Spa on the Run: The On-demand Scoop


With one click, a consumer can order a pizza, a cab, groceries, a sweater, skin care and now spa services. Long gone are the days of spa services being found only in brick and mortar establishments, as on-demand spas and spa service apps are popping up all around the United States.

While on-demand spa service businesses are well known to provide massages and nail services, these establishments have expanded to offer waxing and facials. So, how do these businesses hire staff, what are clients saying and what does the future of the on-demand spa service market look like. Skin Inc. sat down with some of the top players in spa on-demand to find out.

"We have seen the spa and salon industry evolve into more mobile-oriented, on-demand platforms to better meet the needs of today’s busy lifestyle." - Liz Whitman, chief marketing officer for The Red Door

Who Benefits?

Spa on demand does big business with busy working professionals, a fact that Ritualist founder Marta Plana Cros knows all too well being one herself. "I started The Ritualist because I was getting hair, makeup and massages at home but I could not find anyone who would do facials.But being a busy professional working in the fashion industry in New York, I would find it very hard to make the time to keep up with this "ritual," and make the time to actually commute to the spa back and forth from my office in Midtown," explained Cros. She then founded the Ritualist, an on-demand esthetic only business servicing New York and San Francisco.

In late 2015/early 2016, Red Door Spa acquired both City Mani and Manicube, putting itself in prime position to take its spa services on the road and into the office. Red Door Spa then established The Red Door At Work, which brings spa services such as nails, hair styling, men's services and massage to businesses.

"Building an omni-channel beauty services company means we give our guests access to any beauty and grooming services they want, when and where they want them— whether that’s a one-hour massage in one of our luxurious spas or a 15-minute manicure down the hall at their office," noted Liz Whitman, chief marketing officer for The Red Door by Elizabeth Arden and President, The Red Door At Work.

Don't assume that on-demand spa service clients are just busy business executives, because the demographic is a bit of a mixed bag.

After she had her second child, Wilo Spa founder Manjeera Patnaikuni had a hard time getting any "me time." "Getting a hair cut seemed like such a chore. My kids go to bed at 8 p.m., and that was the only time I had.You can order laundered clothes and groceries at a tap of a button, and that's when it came to me that there should be a service," she explained.

Patnaikuni started Wilo Spa in the summer of 2016 as an on-demand only spa service company that services busy moms, but she soon found out that the client base was much larger. "While we service a lot of busy working professionals, many of our clients are also the elderly and busy stay at home moms. Imagine a 90 year old person getting in the car to go get a service. It is much easier for them," she added.

Client Feedback

On-demand spa services are convenient for all types of clientele, and it is clear that they like it, but why?

"They have said that having the Red Door at Work at their office is a great recruitment tool and ranks high on employee engagement surveys. Our guests at these client sites love the convenience. We give them back their lunch hour or weekend by knocking a self-care item off their to-do list, noted Whitman.

"Clients love it. People have appreciated the idea of having something to their home," noted Patnaikuni.

"It is obviously very popular, both for our individual clients and events such as bachelorette parties or corporate well-being programs. One of the things our clients mention regularly is that they love the fact that they don't need to put makeup back on after the treatment since they get to chill at home and keep that fresh skin feeling longer," added Cros.

Benefit to Brick-and-Mortar

If you are an employee or owner of a spa and are worried that on-demand may threaten your business, wait just a second. There is a way to make on-demand work for your spa, using the Red Door's business model as an example.

In addition to the on-the-go spa services, Red Door At Work offers clients preferred rates at the company's spas. In essence, the shorter at-work services entice the clients to experience the full treatment in a spa.

"It's a great way to give guests a taste of The Red Door with a provider that you can also see in the brick and mortar for the full service. As a corporate client, they also have access to our exclusive in-spa perks program that includes a special offer on in-spa services Sunday – Friday. We certainly do see crossover from our At Work clients to in-spa for full treatments like facials, body treatments and haircuts and hair color services," added Whitman.

Hiring Staff

When it comes to staff acquisition and payment, on-demand spa service companies operate differently. One thing is clear, however, that on-demand staffing tends to be more flexible.

At Red Door at Work, service providers can work across the company's channels based on their needs and the needs of the company. Therefore, they can work both in the spa and in the mobile platform.

At Wilo Spa, technician work load is dependent on their availability. Some work full-time and some work part-time, according to Patnaikuni. To find providers, she places ads and has the technician do a service to see if they are hired. She noted that for nail technicians, the pay is an incentive, "Our nail techs make 2.5 times what they make in a salon."

The pay and the flexibility are both incentives for technicians at The Ritualist. "[Our technicians] all work on a freelance basis, which works both ways since we are able to pay them three times the national hourly rate, and they can have the flexibility they need to take care of their families or even have other part-time or full-time jobs," added Cros. But you've got to know someone to get an interview with the Ritualist. "Right now we only hire through recommendations from other estheticians that already work with us. They all have estheticians licenses, and they go through a training and testing program with us before they can start performing treatments for our clients," she explained.

The Future of On-demand Spa

It is clear that on-demand spa services are popular here and now, but where are they going in the future?

Patnaikuni believes that on-demand services will only grow in the future based on rising real estate costs. In addition to waxing and nail services, Patnaikuni plans to expand her esthetics offering to potentially include facials. In addition, she is going to launch an app, noting, "Booking a mani/pedi should be as easy as calling a cab." She would also like to expand to new cities [in the Bay Area].

Cros and the Ritualist plan to expand to new cities, build its event business and amp up their treatment offerings. "The next step is to be able to incorporate more tools into the treatments. For that, we need suppliers to develop high quality, professional portable machines such as lasers and high frequency," she added.

For Red Door at Work, the plan is to advance in the category. It has begun to offer mini facials and makeup refreshers, with plans to do more. "We have seen the spa and salon industry evolve into more mobile-oriented, on-demand platforms to better meet the needs of today’s busy lifestyle, delivering services and treatments to clients in their homes, hotels, offices and more. The Red Door Salon & Spa is committed to continuing to advance this category by designing the finest quality services for guests, delivered where and when they need them," added Whitman.

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