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The Evolution of Client and Consumer Behavior in the Self-Care Industry

The game has changed, but smart self-care business owners know how to adapt

The relationship between a client and their stylist or technician has always been rooted in trust. After all, most of us wouldn’t let just anyone work on our hair, nails, or skin; clients need to know that they’re in good hands, quite literally, when they step foot into a self-care business for the first time. However, the elements needed to build that trust-based relationship are always evolving, and the last few years in particular have reshaped these connections in a number of ways. By understanding the causes behind these changes and adapting to meet modern consumer expectations, self-care businesses can maintain long-term relationships with their clients for years to come.

The only constant is change

Those who have spent decades working in salons and spas have seen the landscape shift again and again. Thirty years ago, stylists often built up their clientele through word-of-mouth marketing, and appointments were made by phone almost exclusively. Twenty years ago, social media was in its infancy and the industry was more focused on the “beauty” aspect than wellness and self-care. It was only within the last decade that consumer awareness of self-care began to rise, often in parallel with tumultuous world events — think hostile political environments, economic uncertainty, and global pandemics. According to Forbes, Google searches for self-care have been on the rise since 2015, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing them to reach an all-time high. In other words, living through one of the more challenging periods of modern history is causing consumers to look for escape and relaxation wherever they can get it, and those opportunities often come from the self-care industry.

The breakdown of long-held stereotypical beauty standards has also affected the self-care landscape. The demographics of self-care clientele are changing; men have become more invested in their own self-care, with 58% reporting the use of skin care products in 2020, while many beauty brands are switching to gender-neutral marketing and packaging as gender identities continue to evolve. Younger consumers, particularly members of Generation Z, are eschewing the traditional gender binary; for them, there are no men-only or women-only services, making self-care appropriate for everyone. They’re also willing to spend on quality, figuring it’s better to pay a bit more for something great that lasts rather than something cheaper that has to be fixed or replaced almost immediately. 

Aside from current events and shifting demographics, there are other factors contributing to the changing self-care industry:

  • Technology: In the 16 years since the launch of the original iPhone, everything has changed. The number of smartphone users has grown steadily since, and as of 2023, at least 5.2 billion people worldwide use them. With this shift has come the rise of smartphone-friendly internet experiences and the expectation that clients should be able to search for stylists and book appointments instantly.

  • Social media: The rise of smartphones has also made social media a significant part of the self-care landscape. Visual-focused platforms like Instagram have become the ideal places to show off a new look or look at stylist portfolios, while TikTok is a major driver of unexpected beauty trends.

  • Hygiene concerns: One of the latest effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it brought the necessity of stellar hygiene into the forefront of the public consciousness. Clients need to know that every possible precaution is being taken before undergoing any service in a public self-care business.

  • The prioritization of sustainability: According to data from market research firm Kadence International, 87% of Gen Z consumers believe that companies have a responsibility to address environmental issues. The beauty industry has been a leader in the sustainability movement, making eco-conscious self-care products and services a must for young adult consumers.

How self-care businesses can adapt to client expectations

Keeping up with such rapidly changing consumer behavior is overwhelming, but self-care business owners can rise to the challenge in a number of ways.

Showcase your brand values

The modern self-care client is looking for a business that shares their values. Don’t be afraid to put those values on display! This starts with being inclusive, so make sure your signage and website or app copy makes it clear that clients from all backgrounds are welcome in your space. Marketing materials like newsletters are a great way to update your client base on sustainability efforts and reassure them that your hygienic practices go above and beyond. Think about your brand identity and your own core values, and make sure they’re being shared regularly in communications with clients.

Personalize every appointment

No one wants to feel like just another client. Consumers have come to expect personalized experiences from their favorite brands, and your self-care business is no exception. Greet new clients by name, create comprehensive client profiles with relevant details, and find ways to add personal touches throughout the appointment. This could mean reminding your 3:00 bleach-and-tone that it’s time to re-up their purple shampoo, setting up follow-ups for root maintenance, or recommending retail products to help them maintain their new looks. It also means paying attention — if you recommend a time-intensive look to a client who’s told you how rushed they always are in the morning, they’re going to feel like you’re not listening.

Maintain a social media presence

Considering that young adults use TikTok and Instagram as search engines, maintaining a presence on these platforms is absolutely critical. If you don’t have profiles for your business already, now is the time to create them — and make sure they’re updated frequently. Share before-and-after shots, tutorial videos, and interpretations of the latest viral beauty craze in order to build an audience, and make sure your contact information and business details are easy to find. Just remember that what matters most for your brand on social media is authenticity. If the new hot trend suits your salon’s style, great, but if it doesn’t, it’s ok to let it pass you buy.

Evaluate your technology needs

You’re likely already using software for some aspects of your business, such as booking and payment processing, but is that technology doing enough? Remember, your tech isn’t just for you and your team — it’s the first and last thing your client interacts with, so make it as easy as possible for them. Can you offer a variety of payment options, including contactless payments? Are clients able to make appointments online and via mobile seamlessly and without running into technical difficulties? Is your calendar optimized? Does your software allow you to create client profiles? These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself as you evaluate whether your technology is making the grade. If it’s been a while since your last upgrade, it’s probably time to start thinking about your next one.

Even as consumer behaviors change, one thing remains the same: The importance of building long-term client relationships on a foundation of trust and respect. By having the flexibility to adapt to this evolving landscape, you’ll set yourself up for success while building a loyal client base.

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