Ella Bache unveils virtual salons

It’s been a particularly tumultuous month for the beauty and health industry, from the moment social distancing became the norm to many retailers being forced to shut their physical stores. 

However, some retailers are pivoting their businesses and offering new digital services to remain relevant and continue their relationship with customers. 

The very moment that Ella Bache temporarily closed its stores last week, the team unveiled its new virtual salons, which they created and launched within 10 days in anticipation of the shutdown. The beauty franchise has 120 salons nationwide.

“We knew what was coming, like we all did. The choice was pretty clear around this. We could either let this thing totally smash us or get busy being innovative and creative to get through and make it to the rebound,” explains CEO Pippa Hallas.

Ella Bache unveils virtual salons

“We thought about our value proposition, which is all about being experts in skin solutions and empowering individuals to feel comfortable in their own skin and we could do that in a virtual world if and when our stores and salons close.”

Many customers have quite a tightknit relationship with their skin therapists, so for them, continuing to meet with them is vital, explained Hallas.

“For many customers, skincare and therapists are part of their lives and routine, they look after their skin and mental health in many ways. You tell your skincare therapist so much of the same stuff [as a therapist],” she says.

“We want to connect with those customers online and the people they’re used to seeing. I feel like that insight was really important for our strategy, as opposed to just rolling out our ecommerce site. We wanted to continue to offer expert advice, tutorials and how-tos, but from their own real therapists, not influencers and celebrities.” 

New way of working for franchisees

As a result of the new virtual salons, 130 of Ella Bache’s franchisees are now continuing to run their businesses and while they may not recover all their lost sales, it gives them a new channel to continue working. Each of the franchisees now have their own site on which they can host personal consultations with clients as well as sell products.

Ella Bache unveils virtual salons for tutorials and advice | Inside Franchise Business

“We’d been working really closely together with the Franchise Advisory Council in the lead up to this event, talking about things like rent, staffing, etc,” explains Hallas. 

“But when we launched this, we built everything for [the franchisees] so they didn’t have to build a thing, except for turning on their social channels, creating content and doing skin consultations. They were really grateful.” 

Ella Bache’s beauty school has just turned fully digital too, so students can still learn from home.

Hallas adds that the Ella Bache team also ramped up its online marketing strategies in recent times. For the last 18 months, the business has been slowly moving towards more social and content-led marketing but as Hallas says, “we needed to put a rocket in it”. 

“To transform a business this quickly, I’ve been really clear to myself that we just have to go for it, we had no choice, but we’ve had to also learn and adapt each day. So right now, we’re busy helping out franchisees get set up in how to film content and speak to the camera and get them feeling confident,” she says.

Hallas first came on board as a young CEO at Ella Bache when the GFC hit. When she looks back on that time now as a more experienced leader, she believes that she learned the importance of offering her teams clarity through good communication, a clear plan and “hope that the rebound will come”.

She also referred to an analogy that she has heard during her career: “If you get asked to join the rocketship, don’t ask which seat to sit in.

“Don’t question the negative details right now, you absolutely need to look for the opportunities in this chaos and go for it,” she says.

“Use this time to get creative, get innovative. Of course, you have to take care of the fundamentals of the business and make sure everything is protected, but this is an enormous change that’s forcing business to adapt and innovate. You absolutely have to get on that rocketship.”