Professional beauty services like massages and waxes can be quite a personal ordeal. On many occasions these therapists ask their customers to strip right down to their undies, with some clinics even asking their customers to bend over and bare all. It can be a confronting experience and it takes a certain kind of therapist to make the customer feel comfortable.
With products like clothes and electronics, consumers can try before they buy, but with services it’s harder to get a sense of what an experience will look and feel like. Brisbane startup Therapair is looking to replicate that try approach to the online booking of massage services.
Founders of Therapair, Danielle McFarland and Sheree Evans wanted to create more than just an online directory of therapists and in doing so looked at how massage experiences could be translated online.
“At the end of the day, when you get a massage you’ve gotta get right down to your underwear and you want to be sure you feel comfortable,” said McFarland.
Therapair takes professional photos and videos of each of its therapists to create a visual representation of the look, feel and type of service each is offering. These visuals are all tied into a personalised profile that users can view before they make a booking.
The profiles help to present an idea of who the therapist is and more importantly help the customer choose what service is best for them. Both McFarland and Evans come from business management backgrounds and have developed scheduling software that helps streamline online booking processes. While helping small businesses with their service management strategies, they also saw them struggling with marketing and customer acquisition.
“They don’t know how to market themselves, they don’t know how to present themselves in a way that we all should. At the end of the day they’re health professionals not marketers or salespeople,” explained McFarland.
With its own bespoke scheduling software, Therapair updates availability of therapists through a live feed and also allows them to view all their schedules from any device. A business owner can keep track of all their client information and treatment notes online, and conduct all payments through the one portal. Essentially, Therapair is an all-in-one business management and scheduling tool, and while for now it is being applied to just the one vertical, there are in fact a variety of industries that could make use of this.
McFarland believes this software is the way of the future. Small businesses are developing an online presence and customers are moving away from having to play phone tag and manually book their appointments.
“Seventy percent of business owners in this space are sole traders. Having an online booking software and being able to feed that into your availability is an invaluable tool that will allow your business to become an online 24/7 store,” she said.
For many online booking services their model of monetisation works around taking a clip of the ticket. Therapair does the same by taking a 20 percent fee from therapists of their initial booking of all new customers. However this fee is only applied to unique customers and to encourage a high retention rate of therapists, Therapair sets a flat fee of $5 for every revisiting customer.
Therapists are also free to set their own rates and hours. Therapair aims to alleviate the pressure therapists feel to offer the lowest prices, thanks to price competitive sites like Groupon. McFarland believes that a lot of therapists enter the industry feeling like they need to compete with bigger competitors that have larger marketing budgets and can afford offering low cost deals.
“To compete they decrease their costs and some of them are doing an hours treatment for $30 or $50 dollars, which is nothing. So we’re trying to allow people to be able to charge what they’re actually valued as a therapist in this industry.”
On-demand services like Therapair help to open the virtual door for small businesses and connect them with online customers, who would not necessarily appear as foot traffic. Therapair offers convenience and connectivity, but it’s not the only massage booking service around.
Earlier this year Sydney startup Blys launched it’s ‘Uber for Massages’ service for users to book their own in-home or hotel massage with certified therapists. The whole booking and payment process is taken care of seamlessly in the back-end of the product, in the same way services like Uber and Lyft have become famous for.
While Blys is currently available for Sydneysiders only, Therapair is only live for Brisbane residents. With both startups targeting a similar market it will be interesting to see which can scale first, with both confirming a national roll-out is on the agenda.
Therapair has been working out of BlueChilli’s space on the Gold Coast and officially launched in July this year. To date the startup has received $25,000 in seed investment and in the next few months is looking to raise between $500,000 and a $1 million.
Image: Danielle McFarland and Sheree Evans. Source: Supplied.