AI and the Beauty Industry: Navigating Our New Future

I’ve been wanting to start this conversation for a few months now, but I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it – mostly because it has all been changing almost weekly. In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a distant concept; it's a reality that's reshaping how we conduct business (OUR businesses) – in ways we may not even realize. And just think – five years ago I thought elevating the way we used Instagram and Google SEO was cutting-edge. For many salon, spa and school owners, the integration of AI tools, especially platforms like ChatGPT, seems exhausting at best and impossibly complicated at worst. I mean, we just cracked the code on Instagram (I’m both laughing and crying a little as I type this…)

Here’s the thing – we know from the events of 2020 and up until today – our industry continues to be in a state of rapid change. If we learned anything from the pandemic – it’s that as small business owners we have to “lean in” to adapt. We have to stay nimble and open-minded. We must embrace what is new and let go of what used to work in the past. As market leader companies, our ability to maintain that pole position is now dependent on our ability to adopt strategies that include AI throughout our business practices. So, let’s unpack all of this together…knowing this is only the beginning. (take a deep breath)

AI in the Beauty Industry: A “New” New Era

Our industry, known for its personal touch, creativity, authenticity and artistry, is now at the forefront of embracing AI technologies. The fusion of beauty and technology is opening up innovative ways for us to enhance our services and guest experiences. The key word here is “enhance”- I don’t think AI is ever going be able to replace the human factor that drives success in our industry. In some ways – I think our businesses could very well be the last ones standing in that regard. Some of the latest innovation we are now using every day include:

  • Appointment Scheduling and Management Many of our salon software partners are now integrating AI into the online booking process – recommending additional services to enhance the guest experience.
  • Inventory Management: AI algorithms in our POS software platforms and in companion platforms like Vish may soon predict product demand and assist in inventory management, ensuring we are well-stocked with our most popular items while reducing overstock.
  • Targeted Marketing Campaigns: By analyzing guest data such as which products and services our guests buy or even where our guests live, AI can help us create highly targeted, results-driven marketing campaigns – putting more power behind our investments in Google AdWords and Meta Advertising.
  • Engaging Social Media Interaction: ChatGPT can be used to generate engaging content for social media, from beauty tips to Q&A sessions, creating a feeling of community around our brands. It can even help us map out an engagement strategy based on topics that are important to our guests.

Overcoming Fear and Overwhelm: It’s Gonna Be Alright

I know for me – the emergence of AI gave me a lot of anxiety. As a social media educator trying to push against the toxic elements of Instagram, TikTok and Facebook, I was really concerned about what this new technology would do to us. I regularly listen to a podcast Your Undivided Attention that tackles both social media and AI (I highly recommend) – and one thing I heard recently that stood out to me was that only by using AI platforms like ChatGPT can we influence the way AI impacts our industry. Again, we are faced with the choice to “lean in” and shape the future, rather than just wait to see what happens and react. Things to consider:

  • Start Small: Begin with simple applications, like using ChatGPT to draft blogs for your website. Notice I wrote “draft” – you will have to edit the work and incorporate your brand voice and authentic POV. As someone who does a lot of writing, I have found that ChatGPT really helps me get out of the creativity “funk.”
  • Focus on Complementing, Not Replacing: Understand that AI is here to augment our capabilities, not replace them. It's about working alongside AI to enhance productivity and creativity. There is still a place on our leadership teams for the person who manages retail and backbar inventory. AI will only make their job a lot easier and free them up to take on other challenges in the business.
  • Educate Yourself: Invest time in learning about AI, especially ChatGPT. There are a lot of resources out there, including new resources and forums coming soon from Summit. We believe that if we share best practices with one another – we will be #strongertogether.
  • Prioritize Ethical AI Use: Ethical concerns around AI are valid. We have to ensure that the tools we use in our companies comply with privacy laws and ethical standards. We can only be aware of what “good” looks like if we engage.

Embracing AI, especially tools like ChatGPT, can seem totally daunting, but I truly believe that it's a journey worth taking. If we start small, focus on augmentation, stay updated, and share best practices, we can not only overcome our “AI overwhelm” but also unlock new potential in our businesses. AI doesn’t just have to be “technology” – it can be a powerful tool that we as salon professionals use to continue to do what we all love to do - inspire confidence and self-worth in the people that we serve.

I look forward to keeping this discussion going as new innovations emerge. In 2024, the Marketing & Branding Division will bring you tools and trainings to help you and your team get the most out of AI. If you ever have any question or suggestions on how we can help salon professionals better their best, please don’t hesitate to ask ChatGPT to write me an email. 😉