Salons - an industry based entirely on touch was severely impacted during the lockdown. How do you communicate with consumers when touch is essentially what everyone has been advised against, in the background of social distancing? Experts explain how social media in general and influencer marketing in particular, came to the rescue, as the gradual unlock began.
The pandemic has completely transformed the way brands communicate with their customers and has shifted the focal point of the conversation. An accelerated transition has occurred, particularly in the service sector, with an increased premium placed on safety, hygiene, quality, and service excellence.
Salons, which are vastly built on the human touch, specifically were forced amid the pandemic to think out of the box and also innovate new methods to not only keep the business afloat but also communicate with clients. However, as with any challenge, they found a silver lining with influencers.
Collaborations, product placement, and dedicated content creation are some of the popular formats being used by these brands to drive engagement through influencers on social media.
Major Shift In Communication
With the onset of the pandemic, the communication for salon brands has centered around safety and wellness rather than about promoting beauty services or products. Having said that customers still need their daily personal care essentials and a salon chain brand, Enrich pivoted early on in the pandemic to offer these after-care products to regular customers at the salons.
Even after the lockdown was lifted, the communication for Enrich focused on conveying all the safety measures and guidelines being followed at the salons and reassuring customers that safety protocols were paramount to ensure the well being of both its employees and customers.
This was communicated via reels, videos, and salon walkthroughs featuring influencers, says Madhavi Irani, Director-Customer Engagement, Enrich.
For Lakme too, the safety measures were implemented in collaboration with medical professionals across every touchpoint in the salon, including temperature checks, single-use PPE kits, masks, and gloves, among others.
During the lockdown, Jean Claude Olivier was constantly in touch with its clients and told them how to take care of their hair and skin. It also focused its strategy on social media and Google Ads.
Anita More, CEO, Jean Claude Olivier, says, “We were not pushing to sell our services but informing our clients on how to be safe and informing them not to Do DIY any professional treatments without experienced supervision.”
COVID-19 has impacted almost all industry segments, and one of the most closely hit services was that of the salon for the obvious touch and feel factor involved that goes against the very basic norm of social distancing.
Danish Batra, Managing Director of Hair Masters Luxury Salons, shares that all the safety measures that have been taken up by the salon were and still are effectively being highlighted in its communication.
During these times, its focus has been social media and influencer marketing while also focusing on real-time UGC content.
Harnessing the Power of Social Media
Lakme leverages all digital and social media channels right from emails, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, to engage with its current and potential customers, franchise partners, and colleagues, and also continue to connect with them on a personalized level, shares Pushkaraj Shenai, CEO and Executive Director, Lakmé Lever.
Soon after the pandemic, the brand launched #MagicMoments series, to emphasize Lakmé Salon's contribution to helping all stakeholders become their best selves. The brand's Instagram handle has over 89k followers with creatives and videos featuring a consistent background. Their content pegs feature a mix of beauty and wellness tips, customer testimonials, and a prominent focus on their workforce - featuring the faces behind the salon and their stories.
#MagicMoments || Sakshi steals the show in her traditional red attire
A classic middle-parted bun with maang teeka adds to her authentic look styled by our expert, Kajal at Lakmé Salon, Kota.
📞 us on 1800 123 1952 to reserve a spot on our priority list. pic.twitter.com/i1IG5wxiMx
— Lakmé Salon (@LakmeSalon) November 25, 2021
For Enrich, while it uses all the available social media channels, most of its efforts are focused on Instagram.
Enrich Salon's Instagram handle spots 50k+ followers and has a steady mix of celebrities and influencers present on the platform. Their content pegs consist of memes, skincare routines, and product integrations.
Sharing Jean Claude Olivier's social media strategy, More says, “We have realized that Instagram is the main channel for us as it helps to get the right audiences for us. It helps us to showcase the work that we have done and also the new trends that are coming in. This platform also helps us to display the products that we use.”
Jean Claude Olivier has an Instagram community of 8k+ followers and their content mainly focusses on the aesthetics of their offerings, overall communicating the premium-ness of the brand.
Ever since coronavirus, social media platforms have emerged as a crucial tool for communication for salons. The ability to connect via so many different platforms not only helps alleviate feelings of isolation but increases the sense of psychological comfort. The audio-visual tools and interactive templates are humanizing the brands, helping them to generate customer trust.
Influencers Becoming Key Channel
Over time, More believes influencers have become an important marketing tool, everyone looks up to either actor, sports personnel, successful entrepreneurs, and off-late influencers. This helps the brand explore new stuff and also start a new trend. Influencer marketing is the flavor of the season and it is here to stay.
“It also makes your brand stand out if you have big names coming to your salon and them talking highly about the products and services offered by you. During COVID-19 Influencer marketing played a big part to convince customers and clients that the salon is safe for the visit and all the protocols laid down by the government were followed,” she adds.
For Lakmé Salon, it’s more important to engage with the right set of influencers or key opinion leaders who align with the brand values and can add further credibility to its cause. It has been leveraging influencers and social trends effectively to reach out to not just more customers, but to more potential employees and franchise partners as well.
Enrich has collaborated with a wide range of influencers, ranging from nano influencers to Category A ones.
Irani shares, “For customers to see known faces visiting our stores and salons and personally observing all the safety measures being diligently followed with no compromise in quality and results have been very reassuring to them. Collaborations, product placement, and dedicated content creation are some of the popular formats being used to drive engagements through influencers on our social media.”
For its store launch, it collaborated with leading beauty and lifestyle influencers like Aanam Chashmawala, Scherezade Shroff, who shared their first-hand experience and encouraged their audience to visit the store.
In its recent Republic Day sale campaign #RightToBeauty, the brand collaborated with a widely diverse group of influencers, as the consumers increasingly expect to see beauty in all its many shapes, genders, and skin tones. Further leveraging influencer’s content for marketing campaigns and promoting it among the audience they are tapping into.
Irani adds that the future of marketing lies in digital amplification for brands like Enrich that have now also set up an e-commerce site for booking services and buying beauty products.
Besides even the customers who visit the stores and salons are digital-first in the way they consume information, and it makes complete sense to focus on influencer marketing in the time to come.
If the content is fire, social media is gasoline.
Aligning a marketing budget with a focus on influencers and engagement can tremendously help, says Batra.
As the salon sector is heavily reliant on human interaction and touch, the pandemic forced the salon industry to refocus and rethink its objectives and vision.
Despite the negative impact of the lockdown, Irani shares that once the lockdown was lifted there was a resurgence in demand and the last quarter of the year saw demand equalling pre-pandemic levels for Enrich.
“Today the future looks buoyant, not just for the salons but also the at-home services and physical format stores,” Irani says.
However, More adds that with the opening of the market the situation has improved but it will still take time to reach the pre COVID-19 levels.
“Home-at-salon is a stop-gap solution but not profitable in the long run. The idea right now is to survive and make sure the employees get their full dues and the customers feel safe when they enter our salon,” she says.
Overall, the salon industry was very closely hurt due to the social distancing norms but the industry as a whole began to emerge with the new normal with improved practices for the same services to make them more user-friendly, hygienic, safe, and indulgent fancy experience.