A growing number of startups are promising to do for the Australian beauty industry what UberEats and Deliveroo have done for food: namely, bring a sector that is still predominantly made up of bricks-and-mortar businesses online, and cater to younger consumers’ increasing demand for convenience in every aspect of their lives.
Launching in the US in 2014, Soothe was an early mover in this space, enabling consumers to book a massage at home or at their office in as little as one hour through its app.
Soothe entered the Australian market last November, and CEO Simon Heyrick said the business has seen significant growth, “especially in Sydney where we now see over 100 appointments per month”.
Heyrick attributed this growth to the rise of on-demand services in every aspect of consumers’ lives, as well as increasingly health-conscious millennials and people looking to spend money on experiences rather than material goods.
“Technology has enabled people to take advantage of on-demand services where you formerly needed to make reservations or call a dispatch service. In our society, where ‘instantaneous reward’ has become the norm, [the shift towards] on-demand is inevitable,” he told IRW.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the restaurant industry, where food delivery services like UberEats, Foodora and Deliveroo contributed to a 2 per cent revenue increase in 2017-18, according to a 2017 report by IBISWorld.
“These social trends have helped boost demand for food delivery services, as time-poor consumers look to cut down on cooking time and make better use of their spare time,” IBISWorld analyst Bao Vuong said at the time the report was released.
Some entrepreneurs are now banking on those same social trends driving a revenue boost for the $4.9 billion beauty and wellness industry. And Matt Dyer and Nathan Airey, the co-founders behind online booking platform Bookwell, are perhaps uniquely qualified to do so, having previously built the food delivery business, EatNow, which Menulog acquired in 2015.
Their latest venture, Bookwell, provides beauty and wellness professionals with free calendar-management software, while allowing consumers to book a range of beauty services – from haircuts to manicures to tanning – online.
“What we’re really offering is convenience and choice. The industry has been quite slow to adapt [to e-commerce] … there are a huge number of venues that don’t have any online booking capability,” Dyer told IRW.
The business, which generates revenue by charging salon owners a fee for bookings made through its platform, said earnings have grown more than 450 per cent over the past year.
Since launching in September 2017, it now has over 1,000 beauty businesses on board and a presence in every capital city, except Darwin and Hobart.
Bookwell has also received more than $3.5 million from Aussie e-commerce leaders, including Catch Group founders Gaby and Hezi Leibovich and Adam Schwab and Jeremy Same of Luxury Escapes.