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Q&A: StyleSeat prioritizes personalization to drive mobile growth

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February 2, 2015

The StyleSeat app

The StyleSeat app

Online beauty booking service StyleSeat is hoping to continue its pace in the mobile booking space by putting its customers first and prioritizing personalization to make sure customers receive offers they want.

StyleSeat has been on an upwards tick since its expansion across major cities in the United States and its collaboration with L’Oreal USA, which has backed the online service and helped to take its business beyond beauty appointments. Now beauty professionals that use StyleSeat can sell their products via the service.

“We always win when we put the customer first,” said Lauren Pufpaf, vice president of marketing at StyleSeat, San Francisco.

“Being relentless about removing friction from the discovery and booking process and providing real value and ways to engage is how we win,” she said.

In an interview with Mobile Commerce Daily, Ms. Pufpaf spoke about the company’s marketing outlook for the next year.

What are StyleSeat’s plans for the New Year to keep mobile beauty bookings an upward trend?
It’s all about personalization. Beauty is an intensely personal space and the smarter we are about what services and professionals we recommend to you based on your actions and history, the more likely you are to make that appointment.

Are there any updates with your partnership with L’Oreal?
We continue to work with L’Oreal Professional Products Division to find ways to evolve the consumer beauty experience. In Q4, we launched the integrated booking/shopping experience that makes it easy to both book your next appointment and stock up on product between appointments. Traditionally, professional products have only been available for purchase from your stylist in the salon. Now you can purchase from your stylist online. For example, see here.

How is StyleSeat planning to expand this year?
We’ve made really incredible progress in getting high quality professionals on the platform. We currently have more than 285,000 stylists, nail artists, makeup artists, and estheticians in more than 15,000 cities across the country. As we look to expand in 2015, we’re focused on growing consumer awareness in our key markets domestically, while we prioritize countries for international expansion.

What are some of StyleSeat’s challenges on the mobile channel?
I think our challenges mirror what you see across the industry. Cross-device tracking and attribution on the acquisition side and finding new ways to keep consumers engaged between visits.

How are you overcoming these challenges?
We’re focused on providing value through unique content and experiences and giving clients a reason to come back, sign in, and engage. It sounds cliche, but we always win when we put the customer first. Being relentless about removing friction from the discovery and booking process and providing real value and ways to engage is how we win.

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The StyleSeat app

Does StyleSeat use push notifications to re-engage users or any other mobile capability that works especially well with your audience?
Our customers on both sides of the marketplace, professionals and clients, generally prefer SMS or in-app communications versus email. The key is to make it the customer’s choice and to make it very easy to select your preferences. In terms of client re-engagement, alerting clients to new salons and stylists in their neighborhood has been really effective but a simple way to drive re-engagement.

What is the biggest advantage of setting up your business model with a mobile-first interface?
Given that mobile now exceeds desktop usage among consumers, you can’t treat mobile as an afterthought. We start with mobile UX first for new features, test and optimize across all devices, then apply the relevant learnings back to desktop.

What do you expect to see in the mobile commerce space for the health and beauty industry in 2015?
Mobile adoption is the biggest driver of our massive expansion right now. Apps like Uber and Open Table have set expectations for seamless booking and payment, and consumers are now looking for simple, clean, one-tap experiences to reserve beauty services. Two thousand and fifteen is set to be a real turning point in an industry that has historically been slow to embrace technology.

What, if any, are some challenges and opportunities that health and beauty marketers may face in regards to mobile commerce in 2015?
It’s time to start thinking about CRM strategy across all devices. Our customers are increasingly booking across desktop and the app interchangeably, and it’s crucial to have cohesive messaging across all touch points. While not easy from a technical standpoint, the payoffs to integrated, cross-device retention strategy are huge.

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The StyleSeat app

What should these marketers keep in mind?
Investing the time up front to ensure that you have infrastructure and measurement in place will pay off in the long run. It’s not enough to just drive app installs – you have to truly understand the value of a customer that engages via mobile first. Cohesive messaging and a unified view of the customer will be key in scaling mobile acquisition and retention programs.

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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