StyleSeat just launched its first mobile app, which allows you to book a beauty appointment with the swipe of a fingertip on your smartphone -- a godsend for those of us who consider calling up a salon and booking a service a pretty major accomplishment.
While you could already do this on StyleSeat's desktop site, the technology originally only catered to beauty professionals when CEO and co-founder Melody McCloskey launched the concept in 2011. The original idea was to create something with which industry folks could essentially run and manage a beauty service business from the backend (which they can still do). Once enough professionals were on board, McCloskey opened the platform to potential clients as a way to find, say, a hair stylist or massage therapist, and book appointments. Now, it boasts 200,000 professionals in close to 15,000 cities. So, in theory, you can find a nail place or hair salon wherever you happen to be.
The platform for searching and finding a professional is Yelp-esque -- though, I'd argue, not as good. There aren't as many reviews or rankings. Also, when I tested it out, most of the first results were for individual stylists or aestheticians, rather than salons, which isn't helpful when you have no clue who these people are. Not all of them actually accommodate online booking, which isn't the best, and the location accuracy also wasn't that great (the fourth result for a hair salon for me was in New Jersey, for instance).
Since the app just launched, I'm sure there are still a few kinks to work out. "This is kind of the first step for us," McCloskey told us over the phone yesterday. "We're going to be building out more features for consumers."
It's a good idea. Yelp, for instance, only offers information on businesses, and you have to go elsewhere to actually book an appointment. Lifebooker is similar, but it only has discounted services. There's also Hanna Bronfman's app, Beautified, which essentially provides consumers with the same service, and does so really well. However, it's currently only available in New York, L.A. and San Francisco, and primarily features higher-end salons. Similarly, another one called Beauty Booked only offers services in New York.
Styleseat's nationwide capability means it has a lot of potential to be the go-to scheduling app for the masses, like Yelp is for information, or OpenTable is for restaurants. The fact that it's now even more mobile-friendly is especially key. McCloskey found that, in just the past couple of years, mobile use on StyleSeat grew from 15 percent of users to a whopping 78 percent.
For now, though, it seems to be of more value to professionals. That's who the company makes its money from, as well. While McCloskey says 95 percent of its services are free for them, they offer premium services, such as marketing tools, analytics and scheduling features, for monthly fees. But they also make money from businesses when a new customer is referred to them through StyleSeat, so maybe this app will shift things a bit.
Have you ever tried a beauty appointment booking app? Which is the best? I honestly want to know. Like apps of all kinds, there are a lot in this space, and it remains to be seen which will come out on top.