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Beauty On-Demand Apps Expand Their Offerings as Competition Heats Up

Who's going to win? Well, that remains to be seen.
A model gets her makeup done during New York Fashion Week. Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

A model gets her makeup done during New York Fashion Week. Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

On Monday, the startup GlamSquad launched a new wing of its beauty-on-demand business, adding $35 manicures and $50 pedicures to the services that customers can book to have done in their own homes. As far as category and geography expansion goes, GlamSquad has been rolling out its offerings in a relatively steady and deliberate fashion. Since launching in May 2014 with hairstyling appointments — and, shortly thereafter, makeup — it's only gone live in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. Nail services are available solely in New York for now.

By contrast, a more recent entrant to the space, Glam App, is in the midst of an intense city launch tour. Starting in Los Angeles in February, it's hitting 12 more cities and regions in rapid succession — Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, New Jersey — and offering hair, nails and makeup for between $40 to $100 from the outset. 

The consensus seems to be that the winning beauty-on-demand service needs to have both geographic and category reach. Even the startup Manicube, which works with corporate clients to set up $12 to $35 nail appointments for employees and has "mani" in its name, is looking into offerings like men's haircuts. So what's the right cadence for those roll-outs?

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GlamSquad Creative Director Giovanni Vaccaro, who came to the company from Frederic Fekkai, says the team often sends out surveys to poll clients on what services they want. (Frequent requests include spray tans, haircuts and color.) Nails always came up, and about half a year ago GlamSquad started talking about building that team. Before launch the company had to audition manicurists — with an acceptance rate of about one in six to eight, Vaccaro says — and train them on technique and sanitation as a measure of quality control. Hairstylists, for their part, receive 30 to 40 hours of training.

Having worked in the training program at Fekkai, Vaccaro says he believes that you can teach skills but that you have to hire for character, especially when it comes to beauty services. So just because a digitally-based business could find and onboard enough stylists to launch in every city nationwide from the outset, doesn't mean it should.

Investors, for their part, certainly seem to believe in GlamSquad's philosophy. In October, the startup added another $7 million to the $2 million it had in funding.

Perhaps even more cautious in its expansion is Vensette, which was founded in 2011 and, at $100 for a hair appointment, runs about double the price of GlamSquad's services. The startup only offers hair and makeup at the moment but has had nails in beta for over a year with its fashion and hotel partners, says founder and CEO Lauren Remington Platt. The team is testing other services, too, and expects to announce a launch date for manicures in the near future.

What approach is going to win here? In a way, we'll have to wait to see. But if there's one thing that's certain, it's that the winner is going to sit at the intersection of price, convenience and, more than anything, quality. Women do not mess around with their beauty treatments.