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Your New Reception Desk--Your Web Site

Mary Blackmon April 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

When curious clients enter your spa, there is no doubt that they are going to be greeted warmly and kindly by your front desk team. Your front desk policy ensures that your team is always welcoming, never intimidating and happy to answer all questions—providing details on treatments and prices, and even making recommendations. Maybe they heard about your spa from a friend, read about it or even discovered it online. Whatever the case may be, now these clients are here, interested in your business, and are yours for the taking. You wouldn’t let them walk out without providing the best representation of your services and specialties, as well as a friendly welcome, would you? Of course not!

Well, whether you realize it or not, this is the exact same thing that is happening almost every time online spa-goers visit your Web site. This is your opportunity to hook them on your spa—to make their experience with your site nonintimidating, welcoming, informative, educational, enlightening and addictive.

How do you do that? Take time and care with your Web site, making sure that it is representative of the quality of experience that is provided in the brick and mortar version of your virtual business.

An experience or a roadblock?

Your front page should be enticing and engaging. Are you thinking about having a flash intro—one with moving graphics or a small Web-based movie? Well, before you shout “yes,” there are pros and cons to having one. Bad news first: It is possible that this gorgeous, inviting, elegant, beautiful video may be a roadblock to busy online spa-goers who want to log onto your site. They may become impatient with the load time and not know where to click, which will only result in frustration. Plus, it also can be a hindrance to search engines that rank Web sites for searches. Specifically, a flash intro page can make it more difficult to get a higher ranking, simply because the search engines can’t read the flash. Remember, text is readable by search engines and graphics are not. On the other hand, the intro can be really beautiful, enabling you to express creativity, style and ambiance while offering potential clients the chance to “experience” the mood that your spa offers.

A direct reflection

Aesthetically, your home page should represent a color, theme or style that is similar to or consistent with the décor of your spa. The stylizing of the site is a direct reflection of your unique approach to your business, which surely is easily differentiated from every other spa in your town. So reflect your spa’s individuality, mission and even market positioning when contemplating your design, or redesign. If you own an ayurvedic spa, convey that motif in your theme. If you’re a smaller boutique known for personalized hands-on services by the owner, include a friendly note of introduction from the owner, as well as an inviting picture of the surroundings.

Try to use professional photos of your spa, rather than just stock images. People need to know what the place looks like so that they don’t anticipate going to a large facility when it actually may be a charming boutique-style spa. Bottom line: Expectations need to be managed. Make the site navigation simple to use, with the most valuable information highlighted, easily accessible and organized in separate sections. Each segment should be focused and direct, and include subsections that are informative and logically placed. Too often, people will comment that they are confused when searching a Web site in an attempt to find a quick answer to a question. Of course, we all think that they’re talking about someone else’s site, don’t we?

The menu should reflect your treatments and include descriptions of them. Why not add who would find a specific treatment beneficial? Those with sensitive skin? Dry skin? When detailing the services, perhaps you could highlight some of the products that are used in them, too. Then you could mention that these products are available for purchase online, if that is the case. Consider including e-commerce areas so that your site can work for you and generate revenue without you even needing to be present. Consider booking appointments online, and selling gift certificates or gift cards, retail products and more. E-commerce is a topic that will be covered in detail in an upcoming column.

Include any press coverage you may have garnered over the years, emphasizing why yours is the must-see spa in your community. Make it easy for clients to find you by providing a section that features a map and directions, as well as an easy way to contact you via both e-mail and by telephone.

Keep up to date

Many times people would rather go online to look at spa treatment prices rather than call, simply because they want to do some investigative research first or just don’t want to be put on hold. So, after finding what treatment they want from your online menu, they could become a tad ornery if they hear, “Sorry, dear. We forgot to update our site.” Remember to keep your prices current. If you can’t remember to do this, then it is clear that you are forgetting how important your site is to your business.

Work with a designer

OK, OK—you’re probably thinking “I can never get all of this done. It’s just too much!” But that simply is not the case. Just sketch out on a piece of paper the sections that you need, the way in which you want people to access them, and the style and image you want to portray. Then leave it up to a Web designer to fill in the blanks. Your designer will do the work, you’ll do the directing and the end result will be a showstopper.

Remember, it is always an evolution. Your site does not have to be perfect today—just make it better than it was yesterday.