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Alison Lowney - Peaches and Cream Beauty Salon : Digital Cinderella

After 35 years in beauty therapy running a successful business in Sligo, offering a full range of state of the art treatments, nobody knows what good looks like better than Alison Lowney of Peaches and Cream Beauty Salon.

She trained with the very best:  Academie Skincare at ”The Institute of Beauty” in Paris, Juliette Armand in Dublin, Roc, Vichy and Clarins and was winner of the prestigious ‘Elizabeth Arden Beauty Consultant of the Year.’ Alison is a force locally and is greatly respected throughout the industry for her knowledge and how her salon continually reflects the very latest and best.

Alison explained to me when we spoke to discuss her new digital makeover recently.

“I have seen the industry change dramatically over the years, the products and treatments are far more sophisticated than they were but what has been really interesting has been the changing needs and requirements of the customer. Now the customer experience is just as important as the actual result.”

“I’m not very good with technology so it took me a while to realise that the experience was not just about having a well presented classy salon, but that my clients were increasingly judging me on my– Digital Presence” – She smiles, “that’s Lisa word from Myapp.ie not mine”.  Today’s bricks and mortar is your website, Facebook, Instagram and social media presence and the new services is for your clients to be able to shop online 24/7 all by using their phone. I think this is now as important as the Salon itself.

Like so many other businesses the forced closures caused by Covid created the time and space for Alison step back and review.

“I knew I needed an online shop to generate at least some income so looked at my website properly for the first time years, frankly I was appalled. I thought my old site was the digital equivalent of approaching a client for a full body tan with a 4inch paint brush.  My problem was I didn’t know what I needed, so I started looking at the websites of other Salons to see where the bar was. Besides realising I was not alone I did find out how high the bar was, or at least how low mine was, when I saw the website of Vanity Rooms, a salon run by Jennifer Butler, in Stepaside a suburb in Dublin. I gave her a call her to find out who had helped her and that’s how I met Lisa from Myapp.ie”.

“Talking to Lisa it was clear she really understood the beauty industry and how to best represent it through the various channels. She explained to me that the Vanity Rooms website was the result of investments made over many years and to reproduce it today would be very expensive and time consuming. Like many people I had applied and been approved for the Trading on-line voucher scheme and told her I was prepared to add to this investment with more of my own money. Her advice really surprised me. She recommended a 3 step approach.

She told me a traditional website, while I needed one, was going to take too long to achieve. At best it takes 2-3 months for one with an e-commerce shop and that was before Covid, now everyone wants a website. Even if you can get a web developer to talk to you, they are all out the door with work so – good luck with that!

She recommended that we initially create a phone app for Peaches that can be downloaded by my clients. She said that this is a new form of technology which looks and feels like an app but is actually a micro website on your customers phone. It works using pre-coded modules….all lost on me, she said all I needed to really understand was it was fast and affordable.  We would be using the app as a “wrapper”. Once downloaded my clients would be able to access information on all my treatments and about my salon and get direct access visit my new online shop and buy salon products, 24/7. The final step would be to create the new website, leveraging the work done on the app and connect the e-shop! The result would be a family of solutions that gave my clients a 360 degree view of my business each with a consistent look and feel. In short Peaches and Cream was going to be a brand that has real estate in my clients pocket!

The app and shop with my Juliette Armand and Academie products were live within 10 days! And we launched at the end of November with a fabulous competition and Lisa provided excellent promotional social media post designs and videos about the app and shop.  And the website as predicted about 3 months later.  

Take a look as see what you think of the app with online shop https://www.peachesandcreambeautysalon.app/

And website: https://peachesandcreambeautysalon.ie/

I asked her looking back she what really stood out for her on the approach she took

“What really startled me was the speed. I have colleagues who started months before me and are still waiting for their shops or websites to be built, some have been waiting for 6 or more months, I had a beautiful shop and app in just two weeks thanks in part to Marsha Abrahams  of the Juliette Armand brand who really supported us with images and content.  I now have so many more options and dimensions available to me that I didn’t exist before. For example proper branded Gift vouchers that can be bought and sold online, I can provide online skin consultations and issue a discount code if the client buys product as a result. I can offer a click and collect service where I get to define the pick- up times and locations! All paid for online using stripe or any other gateway I want to use”. I thought the ‘website’ was the life and death of the business now I know it’s just part of the solution and in some cases not even necessary. I can market products and treatments on my Instagram or Facebook page and can seamlessly lead the customer directly back into the shop or booking system to complete the transaction.”

Has this created more work for you and complicated your life now you have an on-line shop and phone app?

“My life is transformed for the better. Every Salon owner is the same, we all run our business on our phones, on the go! Orders come to us via Instagram, Facebook Messaging, WhatsApp, text, phone call sometimes they call to me across the street! Half the time it’s not clear and we have to get back to them, sometimes 2 or more times, then arrange payment, then a pick up time. It such a time waster. Now my clients access my shop via my app, the website or Instagram, they have a great experience selecting what they want to buy and are taken through a logical and professional buying process were the information is collected and payment is made. When they are finished the order is acknowledge automatically.  If they are requesting an online skin consultancy they are taken to a mobile friendly form where they complete a branded questionnaire and are requested to upload pictures. To manage all this I have a phone app which informs me of each new sale and all the necessary details, I know what orders are pending at any time. Once dispatched I change the status on my phone and the client is informed automatically, via email, that it is on the way. Using the same phone app I can remove or add products, change prices and add discounts all in real time. I have colleagues with traditional e-shops who are forced to wait weeks for their support service to add a new product. I am back in control and it’s all more professional.”

How would you describe your experience with Lisa Kelly of MyApp.ie?

“Lisa made it all so easy. She listened to me and made it happen with no fuss and saved me so much time – I felt she did all the ‘heavy lifting’. She understood my business, this industry and the constraints we work with. I’m not good with technology, most of us aren’t, but Lisa was really approachable and able to explain it the way it is. I think if it was not for Lisa I might have a nice new ‘traditional website’ but I don’t think I would have a transformed brand. She enable me to get Peaches to a place it deserved to be.”

What would you tell anyone reading this article who is the same position as you were and is thinking of changing?

“I can’t explain how excited I felt when I first heard the ping on my phone that told me I had made my first online sale, it was an amazing feeling.  I would tell any Salon owner in this business that  if you don’t look good both online and offline, how can you expect your clients to believe that you can make them look good!”

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MyApp.ie
Bray, Co Wicklow
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