SLIKR - Duane Thompson & Henry Shiner

Whether it’s sitting in a crammed doctor’s office or juggling groceries in a line at Woolworths, the last thing anyone enjoys doing in their spare time is waiting.

What’s required in these situations is patience, a trait that is especially put to the test after choking on hairspray fumes while waiting for a hairdresser to trim a few hairs off your head.

Looking to eliminate the physical wait time at barber shops is SLIKR, a booking app targeted at men which allows its users to enter an online queue for hair appointments. Rather than nestling into a set booking time, the startup wants to offer a more on-the-go, flexible approach for both clients and staff.

Through the app, SLIKR’s “predictive queues” gives users an estimated time as to when a selected barber will be ready for them, updating as each client serviced first enters the online queue, checks in at the store, then checks out when their appointment is over.

According to the startup’s founder, Duane Thompson, SLIKR serves as a way to keep the walk-in style approach a lot of barber shops prefer over the booking systems often used within other beauty services.

Thompson began working on the platform over a year ago, as he looked for a way to develop a service for barber shops that didn’t require set bookings.

The clear downside of the the walk-in system, according Thompson, was the expected notion that there’s no way for a client to track what the wait time is prior to visiting the store, or when it’s a good time to visit.

“We had a look at barber shops that didn’t have a traditional booking system and found there wasn’t a lot out there for shops and owners. SLIKR was made to design an optimised booking system, so we avoid those fixed time slots so the shop gets the most optimised flow of people walking in. We call it queuing ahead,” said Thompson.

As the time-strapped head of a management consultancy firm, Thompson had found it difficult to find the time to get a haircut using the walk-in system of barber shops, particularly when the other option was to eat a meal after a long period of work.

“Sometimes if I did get in, I’d end up getting that dodgy barber in the corner that I didn’t really want,” Thompson joked.

“I thought it would be really cool if I could just get a place in the queue so I could get my lunch and come back. I figured if I could do that, then I could predict the wait time, something which I could put online.”

The entrepreneur added that an online product for barber shops would be fitting for the men’s health beauty industry, which is on the rise as younger generations are more into “products and looks than the older guys”.

Also, existing solutions in the market for beauty services tended to have a target audience of women in mind, meaning there wasn’t yet a platform aimed at walk-in barber shops.

“I was wondering if there enough people like me to make this service financially viable, so I did my research,” said Thompson.

“For a shop, I saw a way for them to build data on their clients and staff that they couldn’t previously access, and identify actual performance problems. They could then really improve their business.”

Launching the MVP in March last year, the startup looked to Thompson’s local barber shop as a testing ground to help solidify the app’s features, supported by two angel investors.

Now in market, the app is available to barber shops, who access the platform through a “kiosk” set up in the store run through a tablet device, as well as through employee logins on the mobile app.

As a customer queues into a store, the admin platform will update with their information, allowing the staff to digitally check them off the waiting list when they arrive in store and finish their appointment.

Customers are able to download and sign up to the app for free, using location services to detect which SLIKR barber stores are within a 20 kilometre radius, or a search bar to find a particular name.

Each store displays the average wait time for a haircut, with users able to tap into for more information about the store’s location, reviews, and the individual waiting time for each staff member.

“The reviews are then aggregated for an overall score of the barber. Users can then check in and see updates to the queue in real time,” explained Thompson.

Queuing through the app costs a 75 cent fee, while store payments are still made at the store. Thompson said the startup is now looking to connect other beauty offerings, including nails and body services, to the platform, as the business looks to serve new locations.

“Most of the shops are here in Queensland, and we also have a couple in Melbourne and Perth. We also were recently approached by someone from Ireland who wanted a similar product there, so we’re just in the final stages of getting the platform ready to distribute there,” said Thompson.

The founder added that SLIKR is also looking to leverage its platform to offer a service to beauty retail brands that will help them promote their items in stores through loyalty programs and data.

To help guide the business forward, the startup recently added Ex-McDonald’s Chief Information Officer for Australia and New Zealand, Henry Shiner, to its board.

“We’ll [also] look to funding to take the business to the next level and work on the planned features,” he said.

Image: Duane Thompson (left) & Henry Shiner. Source: Supplied.