Contact your hosting company or website designer if you don’t have an SSL certificate.”
If you shout about being local, Google will see your site as a service and show up on ‘near me searches’, which, according to Luke Budka, head of digital PR and SEO at ToplineComms.com, have spiked after lockdowns. “Give your site a local focus – name, address and phone number as well as testimonials and reviews from customers in the local area and ensure you’ve added this info to social profiles, like Facebook and a few good business directories such as Yelp.com,” he advises.
The beauty pros’ website building DO’s Vs DON’Ts
*Have clear headings and functions, it must be easy for clients to use.
*Feature both trade/training and consumer/shop sections; it showcases your business as an entirety, leading to more enquires and growth.
*Make sure your contact details are clearly displayed so clients can contact you with ease.
*Look at examples of other websites, think about what you like, what works and what you want to take from them to inspire your own.
*Invest in good images and a logo/colour scheme. People notice these first and they’re part of your brand.
*Forget to put a regular time slot aside to update all sections of your website. This good habit ensures you can keep up with the fast-paced industry dates, information and offers.
*Miss a trick; always link your website to your social media feeds.
*Over complicate it. Less is more! Ensure your homepage is easy to navigate, every page loads in five seconds or less and all your forms and payment processes work on all kinds of devices.
*Go for the first or cheapest option, really consider each and every way of revamping your site.
*Rush! Take your time and get it right, build on it when the beauty pro side of your job allows.
JUST DO IT
“Having no web-experience, I taught myself everything, even building an online shop using Wix.com. There were lots of trial and error moments as well as multiple late nights, but I got there. Once it was set up, it was easy to use and looks consistent, which is key for clients and there’s so many features. In terms of costs, I pay a yearly fee of £230, which covers the website and shop where my bestsellers have been the Spongellè body buffers.
To begin with it was addictive, I’d spending hours making improvements. Now, I set myself a manageable time slot for updates and my little girl helps pack up orders. I’m so grateful to have an income whenever I am unable to do treatments and it’s helped grow my beauty business.”
Leanne Chatting-Walters runs Mybeautydesign.co.uk.
ASK THE EXPERTS
“Setting up my salon website was all about giving my brand and services a modern feel, as well as offering online bookings and voucher purchasing. I enlisted the help of Dothingsdigital.co.uk to create a site that was pleasing to the eye with just enough information. The initial set up cost was £250 followed by a non-contractual £75 per month, which covers monthly changes. I’m constantly updating, so this is well worth it. I just send over the promos, pics and content over to them and they sort it. I then focus my energy on beauty rather than fiddling about with coding. The traffic to the website has been amazing and it complements my social feeds. Now clients can book online, I can download contact information, and everyone knows all about my successful business.”
Marie Stokes runs Thebeauty-retreat.co.uk