This Sunday (i.e. yesterday) I went to a International Esthetics, Cosmetics & Spa Conference. The word International in the title means that there was a lot of Asian vendors (in fact – I had a strong feeling they have dominated the scene). However, since I was more interested in a technology perspective of the conference – I was dealing primarily with homeland vendors.
What attracted my attention was a spa management software. Before looking at it closely I was under impression that a simple MS Outlook set up would pretty much solve 90% of the problems. I wasn’t that far away, however, certain things have been showcased a lot better.
The three vendors that I had a chance to talk to were SpaBooker.com, Millenium (from Harms Software) and Spaware Salonware. Every software suit had their own advantages over the competition, however, since I am not even remotely the user of the software I wouldn’t go too deep into reviewing it. What I will do instead is concentrate on how each company was selling their software product.
SpaBooker had three average-looking ladies (nothing to see here, move along) and one loud-speaking boss-guy. The gentleman turned out to be very friendly and pretty much showcased all the advantages of the product in a bliss. For some reason when I asked directly if this is a hosted solution (it was obvious that it is to anyone who can read off the browser’s address bar) presenters went too shy and I sensed an attempt to hide some sort of guilt. Not sure why that’s a problem, but I guess since pretty much all other spa management software comes as a standalone package – there might be some doubts. On the other hand – they might have sold it as an advantage point (if your PC crashes – your data is safe, and so on), but they didn’t. The actual web service is developed using .NET technology and looks very bright and friendly. Definitely a plus from my point of view, since it doesn’t look as boring and as DOS-like as other packages. A little better marketing can just give this service a needed boost, since these guys are pretty new to the market.
The Millenium package, developed by Harms Software, had a stand right across from SpaBooker, so it was very natural that I approached them with the question “How’s your software is better than software of the guys right across from you?”. Unfortunately, the lady who was answering my questions was talking in somewhat low voice, so I simply could not hear some of the answers. She was much better looking (which is always a plus), but she wasn’t definitely confident in the software package she was selling, defaulting every now and then to a defensive stance. It may work in a single’s bar scene, but not when you have people asking you about the product you are selling. Since the company is in business for over 20 years (or so I heard), they might have come up with someone more proficient or more proactive. The marketing materials looked a lot better than those from SpaBooker, but when I heard that the version of the software they’re showcasing is dated 2007 – that was a definite Oops moment. Don’t know if they will improve their presentation for Monday and Tuesday, but that’s what they had on Sunday.
The last stand I was able to browse was the Spaware Salonware. Aside from hard-to-pronounce name and totally horrible-looking web site, the company showcased a pretty decent product. In fact, despite the program’s interface looking like 90’s are a-calling, the ease of use was amazing. The package is tailored to be used with touch-screen monitors (or heavy use of mouse, if you don’t want to invest in touch screen LCD), with additional modules, like Marketing (that’s just an automated discount tracker and e-mail management piece) and payment processor (which – from the presenter’s words – is custom tailored to your merchant provider). There were two people at the stand – the gentleman who was trying to pitch me that their company is using MS SQL server while all others are using Access (don’t know how true is that), therefore you can book millions of appointments (like that’s a possibility), and a very friendly nice-looking lady. The presentation was conducted in a very friendly fashion, although the overall stance was “we’re so much better than the others because we use Windows interface and SQL server” which was a bit surprising. In any case, the whole concept of a software with touch-screen friendly interface beats any other thing by leaps and bounds. From my perspective, the only two things this company needs to do is get a better-looking web site and default to touch-screen interface altogether.
To sum it all up, it was a nice experience looking at software products for totally unfamiliar market and seeing how problems are solved there. Even though I haven’t seen much of fresh ideas floating around (probably because management software isn’t considered a top-technology market), but there were a few things that got me thinking.
Now, if you ask me – after seeing all these products what do I personally think on how such a suite should look like, I would say it has to have the following:
- touch screen friendly interface (a must!)
- bright-colored calendar for ease of reading (spas use darker corners to hide their PC equipment, so it might come in handy to have easy to look at colors)
- interchangeable web and standalone pieces (so that one can manage his/her spa from the PC in the office with installed piece of software and from home laptop without installing anything on the it)
- data backup capabilities with encryption
- client-tracking capabilities (which client purchased what and when, do they need a refill, a reminder of ongoing appointment, etc)
- inventory-tracking capabilities (what product is in stock, what supplies are needed to be ordered), preferably with hookups to vendors
- money-tracking capabilities (i.e. who got what service, how much was paid, what’s the commissions, etc.) or total payroll management
- reporting on anything you can imagine
Anyone is in the mood to invest in a spa software startup?