Creating a great first impression with new clients should be at the top of your priority list. Failing to create a great client experience puts you at risk of clients not wanting to do business with you again. Or worse, they tell their friends not to do business with you and hurt your brand reputation.
And we understand, running a beauty and wellness business can be frustrating at times – we’ve been there.
There are a lot of things you need to think about, from booking appointments, sending client notifications and appointment reminders, collecting payments, doing your taxes, and growing your clientele through various marketing campaigns. It can feel extremely overwhelming when you have to think about all of this stuff, all while making sure your clients are happy with your work.
This is where salon software comes in handy. There are many different salon software solutions currently on the market that are used by hundreds of thousands of business owners just like you to manage all of the administrative tasks and operations side of running a salon business.
In this article, we’ll go over what salon management software can do, how to identify the features you might need, and five of the best salon software solutions, and help you decide which platform makes the most sense for the stage you and your salon business are at.
Salon software is a type of business management software designed for salons, spas, and beauty and wellness establishments to help them automate and manage their business operations. Salon software is meant to help business owners with setting up appointments, scheduling, managing clients, processing payments, tracking inventory, and creating marketing campaigns to retain and attract clients.
At its core, salon software should help you create a system that allows clients to book appointments with you – be it through a website, a mobile app, or email and text messaging. Almost all salon software programs have this functionality. But another important feature of salon software is the client management side of things. In order to make clients love you, and want to continue coming back to you, you need to create a great client experience.
Being able to communicate your services and packages effectively, automate appointment confirmations and reminders, communicate through SMS and email marketing, and access analytics and reports on client services and sales, all help you create a unified client experience. Every salon or spa can benefit from the use of salon software. But not every salon management system is created equal.
Although there are many features that most salon software solutions have in common, some of these advanced features count as add-ons that you will be charged extra for. Some salon software, however, will include a broader set of standard features at no additional cost.
Regardless, there are features that are pretty much essential for beauty professionals to run an efficient business, so let's go over a few key features you need to consider.
As mentioned earlier, appointment scheduling and online booking are at the core of any salon software.
Giving your clients an easy way to find availability and book appointments on their own is critical to not only creating a great client experience, but also to helping you automate parts of your business that can take up too much mental bandwidth – not to mention, who wants to handle a client booking at 2am when the mood happens to strike a client?
In many cases, you want to find booking software, like GlossGenius, that includes a free, customizable booking site where clients can easily book appointments with you.
You also want a platform that allows you to set appointment rules, create booking windows and restrictions, request deposits and charge cancellation fees, and gives you the ability to pre-approve appointments. These features will help you protect your time and money from no-show clients or those who aren’t serious about booking with you.
The next key feature to look for from a salon software is a reliable POS system to collect payments. After all, you need sales to keep your business running, so it's important to get this step right.
Given how important a smooth checkout process is to the client experience, you have to think about both you and your clients.
With this in mind, you want to find a secure payment system that also includes a physical card reader with NFC technology (for tap-to-pay options). You also want a platform that allows you to create rebooking options for your loyal clients. This way, your clients can effortlessly book their next appointment before they leave your salon.
Many POS systems stop here. But if you want to take it a step further, you also want your payment system to be your all-in-one financial solution.
This means finding a POS system, like GlossGenius, that combines payments, expense tracking, and reporting to give you a holistic view of what money is coming in and out of your salon bank account.
The next key feature to look for is client CRM (client relationship management) to help you stay organized and on top of past appointments, personal service preferences, birthdays and other significant milestones, or even your client’s pronouns. From inventory management to putting bad clients on a banned list, your client CRM needs to give you the flexibility to manage your salon business on your own terms.
But a client management solution is not just designed to help you stay organized. Client management solutions are the backbone of creating a great impression with every client you work with, every time they interact with your business.
Therefore, CRM features should also be designed in a way that lets you automate communication with your clients and lets you send them appropriate notifications at the right time.
Being able to send confirmation and reminder notifications to your clients automatically not only saves you time, it also shows your clients that you are a professional who values their time, too.
Lastly, the best salon software takes into account how salon owners can grow their clientele and create recurring business from loyal clients.
It’s more efficient (read less expensive) and predictable for your business revenue to have existing clients keep coming back for more, as opposed to constantly trying to get new clients. This is why features like SMS marketing, email marketing, and an easy-to-navigate website that reflects your brand are crucial for helping you engage your clients.
With GlossGenius, many customers are able to increase bookings by 35% simply by encouraging clients to share their business on social media and reminding them when to come back for their next appointment. It definitely pays to take marketing features into account when deciding what salon software solution to use for your business – it’s a crucial part of making sure you have a consistent and healthy stream of income.
With that, let’s get into the best salon booking and client management software solutions on the market right now!
Here are our top picks for the best salon software in 2023:
Let’s dive deeper into each one.
A female-founded tech company, GlossGenius is one of the most popular salon software solutions for hair and nail salons, spas, brow and lash artists, wellness centers, estheticians, and many more.
Since being founded in 2016, GlossGenius has helped more than 40,000 independent beauty professionals and teams start, run, and grow their salon and spa businesses on autopilot – leveraging modern automation tools that take the busy work out of the day-to-day operations of running a service-based business.
What makes GlossGenius special is its customizable features and tools designed so you can give your clients an amazing experience before, during, and after their visit.
Some key features of GlossGenius include:
If you’re looking for a robust tool to handle all of your operations, from helping clients schedule appointments with you, protecting your business from no-shows and last-minute cancellations, all the way to managing your expenses and making tax time a breeze, GlossGenius is a tool you should definitely check out.
GlossGenius has a free 14-day trial plan that was designed with independent beauty professionals and small business owners in mind. You’ll notice that GlossGenius offers simple, transparent pricing tiers, packed with the features you need to run a modern service business.
GlossGenius offers two subscription plans:
A GlossGenius subscription is highly competitive when you compare it to other salon software subscription plans on the market:
If you plan on scaling your salon business, GlossGenius is there for you, your team, and your clients as you grow, and it’s definitely worth starting a free trial with GlossGenius.
Also, if you want to explore all of the features that come with GlossGenius, be sure to check out the pricing page.
Acuity Scheduling is an online appointment scheduling software that allows clients to schedule appointments, pay, and complete intake forms online. The company was originally founded in 2006, but was later acquired by Squarespace (a popular website builder).
Here are some key features of Acuity:
But if you want a salon software that can help you with more than just appointment booking, like financial management and marketing, you might want to consider an alternative.
Regardless, Acuity is a decent platform with some good integrations with a starting price that won’t break the bank.
Acuity Scheduling has three different pricing plans, all of which let you start with a free trial.
Here are Acuity’s pricing plans:
If you want a simple booking app, then the standard “Emerging” plan is probably your best bet. But if you want extra features like automatic text message reminders, the ability to sell subscriptions, or add your own branding, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the higher-tiered plans.
Founded in 2001, Mindbody is a wellness experience platform that allows clients to find salon, spa, fitness, and beauty wellness services.
Mindbody Business is their salon software solution for business owners on the other side of the Mindbody marketplace to manage their operations. Just like GlossGenius, Mindbody Business is more than just an online booking platform.
You get features like appointment scheduling, a branded mobile app, AI customer support, payment management, and various marketing tools.
Here are a few key features:
If you’re a salon, spa, or fitness business with a small client base, these features can help you start and run your business.
Unlike other solutions, Mindbody’s pricing is hidden for every plan and you have to get a quote from them if you want to check their pricing., To make matters more confusing, many of the core features that would help you and your clients are considered add-ons that will increase the cost of using their salon software.
While this may be a strategy to not allow their competitors to see what they charge, it does add some friction to business owners who are exploring or ready to start using salon software.
Some sources claim that Mindbody’s pricing starts at $129/month, and we’ve heard from our own customers that they’ve been charged several hundred dollars a month for a team plan once add-ons are included. So if any of the features mentioned above are of interest to you, be sure to check out their pricing page and request a quote to get accurate pricing before you start using their salon software solution.
Just like Mindbody, Vagaro is an online marketplace where business owners can promote their salon and spa services, and clients can browse and book appointments. Vagaro also has a suite of salon and software tools built for business owners. Similar to GlossGenius, Vagaro offers different features that can help you start, manage, and grow your salon business.
Here are some key features of Vagaro:
Whether you’re a hair salon or wellness spa, Vagaro can be a good option to get started with. Out of every salon software on this list, Vagaro offers the most similar set of features to GlossGenius. But Vagaro does have a few “hidden” prices as it uses an add-on model – where you need to pay to unlock a number of their features.
Related reads: Vagaro vs Square vs GlossGenius
Vagaro’s pricing starts at $25 per month if you’re an individual business owner with no employees. If you’re a team or looking to grow, it’s important to note that Vagaro charges an additional $10 per user per month, and as such, can become expensive quite quickly.
With Vagaro’s basic plan, you get access to features such as online booking and appointments, free listing on the Vagaro Marketplace, 1,000 free email marketing messages, and the ability to create and send invoices.
However, if you want advanced notification tools such as text message reminders, client intake forms, and a website builder, these are all going to be extra.
To many beauty and wellness professionals, these features are essential, and given that each one is considered an extra add-on, it can increase the overall monthly price from $25 a month to well over a hundred dollars per month.
If you’re price-conscious, it might be worth looking for an alternative to Vagaro.
Last on our list is Fresha, a salon software that acts similarly to Vagaro and Mindbody in that it includes a services marketplace. For businesses, Fresha offers many of the same features as the rest of the salon software solutions in this list.
Some of their key features include:
Just like GlossGenius, Fresha has a mobile application where you can manage your entire salon and spa business on the go. As a marketplace, Fresha can be a good option for hair stylists and beauty salons who are looking for clients to find them, but if you have a book of business already, you’ll be competing on price and location on the Fresha marketplace.
Fresha is free to use if you just want basic features such as appointment scheduling, client email notifications, and inventory management. But if you want access to their marketplace, better marketing and texting features, and automated notifications, you will have to pay per use.
Fresha’s pricing model can seem attractive for a beauty professional who is just starting out, but it can limit you when it comes to scaling your marketing efforts, and as your business grows, so will your monthly bill.
Fresha’s business model operates on a per-use basis, so it’s important to keep this in mind. If you don’t have a solid idea of how many notifications you will have to send or how many clients you’ll have to manage, you may want to look for an alternative.
But if you’re just starting out, you’re on a tight budget, and you don’t plan on scaling your clientele, Fresha might be a good option.
As you can see, there are many different salon software out there to help you streamline the admin side of running a salon business. From booth renters to larger businesses with employees, there’s a tool for everyone.
If you’re looking for a tool with the maximum functionality at the lowest price, GlossGenius is a user-friendly platform you should definitely check out. And sure, it may sound biased given that this is on the GlossGenius blog, but we wouldn’t be confident in saying that without the feedback from our community of thousands of salon and spa professionals.
“Having everything in one place – from booking and website confirmations to payment processing and sales reports – it makes all the difference.”
- Matthew Landis, Salon Owner and IMAGE Studios Industry Expert
“I haven’t had any problems with GlossGenius and neither have my clients – everybody just loves how easy my booking site is to use.”
- Linda Jordin, Owner, Bare Necessities Skin and Wax
If you’re ready to take your salon business to the next step, be sure to start your 14-day free trial with GlossGenius!