WeStyleAsia to offer rent-a-chair concept for beauty freelancers

  • A Cut Above Group of Salons is on board; hopes other vendors will follow suit
  • Descriptive analytics for vendors to improve customer service and business

 

WeStyleAsia founder and CEO Arthur Tan with A Cut Above Group of Salons founder Winnie Loo

WHILE many other industries and services have undergone technological improvements, the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of WeStyleAsia, Arthur Tan, finds that the beauty industry begs digital enhancement.

Tan came up with the idea for WeStyleAsia, an online booking platform for beauty and personal grooming services, when he experienced a bad hair-dye job that he could not rectify in time for an emcee gig.

At that point, Tan asked himself: “How come beauty, unlike the rest of the industries, did not have a marketplace to connect users to trusted vendors?”

Noticing this market gap back in 2015, Tan set out to create a web platform which has around 800 vendors around Klang Valley listed to date. Starting out, one of the biggest challenges WeStyleAsia faced was the behavioural pattern of consumers.

“The norm is that consumers are very comfortable doing things the way they used to do,” Tan says, adding that 65% of people prefer to walk-in for services on the spot instead of securing appointments beforehand.

With this hurdle before them, the goal of shifting consumer behaviour is one WeStyleAsia is determined to achieve. Tan shared their upcoming plans of introducing artificial intelligence (AI) and the rent-a-chair concept, “We have pivoted a few times but I always think change is for the better.”

Salon co-sharing space or rent-a-chair concept

In an effort to reduce non-productive hours for salons, WeStyleAsia offers off-peak deals for customers to enjoy higher discounts while giving opportunities to salons to increase revenue. Value-for-money packages are also offered to increase customer retention.

However, in addition to higher discounts, the online platform has another move in its playbook. “We want to change the business landscape by introducing a co-sharing space for salons.”

With many freelance grooming professionals in the market, WeStyleAsia hopes to encourage its listed vendors to adopt the rent-a-chair concept. “Many grooming professionals want to have the freedom of time while earning money. Through the web platform, freelancers can offer their services without needing to own a salon.”

Although rent-a-chair is well-known in the USA, WeStyleAsia intends to be the first to roll out this concept in the Southeast Asian region. “Salons listed on our site can agree to rent out a number of chairs. In return, participating salons will receive marketing collateral from us.”

To kick this off, WeStyleAsia already has an early commitment from the A Cut Above Group of Salons to participate and hopes that other salons will follow suit once it is rolled out.

As to concerns of reputational risks for established salons offering space to freelancers, WeStyleAsia clarifies that freelancers will not be operating under the salon brand. “They will just be leveraging on the existing available space, rather than opening a brick and mortar outlet, which is capital intensive for many. Furthermore, there will also be a designated section in every salon to indicate the freelancers space so their customers wont be confused with the salon's.”

The platform aims to roll out the rent-a-chair concept early on in the second quarter of the year. “We are currently revisiting all of our existing merchants to get them onboard with the rent-a-chair concept with some current changes to be done with our tech development.”

Data analytics to improve business

WeStyleAsia also offers its listed vendors better analytics for more informed decision-making and improved customer service. The founder of A Cut Above Group of Salons, Winnie Loo, shared her immediate willingness to be part of this digitalisation process especially after seeing the excitement of her son, Marcus Teo, the business development director of the group.

“He was very keen on accepting this technology and wanted us, as a family, to listen to the proposal,” she says. However, Loo placed full trust in him to proceed if he felt it was relevant. “After all, he is the future of the business. If he feels we need to be on board, then we are on board.”

This is not the first time Loo recognised the need to adopt technology. Her willingness to move with the times indicates business prowess. “Back in 1988, we were the only salon that computerised our records. Many questioned our decision but our customer base was growing in the thousands.”

With Loo acting as advisor to WeStyleAsia and openly adopting this technological change, Tan hopes it will encourage other vendors on the platform to do the same.

As WeStyleAsia’s AI partner and a friend of Tan’s, the founder of Arkana AI Collective, Aloysius Liang, shared the benefits vendors will experience. “The descriptive analytics can provide vendors with better advice on how they can better improve their services. It is a value-add that helps vendors to gain great insight into areas they can improve in, especially since not all vendors are willing to engage technology/AI or understand how data can improve their business.”

The first phase of change is WeStyleAsia’s chatbot integration in the second quarter of the year. “The chatbot will help customers filter their preferred professionals to select from and assist them throughout the booking process.”

 
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