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Uber-Style Revolution Shakes up the Beauty Industry

July 2nd 2015
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It’s Friday evening, you’ve got a dinner date but you’re still stuck at the office. A stack of emails to answer means it’s unlikely you will log-off anytime soon and even more unlikely you’ll make it to the salon in time to get a desperately needed blow-dry before closing time.

It’s the kind of scenario which inspired former corporate lawyer Anna Santeramo to create Stylebee, a company which allows clients to order on-demand beauty services wherever they are via a smartphone app. A few clicks and within two hours a beauty professional turns up at home or in the office to style hair or apply make-up. The service targets a range of busy women from professionals, stay-at-home mothers to those simply wanting to look their best for a special occasion.Women need flexibility, they have so little time,” explains Italian-born Santeramo “when I was based in London by the time I finished work the salons were shut, it was so frustrating, same thing when I moved to the US”. 

Stylebee launched in March 2014 in Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s one of a growing number of beauty-on demand app services which have sprung up across the US in the past year including Beautified, Glossifly, and GlamSquad. They all target time-starved women who care about looking good and a generation comfortable with using technology to simplify their life from ordering cabs via Uber to door-to-door dry-cleaning with Cleanly.

A big attraction to clients of on-demand beauty is the cost, most companies offer a blow-dry at 50 USD that’s only a few dollars more than at the average salon. “It’s the convenience too, you don’t have to get in a car, find a parking spot or a stay-at-home mom can get her hair done while the baby is sleeping,” explains Santeramo. “We are offering affordable luxury,” says GlamSqaud CEO Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, “the client feels like a celebrity, in 45 minutes our team transforms them”. Wilson says that many GlamSquad clients become repeat customers using the service not just for special events but as part of their weekly beauty routine. “They love how easy it is to book and it becomes quite addictive”.

Lauren Vogel, 24, is a self-confessed GlamSquad addict. An investment banker living between New York and Palm Beach she has her hair blow-dried two or three times a week. “I’m always on-the-go, out and about, so GlamSquad is my turn-to,” explains Vogel. “It’s really fun having a professional stylist come to you”.

Glamsquad delivers around 1000 services a week. It has 175 stylists and 70 make-up artists on its books and the numbers are rising fast. « We’re always looking to recruit more people, » says Giovanni Vaccaro, GlamSquad’s Lead Stylist who joined the company after a decade at top New York salon Frederic Fekkai. « This is the future, it’s very innovative, it’s technology and creativity, » says Vaccaro. « We are like a mobile salon and it’s great for the stylists because they are part of Glamsquad but have a lot of flexibility and work ».

Each company has their own way of vetting their beauty professionals with background checks. It’s an important component of the service as they’re working in people’s offices and homes. Stylebee asks clients to rate their professionals after the visit. « Being on-time is very important for our clients », says Santaramo.

Beauty on-demand apps may be hot news in the US but they’re still largely unknown elsewhere. In Europe, US-based Priv is hoping to change that with a recent launch in Britain. “London was the obvious choice for us,” explains Priv CEO Alain Schibl.“It’s a buzzing 24-hour city which is fantastic but it means that people have less time than ever before”. Priv’s already a hit in New York where it carried out 1200 services in December 2014 alone and has seen 63% growth month on month since its launch.

“In many ways the beauty industry has resisted the tech innovations that we’ve seen in other industries over the years,” explains Schibl. “I think Priv will serve as a bit of a wake-up call for the wider industry, we are waving the flag for premium beauty and wellness services that make the most of new technology without compromising on quality”.

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Photo credits ©Viktor Hanacek