Micro-niches aren’t places to hide, but markets in which to grow.
Looked in the mirror lately? Liked what you saw?
If the answer is ‘no,’ then consider what the beauty industry can do for you.
No, I’m not talking about enhancing your look; I’m talking about upgrading your business. Like many vertical niche markets, the beauty industry offers handsome opportunities. Consider the numbers.
Though research varies, there are approximately 86,000 beauty salons in the U.S. That’s roughly 2.5 shops for every IT consultancy in America that employs two or more people. All told, the beauty shop industry generates more than $50 billion of revenue annually.
It’s big business, in other words.
So how could this possibly matter to you? Good question. The beauty industry is what I like to call a hyper-local/hyper-vertical market that is ripe for digital transformation. It is fragmented, specialized and more complex than what you might think at first blush, pun intended. It is also very open to digital automation.
For these and other reasons, the market is a perfect place for a small MSP or VAR business to specialize. As I’ve said repeatedly, there are roughly five different ways to focus or distinguish your business. You can specialize by industry, segment, function, geography or technological innovation.
More experts I talk to say partners that focus on two or more of these areas simultaneously develop a following while insulating themselves from price commoditization. If you’re looking to develop a sustainable and differentiated business proposition, in other words, think in terms of customers that are both local and vertical.
Which brings me back to the beauty industry. In just about every geography you can think of, there is more potential business than any one practitioner alone can handle. There are more than 3,000 salons in Los Angeles alone, according to Yellowpages.com. That’s a pretty defined and yet sizable market. The needs of these companies might surprise you.
If you’re a salon owner, you have a multitude of challenges that digital automation can address. You have billing and payroll challenges to sort out. You have customer and employee scheduling to manage. Then there’s inventory management (someone has to keep track of all those “products”), marketing, analytics, Point-of-Sale (POS) systems administration, social media, employee recruitment and even regulatory compliance to consider. (In California, for example, a hairdresser must complete 1,600 hours of study and 3,200 hours of apprenticeship before obtaining a license, which then must be renewed every two years.)
Staying on top of all these issues is serious work, which today requires a lot of digital innovation.
Not surprisingly, the last decade has seen an assortment of software developers target this niche. Today, companies including Leprechaun Salon Software, Zenoti, Varago and many more offer comprehensive cloud-based solutions for salon owners. Read the reviews: customers love their platforms, which typically focus on scheduling, marketing and accounting. But none cater to a salon’s complete needs. Think everything “conditioner to regulatory compliance.”
Beauty salons—like millions of other businesses large and small— need an expert to “braid” all of their digital services and devices together. Given the level of tech sophistication of most salon owners, not to mention the high turnover rate of their employees, beauty practitioners need your help putting all of these sophisticated tools to use. That’s in addition to securing customer data, backing up calendars, protecting the confidentiality of customers and contract workers, tabulating commissions, managing gift cards and rewards programs, updating POS systems, securing mobile apps and otherwise staying abreast of what people are saying on social media.
For all that, what could you expect from a decent-sized shop? A few thousand dollars a month seems reasonable. Spread out over 50 customers, that’s not a bad book of business. It’s not enough to attract outside equity, but it’s defensible and definable.
Whether you’re a $2 million or $10 million organization, it’s not a bad place to be.
If that’s too narrow for you, then let me ask you once more: have you looked in the mirror lately? Or out the window…?
There’s competition around every corner, “snipping” at your heels. Micro-niches aren’t places to hide, but markets in which to grow.