By Monica Schuloff Smith
Originally published in Skin Deep, May/June 2009.
American consumers are preconditioned to goods and services that arrive packaged. From fast-food combo deals to phone, cable, and computer bundles, and from special gifts-with-purchase to two-for-one specials at the supermarket—we’re a nation of more is more. So when it comes to skin care services and spa treatments, many U.S. consumers naturally look for the convenient package buy. According to most experts, every skin care and spa business should have at least a couple of these. But before adding anything to a menu, there are a few things to consider.
“Avoid anything weird or complicated,” says Mark Lees, PhD, esthetician, skin care salon owner, and founder of Mark Lees Skin Care. He cautions not to mix body waxing with other body treatments to avoid skin reactions. “Also, most people do not have time for all-day packages.”
Another thing to avoid right from the start is offering an elaborate package at a very busy day spa or skin center. “You don’t need it,” says Annet King, global director of training and development for the International Dermal Institute. “Packages with several treatments that stretch over a long period of time and multiple therapists can cause issues with time-keeping and flow. Also, stop using the words pampering and treat. These are the first things people will take out of their lifestyle in a tough economy.”
Because every service is a retail opportunity, sometimes it’s easy for esthetics and spa professionals to miss product sales with package clients. King says skin treatments provide the greatest retail opportunities and every service should be health-focused. As such, there is a certain level of client education that must occur, even with packages.
“I avoid unrealistic expectations with the client in regard to the treatment package by discussing everything up front before treatment even begins,” says solo esthetician Kelley Maddison of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Moreover, experts agree it is important to maintain balance, without lecturing the guest too much.
“Design every aspect of the treatment journey to be an experience with attentive, welcoming, calm service by the spa professional,” says spa owner Kim Collier, founder and managing director at jamu Asian Spa Rituals in Whitefish, Montana.
Many practitioners concur the hardest part of packaged treatments is the timing. The sequence of services should be seamless. Collier says that long, unattended breaks should be avoided. Instead, natural breaks can be scheduled with mini-services or add-ons.
It’s especially important in the weakened economy to avoid over-discounting and devaluing treatments, says Deborah Evans, principal of Deborah Evans & Associates, a spa consulting firm in Austin, Texas.
Why and What to Package
Think about the purpose of your treatment package. With business slowdowns being experienced by many, keeping a booked treatment schedule and attracting new clients can be difficult. Bundling services may offer a solution, says King, who feels the real purpose of treatment packages is to sell more gift certificates.
“They’re also to get new or gateway clients into the spa by offering some kind of savings,” King says. “Packages can also help you fill less busy times.”
When Evans designs packages, she collects information about the spa and its clientele and she stresses that packaging services is a must for holiday seasons and for gift-giving occasions like weddings or milestones. But designing a package doesn’t have to be too complicated. Simply combine several services to make a sampler package.
“I try to always include a sampler package that includes the basics—massage, facial, manicure, and pedicure, and one or two packages that are price-sensitive,” Evans says. “An exotic sampler is a good package for the avid spagoer who is always looking to experience the next spa trend.”
For the most part, packages are really more suitable in high-ticket, lower-volume business models like resort or destination spas where guests may be on the property and staying for days, King says. “Busy urban day spas and skin centers have a higher volume and focus on higher retail sales with a 50/50 split,” she says. “Retail is lower in resort and destination spas and the business is service-driven—you want to keep the spa guest in your area for as long as possible.”
Regardless, King notes stand-alone estheticians may be able to provide their private clients packages, but they must be very simple because of the lack of amenities like whirlpool baths, saunas, steam rooms, swiss showers, and Vichy showers. In these settings, the goal is to cycle guests through a facility with rest and relaxation gaps using the amenities, which give the therapist a break, transition time, or an opportunity to see other guests.
“If you can’t really offer a wonderful, renewing haven, then it’s better not to do it,” King says. “It’s the movement and cycling through the treatment rooms and experience that make packages work.” She suggests service coupling as an alternative to long packages, such as a manicure with a skin treatment, or a lip and eyebrow wax with a skin treatment.
Maddison doesn’t have the luxury of time or other departments to shuffle guests off to. Instead, she combines services that are specific to each client.
“I usually put together a treatment package based on my client’s skin type and what their skin care goals are,” Maddison says. “Some packages are more aggressive than others such as in the case with acne and/or hyperpigmentation issues.” She networks with other beauty and healthcare professionals, including massage therapists, nail technicians, and holistic therapists to create resort-type experiences.
“It is definitely more of a challenge for a single-practice person, because the client is there for several hours,” Lees says. “The massage might be an issue depending on the state. You can create a package of facial services and include extras such as an enzyme treatment, alginate mask, or a specialty treatment like a light-emitting diode treatment.”
“I may not have all of the equipment or space that a larger spa has,” Maddison says, “but the treatment package at a larger facility can always be tweaked to fit the scope of my practice.”
Packaging with Partners
No matter the size of your environment, you can create that resort feel, Collier says. All a solo esthetician needs is foot-soak bowls, hot towels and compresses, music, and quality products. Collier also suggests partnerships with local restaurants, wedding planners, massage therapists, physicians, or even other esthetics professionals. Evans says partnerships can even be made with businesses outside the spa scope such as fitness clubs, day care centers, auto shops, or chiropractors.
“Synergize your ideas to create quality experiences,” Collier says. “Also, find creative product companies with experience
Choosing a Theme
An easy way to make treatment bundles is to select a theme and build on it. For example, Evans says after you identify the market needs and benefits clients may desire, you can create all sorts of social getaways for friends, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, wedding and bridal parties, new moms, couples, even the elderly.
According to King, the most popular packages are for stress reduction and detoxification. “When you know your theme, you can choose treatments that have those effects, for example, detox should include thermal wraps or paraffin; stress reduction would include aromatherapy, reflexology, and deep-tissue massage,” she says.
Collier feels theme ideas can come from product companies and suggests evaluating several manufacturers. “Research a product company that will not only offer the products, but offers support and takes time to work with you to design the protocol experience to meet your facility’s requirements and focus,” she says.
Sometimes ideas come easily if you just look outside your window. What is your neighborhood like? What kind of town are you located in?
“We are in a beach town and have offered a sea experience with ocean-themed facials and body treatments,” says Lees, who stresses the importance of having a variety of services available. “Make sure you include massage (a big plus), if you have it, and in packages, a relaxing facial is better than a clinical one. You can always change it out if the client desires.”
Lees’ classic half-day package is an hour-long facial, analysis, and consultation (if desired); an hour-long Swedish massage, foot, and leg treatment; European hand treatment; lunch; brow wax; and makeup application. The entire experience is four hours. Guests also get a $25 certificate toward any retail they choose. His menu also features a shorter version that is two and a half hours and includes a five-step massage facial, consisting of cleansing, exfoliating, hydrating, toning, and conditioning, plus a Swedish massage.
“I will usually pick a theme by what time of year it may be, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Fall/Holiday,” Maddison says. “Also, I tend to encourage more peel/exfoliation packages after summer is over. This always goes over well.”
The bottom line with treatment packages is to give clients a reason to spend money. While sophisticated spa-goers will know what to buy, a dizzying array of services may be just too confusing for some. Packages make spending greater amounts of money easy, but have the perception of being good deals. For consumers who prefer combos and added values to á la carte menus, theme packages can take the guesswork out of selecting services. As Collier explains, packages offer layers of experiences and “allow the client to unwind in a variety of ways, from head to sole, to soul.”