Which Salon Software Is Best For You?

June 3, 2020 Hollie Power
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I remember the day we took our spa bookings online. 

It had been met with huge resistance from my team – and from me.  Despite having nine rooms and ten staff, we were hugely reluctant to take the leap.

Using a ‘book and a pen’ was how we did things – and that was how we wanted it to stay!

Because a book is tangible, isn’t it?  We had full control of the book.  We could pick it up and feel it.  

You can’t do that with an online booking system, can you?

It took lots of time, research and encouragement from our marketing specialists (that is, Ryan) to take the plunge.

Of course, we finally conceded – and decided we had to drag our spa into the digital age. 

It was, without question, one of the best things we ever did. 

All the worries we’d had – such as “what if the internet goes down” and “people won’t like it”, disappeared within days. 

In fact, we had one of our best months ever the first full month we had the system in place. 

Because, when you wake up in the morning and realise you have ten new bookings you wouldn’t otherwise have, you quickly appreciate the sheer power of having something like this in place.  

Now this may sound harsh – but if you don’t have an online booking system, you ARE losing bookings.

Not only is ease of booking preferred nowadays, it’s often expected.

And if you are not offering it to your clients, you’re missing out.

BIG TIME.

Because here is the thing – whether you are working solo, or running multiple salons, an online booking software can be the difference between covering costs versus making lots of profit.

Or a 60% booked diary vs a fully booked diary. 

Even more amazing is the plethora of outstanding options available to us in this industry – from simple systems to in-depth marketing machines – and all in between – there is a suitable software that will help you get where you need to be. 

We have put together this guide of some of the best in the industry to help you choose who might be right for you.  

However, before we get started, here are some ‘top tips’ for you to read first.

 

  • Research many, choose once.

Whilst worth the time and effort that goes into setting up an online booking system, it’s also important to note that it’s a front-ended task that takes a little time.  

By that, I mean you’ll need to commit some time to learn the system, input all your treatments, timings, pricings and settings and configure it correctly.

So, make sure the company you choose not only offers what you need now, but offers what you’ll need in the future. If you plan to get bigger, take on staff, or bigger promises, you’ll need software that can easily grow with you. 

 

  • Think about what you need.

Online software companies offer everything from a simple online booking system, to a full marketing suite – so be sure to know what you really need to help you operate your business to it’s full potential. 

A decent system can act as a full-time receptionist for you, manging bookings taking deposits and filling your diary for – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 

  • Be careful of the bells and whistles

Different software offers different features which might be the best thing you’ll ever need, or could just be an aspect you simply don’t require – that’s costing money either way. 

Every single business is different so be sure to know what features you will use for your clients before you commit to all the extras. 

 

SOFTWARE NAME: Phorest

BEST FOR: Salons with 3+ staff and with big goals 

PRICES FROM: Contact Phorest for a custom quote 

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Custom created packages for you 
  • Full marketing suite included within the software; ready made for SMS text marketing and email marketing
  • Unlimited users – so no additional cost as the business grows
  • Manage stock, staff, POS and client information all in one space
  • ‘Industry best’ customer service
  • Click, pick, sell… with a fully integrated online store
  • Includes a salon app branded for your business as well as a loyalty program
  • Salon reputation management – generate more reviews for your business right from within the software
  • Client photos within customer portfolio 
  • Free stock image library 
  • GDPR complaint 
  • Cloud based for access from anywhere

IN THEIR WORDS:

With over 6,000 spas, hair and beauty salons as customers across the globe and growing, Phorest Salon Software is the system of choice for the forward-thinking salon owners. The team at Phorest continue to push boundaries and strive for innovation, with the salon owner at the forefront of everything they do. With state of the art features and customer service, Phorest aims to take the work of running a salon on, allowing you to concentrate on delivering the best level of service to your clients.”.

IN YOUR WORDS:

“Phorest allows us to present our online booking via our salon branded app, through our website or as a link via our Facebook page.  It secures the clients card details remotely, and takes a booking fee from 60p dependant on the total price of the booking. This fee will secure the booking and is automatically deducted from the total treatment price on the system at the point of checkout in the salon. If needed it allows us to request payment in full if a client fails to show and we wish to charge.  It also allows clients to view and change their future bookings as well as seeing any historic appointments.”    Kerry Douglas, Body Sense Beauty Salon

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK A FREE DEMO

 

SOFTWARE NAME: Timely

BEST FOR: Suitable for solopreneurs to multi location salons 

PRICES FROM: From £15 per month (for solo), with price increasing dependent on staff numbers 

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Easy to use for staff and clients 
  • Cloud based
  • Booking via website, Instagram and Facebook
  • Personalised booking experience
  • Deposits and payments can be taken online
  • Client portal for easy booking management 
  • Deep client profiles including customisable digital consultations with the Consult app
  • Over 40 accessible business reports 
  • GDPR compliant 

IN THEIR WORDS:

“At Timely, customers are our sun. We believe your time is more important than ours and we go out of our way to help you when you need it. There are no ‘silly’ questions here – computers aren’t for everyone and our friendly team are here to support you, without judgement. Whether it’s creating beautiful body art or delivering treatments that make your clients feel pampered and special, we know that aesthetics and experience matter to you and your clients. It matters to us, too. Timely is beautiful to look at, simple to use and powers your bottom line. Timely’s product team is focused on building solutions that work for you. Automatically save time with no more unproductive gaps in your calendar, connect to Afterpay to see your client-spend soar, and create an exceptional client experience with a beautiful mobile ‘front counter’.”

IN OUR WORDS:

“As I half-heartedly clicked on to the Timely website to have a nose, I realised it ticked my boxes. Yes, my customers could book online.  Yes, I could log on from anywhere. Yes, I can take a booking fee upfront. Yes, It would run the reports I needed and, best of all, it was paid monthly and it wasn’t ridiculously priced!”   Taken  from my other blog piece, How I Cured My Booking System Headache

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK A FREE DEMO

 

SOFTWARE NAME: FRESHA (formerly Schedul)

BEST FOR: Those starting out and wanting to grow 

PRICES FROM: Free with a PLUS option which uses a small % fee structure 

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Unlimited location and team members (on free and paid options)
  • Point of sale – with accompanying barcode scanners, receipt printers and cash drawers available 
  • Stock management 
  • Listing on Fresha marketplace with the PLUS option  – a network that sends millions of clients to salons every month 
  • Payment processing (PLUS)
  • No show protection (PLUS)
  • Marketing tools (PLUS) 
  • Free two-week trial available 

IN THEIR WORDS:

“Join the world’s largest beauty and wellness network that sends millions of clients to salons and spas every month.  Free up your time to focus on what you do best, create your online profile and be discovered 24/7 on Fresha marketplace, Instagram, Facebook, Google and your own website.  Securely save client cards on file for an effortless checkout experience using our modern, secure payments system.

Take back control of your calendar by remotely charging no-show and late cancellation penalty fees, receive automatic payouts daily to your connected bank account.  Boost sales and fill your calendar with a suite of intelligent marketing tools to keep clients returning.  Simply set and forget to automatically reach clients through campaigns using targeted, personalized offers for birthdays, lapsing clients, top spenders and many more segments”

IN YOUR WORDS:

“There’s a free subscription option or you can upgrade and pay a low fee for extra features like online booking deposits and card payments.  It’s easy to use and set up , can be used on any laptops or any tablet.”  Sarah-Jane Lewis, Sarah-Jane’s Hair and Beauty

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE AND GET STARTED FOR FREE

 

SOFTWARE NAME: You’re On Time

BEST FOR: Small businesses looking to grow 

PRICES FROM: Free but optional upgrades and power ups 

MAIN FEATURES:

  • A comprehensive free option which includes email / SMS reminders and limited reports
  • Power ups to allow you to add more features easily and to suit you 
  • Data loading for a one-off fee
  • Pay for what you need 
  • Self check-in feature on paid subscription 
  • Loyalty scheme options

IN THEIR WORDS:

We know you’re probably doing a lot of research into this, and we know it’s a pain. That’s why we’ve broken it down below, so you quickly see why you’ve just found your software solution, lock it in, and get back to doing what you love.

An appointment book needs to be fast and flexible, so you can see bookings in day or week view, book resources or block out unavailable times.  You need to be able to quickly make repeat bookings, search for empty slots, or view clients histories all without leaving the appointment screen. It is the cornerstone of your software, so go with the best.

A seamlessly integrated, complete point of sale where you can invoice appointments, sell products, utilise promotions, give refunds and print receipts.  And then pay with your own payment methods, integrated terminal payments, and print or email the receipt directly to the client.

Have clients beating down your door with flexible SMS or Email marketing communication, using your own templates and targeted client groups.  Combine with loyalty prizes, online booking and promotion and you really have the ultimate solution to generate repeat business.

IN YOUR WORDS:

“Most salon systems don’t do what our spa business needs; appointment book, electronic forms, client histories, point of sale and staff scheduling.” – Kristen, Bulla Spa

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE AND START YOUR FREE TRIAL

SOFTWARE NAME: Shortcuts 

BEST FOR: Suits all types of salons including spas, clinics, barbers, salons and multi site 

PRICES FROM: Starting at £20 per month, however prices are dependent on business model – a variety of options include Essentials, Evolve, Elevate and Elevate Plus

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Bespoke packaged to suit individual needs
  • Full marketing suite included within the software; ready made for SMS text marketing and email marketing
  • Manage stock, staff, POS and client information all in one space
  • Includes a salon app branded for your business as well as a loyalty program Incentivise and reward clients
  • Intuitive appointment book
  • Hardware package options
  • Free online training classes
  • Support 24/7
  • GDPR Compliant
  • Free two-week Shortcuts Live trial available

IN THEIR WORDS:

These days, we’re pretty proud to be able call ourselves one of the world’s leading software providers for the hair and beauty industry. Our software can be found in more than 14,000 salons and 45 countries worldwide – not bad for a business that began with three young entrepreneurs in a back shed!

We’ve never been the kind to rest on our laurels – our constant innovation keeps us at the top of our game. The world of technology today is changing faster than ever, and we are always dreaming up new ways to help businesses work smarter, not harder.

At the end of the day, we’re so much more than just a company that creates software. We’re also a bunch of hard-working humans who love what we do, and who will go out of our way to help you achieve your wildest business goals.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE AND START YOUR FREE TRIAL

 

SOFTWARE NAME: Ovatu 

BEST FOR: Suits all types of salons including schools 

PRICES FROM: Pricing starts at £15pm for the solo plan for 1 employee, then £30pm for small (5 employees), £45pm for medium (10 employees) and £65 for large (20 employees) 

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Free 60 day trial (no credit card required) 
  • Completely synchronised and fully accessible on any web, iOS or Android device
  • Chat style booking bot sits on your own website as an icon, which opens up into a self-contained booking system
  • Powerful availability settings, re-scheduling and check-in tools – you will never need a paper diary again
  • You can take payments, deposits and card capture online to secure bookings and reduce no-shows
  • Email and SMS reminders are automated as are rebooking reminders and review requests, which will automatically display on your website, too
  • Create your own discount codes and customise how they can be used. Offer passes and packages for your clients, or for them to gift to their friends. A course of treatments, an unlimited month, or an introductory bundle perhaps.

IN THEIR WORDS:

Ovatu’s founder Dave, began building Ovatu in 2010, as a side hobby (Dave has interesting hobbies!) in a tiny flat in Manly.  Turns out, one day he accidentally turned the ‘subscription’ function on without even realising.

Imagine the surprise when right away a handful of businesses signed up and more importantly, provided invaluable suggestions for improvement. This became the backbone for how Ovatu is developed.

Since then, it’s been an exciting and humbling journey watching businesses use Ovatu to work less, achieve more and win more time back for themselves!

Today, Dave and his wife Ula run Ovatu from a beautiful country town on the South Coast of NSW whilst raising 4 busy little boys on their farm. Achieving a work life balance is so important to their family and is something they are dedicated to facilitating for thousands of customers as well as for Ovatu’s global team.

IN YOUR WORDS:

“Used for about 6 years. Always improving and reasonable cost. Works on every platform and has consult forms, reminders, post treatment emails, birthday emails, loyalty scheme. Support is good and responsive.”   Sue Davies, Gorgeous Emporium

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE AND START YOUR FREE TRIAL

 

SOFTWARE NAME: Salon Tracker

BEST FOR: Sunbed salons 

PRICES FROM: From £30 per month 

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Safe tanning management 
  • Multi-site management 
  • Online booking via website or Facebook
  • Walk in and wait feature
  • Split bookings
  • Staff or client finger print check in option available 
  • Caller ID
  • SMS and Mailchimp marketing suite 

IN THEIR WORDS

Our software includes intelligent marketing tools with built in client record cards and stock management. It is guaranteed to save you and your employee’s time and money. Salon Tracker is designed to be easy to use, in which we believe will make salon management easier and stress-free.

Our innovative software features and values are built upon your needs so we include all the basic and advanced features that you might require. Salon Tracker is guaranteed to make day to day activities easier, such as cashing up and analysing business reports. KPI’s, commissions and business takings can therefore be managed instantly and accurately.

IN YOUR WORDS:

“Everything is really simple so doesn’t take long to train new members of staff. We used to use a paper card system before moving to Salon Tracker, so it’s made our lives a lot easier and our business more efficient and professional. Can’t fault it, there’s no improvement I can think of.” Emma, 2Fifty5 Tanning Studio

CLICK HERE TO ACTIVATE YOUR SALONOLOGY EXCLUSIVE FREE TRIAL

 

SOFTWARE NAME: Retention Force

BEST FOR: Bigger salons looking to enhance their marketing 

PRICES FROM: This integrates with an online booking platform – packages start from £0 for the very basic option

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Free powered chatbot for Facebook messenger
  • Drives reviews on Google, TripAdvisor and Facebook
  • Collects customer feedback 
  • Referral program 
  • Rewards program for clients 

IN THEIR WORDS

It all started back in 2016 when our founders opened their first beauty salon, OD Blow Dry Bar. By combining experience of management, business automation and excellence in customer service soon OD Blow Dry Bar became one of the few top rated beauty salons in the city.

The very initial version of RetentionForce was born in OD Blow Dry Bar, at first as a salon rewards program. Clients loved the system immediately with over 97% of engagement. It didn’t take long for founders to realize that the value of the system is huge. With some modifications to support multi-tenant architecture the product was adopted by other salons in the city. The name RetentionForce was born.

IN YOUR WORDS:

“Due to the ease of RetentionForce marketing tools, we always stay on top of the mind and receive massive rebookings!” – Amanda Palmer, Palmer’s Glow

CLICK HERE TO ACTIVATE YOUR FREE TRIAL AND ENJOY 30% OFF YOUR FIRST THREE PAID MONTHS USING THE CODE ‘SALONOLOGY’

 

SOFTWARE NAME: iSalon

BEST FOR: Large and established salons or salons with multiple sites

PRICES FROM: £75 per month 

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Both accessible from the salon and from the cloud 
  • Can work with a touch screen, pc, scanner, cash drawer etc.
  • Includes 12 hours of training 
  • Specialised medical records
  • Stock management 
  • Staff time management 
  • Standby list management 

They also have a marketing agency – iCreate – which offers salon websites, social media management, brand design and guidelines, graphic design and print and content writing

IN THEIR WORDS

With over three decades of knowledge and experience in the salon software industry, iSalon are the partner of choice for your business. We are the complete salon management and online booking solution for hair & beauty salons, barbers, clinics, spas and colleges.

We know your clients are the most important thing to you, so we’ve designed iSalon with a multitude of features to perfect their in-salon experience and make a visit to your salon the highlight of their day!

IN YOUR WORDS:

“My experience with iSalon has been really, really positive and the rest of the team will say the same thing. Every salon should have iSalon, I would not hesitate to recommend it!” Helen, Forbidden Hair

CLICK HERE TO ARRANGE YOUR FREE SOFTWARE DEMO

 

SOFTWARE NAME: SalonIQ

BEST FOR: All sizes, groups and franchises

PRICES FROM: From £27 per month 

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Waiting list feature
  • Self employed staff reporting
  • Cloud based
  • Integrates with your credit card machine
  • UK company 
  • Two – way texting
  • Client information is securely stored and includes images
  • Loyalty scheme

IN THEIR WORDS

SalonIQ are a UK based company which means you are always talking to a UK based team with local knowledge. Our UK head office is in Kent and we have a satellite team based in Manchester, so wherever you are in the UK we have you covered.

Our friendly team are all UK salon experts: many are qualified hairdressers and others have worked in the UK salon industry for many years. So, whether you need onsite training or want to see an onsite consultant, we are here to serve you.

IN YOUR WORDS

“Easy to use and understand with fab support and development. Great for building your business, retaining guests and reporting. Guests love the online booking too.” Darren Mitzi, Darren Michael Hair Dressing.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SALONIQ

SOFTWARE NAME: Slick

BEST FOR: Salons with 2-14 staff members and L’Oreal salons 

PRICES FROM: From £5 per month (online bookings incur a 50p fee)

MAIN FEATURES:

  • Passionate about paper to software transitions
  • Full cloud based
  • Bespoke staff permissions
  • Unlimited users
  • Offers complete customisation to avoid double bookings and annoying gaps
  • Unlimited SMS reminders 
  • GDPR compliant 
  • Comprehensive marketing system 
  • The ONLY approved L’Oreal booking system 

IN THEIR WORDS:

Control appointments, clients and notes at the touch of a button. In-salon or at home: Slick gives you control over your clients and business. Smart marketing tools help you win and keep clients. The optional online booking fills slots 24/7 even while you’re shut. Smart huh? Stop spending time on admin and start spending it on your business. Slick will calculate cash up, reports and wages without you lifting a finger. Customised service times per client, no-show protection, repeat bookings. Slick is built by salons for salons which is why so many small salons love us. No 50 page contract here! We are so confident you will love Slick, we don’t do contracts. No commission. No hidden fees.

IN YOUR WORDS:  

“We’ve used them for the last year with online bookings the last 6months. They have been great! No issues, you get a message when someone’s just booked so you can review and alter if needed. They’re adding different bits for marketing support and other bits all the time. They also reply super quickly.”  Joanne Moqvist, Ysatis Hair

CLICK HERE FOR YOUR FREE DEMO

 

You might also want to read my original blog about how salon software had such a positive impact on my day spa and salon.  You can read that here.

 

 

Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather comprises some of the most popular systems.   Please ensure you do your own research to suit your own business needs.

In the interest of full disclosure some of these links may be affiliate links meaning if you purchase the software we may get a small gratitude from the provider.  This is at no additional cost to you, and indeed some of these offers may only be available through our links.

Main photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash