Given the right software and a roadmap for success, salons can succeed through anything—even a global public health crisis. Fred Helou, founder and CEO of Vagaro Inc., drove that point home at the 2021 Data-Driven Salon Summit in Rosemont, Illinois. 

Presented by Salon Today, the yearly conference gathers leading experts from the salon industry to discuss new technological and data-driven strategies that can improve all facets of their business. 

As one of the summit’s key speakers, Fred praised Vagaro’s customers and the salon industry as a whole for its resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Everybody stepped up,” he said. “Everybody out there wanted to stay in business—and most of our customers stayed in business.” 

Fred spoke about Vagaro’s efforts to help its customers during the pandemic, from offering its services for free to releasing Vagaro’s COVID-Clean features, which include contactless checkout and curbside delivery. He also shared how salons, large and small, can improve their marketing, particularly through text-message campaigns. 

“It’s really important for members of our audience to listen to technology experts like Fred,” said Brian O’Rourke, president of beauty, health and wellness at Bobit Business Media.   

Listen to more of Fred’s insights and catch other highlights of the 2021 Data-Driven Summit here: 



Moderator: “Thanks again for joining us today. We want to talk more about the present day, some of the things that we’ve experienced over this past year and how technology, education and a variety of things can help us move ahead.” 

Fred: “Alignment definitely became a big thing. When COVID hit, we had a lot of features that we saw a lot of our customers were not taking advantage of. We were lucky enough that all these things were handy, and we saw a big adoption for all our customers to start using them. It’s been great because we saw how resilient the industry is. 

Fred: “Everybody stepped up and everybody wanted to stay in business, you know, and most of our customers stayed in business, which is great. So, online sales went up by like 10% and it’s still the case. You know, people are still selling products online. They’re still encouraging people to buy gift certificates online and so on.” 

Brian O’Rourke: “So, it’s really important for members of our audience to listen to people like Fred, who are technology experts, because we’ve had this exponential increase in people coming back to the salon and needing services. So, people are booked more than ever. And, when you need to be behind the chair providing your services, it’s really hard to put your focus on the technological aspects of your business. So, if you have a technology partner who can do that heavy lifting, you can get back to running your business, keeping your clients happy, and heading into those busy seasons.” 

Moderator: “Fred, how are salons using data?”  

Fred: “Well, we wanted to really know what it’s like to run a salon. So, we bought a salon that’s booth rent only, bought a salon that’s a hybrid booth rent and commission. Another one that’s hair extensions and blow dry. So, if we get between the three, we have a combination of the different types of salons that you know, that exist. So, return on investment is something that everybody should be looking at. What are the tools that we’re using to bring the customers back and what is the return on investment of these tools? We’re seeing, you know, if you send a text message campaign out, right, for every thousand text messages that you send out, you’re getting about 16 appointments booked. For every thousand emails you send out, you get about six appointments booked. If your average appointment is about $80, you know, you’re going to pay for that text message campaign in like two appointments. You know, there’s a reason why people do marketing. Marketing costs money but without marketing, nobody stays in business.” 

Moderator: “Fred, what has your business, Vagaro, done to help salons survive through this pandemic?” 

Fred: “Besides giving service for free for a while, which was a great thing, we had the online shopping cart, but the online shopping cart didn’t have curbside delivery, so we added that. You know, then there was no way to sell kits, so we created a way for them to sell boxes with kits in it and not lose track of the inventory. You just say what’s in the box and so on. Contactless checkout – that’s a big deal, right? So, we came up with a way you can come into the salon, you can tap on the credit card reader, and it’ll send you a text message and you can finish the checkout on your phone with gratuity.” 

Fred: So, you’ll get a text message, you click on it, you put in the tip, you sign and then it asks you to give it a review, which we then saw the number of reviews that people are getting quadrupled because it was so easy, you just did it, and you can do the review on your way to the car. 

Fred: So, these are features that we did for COVID that people are still using right now.”