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Singapore's Monster Of A Beauty Industry Goes Digital - And It's About Time

Somewhere in Singapore, someone is looking in the mirror. They could be poking at a pimple, stretching out a new laugh line, or pinching some belly fat. They could be from all walks of life, from the PCMEs to the housewives, but they will still share that one moment in front of the mirror, fleshing out their insecurities.

This doesn’t just happen in Singapore. It’s a human insecurity that affects everyone, and from that need to look better comes the monster of the beauty industry. The traditional beauty salons like Jean Yip salons and slimming services are there for women (and sometimes men) of all ages and backgrounds. It is a language that transcends time and differences, connecting to something within our core.

Then one day, someone decided to move it online.

Image Credit: Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Image Credit: Hill+Knowlton Strategies

We’ve seen consolidation of services brought online, such as e-retailers like Zalora or ASOS; or food review and booking systems on websites like HungryGoWhere. Now, there are several companies are stepping up to take their place to try to take the crown for the sole beauty and wellness service consolidator of Singapore – a grand title.

We’ve previously spoken about two online directories for beauty and wellness service providers – LookBooker and PagePink. They were both launched in Singapore at around the same time, and are both run by startups. PagePink Marketing Director and co-founder, Audrey Ang, said that bringing the beauty industry online serves to help both consumers and service-providers.

“Consumers with limited time and budget have a multitude of services & treatments available to choose from. It is ever more important to have information available for them to make an informed decision about services they would commit to. For service providers, it is an opportunity for them to be discovered, share what’s great about them, and tell their stories through content, photos, and reviews in a way that’s easy to manage and requiring very little effort to attract new customers.”

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Image Credit: PagePink

And as of October, PagePink has also launched their new Gifts & Loots page, with acts like a page of e-coupons filled with discounts and vouchers, which you can gift to your friends or use yourself. It essentially brings the age-old practice of offering discounts and trials that beauty-providers in brick-and-mortar establishments use to attract new customers. According to Audrey, this could solve the problem of deep-discount providers that end up offering less than satisfactory experiences.

“Previously (beauty service gifts are) not conveniently bought and sent or without having to resort to deep-discount providers that may not always provide the best experience. Now consumers can access excellent pampering services as an gifting option with Pagepink. For service providers, it’s another way to attract new customers without having to resort to dramatic price cut, which tends to attract a different type of customer.”

But websites like PagePink aren’t the only entrants to this industry’s new foyer. GetKlarity, a new local app, wants to “connect unfulfilled consumer demands to unfulfilled appointments, starting with the beauty and wellness space in Singapore”. According to Joelle Pang, co-founder of GetKlarity, their app fulfils a need in the beauty and wellness industry that allows businesses to be accessible to their customers 24/7. Many are still relying on the clunky practice of accepting personal SMSes, calls, or online booking forms.

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GetKlarity’s web portal
“GetKlarity also understands that the beauty and wellness industry is very high-touch and service-oriented, which is why we designed GetKlarity to cleverly leverage on technology to automate typically manual processes, such as appointment booking and rescheduling, checking of availability, making reminder calls, etc., so that front desk staff can focus on what truly matters – providing excellent customer service.”

An Industry Hot For Something New

The monster of a beauty industry is thriving here. A report done in 2008 by the International SPA Association stated that Singapore has the highest active spa-going population across the globe (67%), beating cities in Europe, America, and Asia by a very wide margin. Singaporeans average at 6 visits a year, with the average Singaporean spending more than US$600 on spa treatments within a year. With a population of 5 million, that’s 3.35 million people spending more that US$600 6 times a year.

“The beauty & wellness services in Singapore is worth $1.25 b in spending,” said PagePink’s Ang, “The industry as a whole is ready for new ways to reach out to new customers.”
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LookBooker’s beta site
However, current efforts to close the gap between service provider and consumer aren’t making things any better. If anything, with the increase in options, consumers are more likely to distrust individual providers. And with deal sites stepping in to fill that gap, like Groupon and Deal.com.sg, customers are actually experiencing decreasing levels of customer service.
“Nearly 2,000 customers lodged complaints against the beauty industry at CASE in 2011, a record number of complaints which marks an increase of 25% from 2011,” said Pang. “The complaints range from customers facing undue pressure from hard-selling, receiving ineffective or even problem-causing treatments, to businesses not honouring their contracts. On the other hand, businesses that go on deal sites are also facing challenges of their own. Only half of these businesses make profits from running deals on deal-sites, and of the new customers that they attract through deals, only about 20% of them return for full-priced purchases later on. Merchants are not able to generate sustainable revenues, in addition to the brand equity erosion that they encounter.”
The key word, in this day and age, is ‘information’. There is a need for curation and an effective way to inform potential customers of these incidences, without the mentality that you have to put up with crap services for a lower price. Both PagePink and GetKlarity seem to be on the same page with this. PagePink runs a blog with the latest trends and educational materials from fitness and beauty experts to provide site-goers with inspiration and information they want. GetKlarity has its own blog as well, run by GetKlarity’s editor-in-chief and ambassador, Yina Goh.
Image Credit: DailyVanity.sg
The Hard Sell (Image Credit: DailyVanity.sg)
“Unlike other industries, like food and beverage for example, that encounter many platforms competing to service every consumer need, from discovery, to reservations and comprehensive listings complete with reviews, the beauty and wellness industry is extremely under-serviced,” said Pang.
It’s quite obvious that the arena is ripe for the picking.

Who will be the one to take the lead? Who knows. The digitization of the beauty and wellness industry is still at its ground zero, inching its way forward and testing the waters bit by bit. It’s a brand new territory that we ourselves as service consumers aren’t aware of how to navigate. We hate the hard-sell, but we have also lost so much money from it. The best to the worst use the same tactics, and we as the consumers are powerless. Perhaps this is the step we need to take the control back.

 

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