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26. All Booked Up: Centralizing the Beauty Industry’s Appointment Scheduling

26. All Booked Up: Centralizing the Beauty Industry’s Appointment Scheduling


Scheduling appointments is one of the most difficult parts of operating a clientele business, especially within the beauty industry. To help beauty businesses go online, streamline their appointment processes, and avoid overbooking clients, Recruit Lifestyle (RLS) developed Hot Pepper Beauty, Japan’s leading comprehensive search site for beauty services, and SALON BOARD, a centralized system for appointment scheduling.

Businesses in Japan’s beauty industry have traditionally managed their bookings and clients by hand, keeping track of important information in paper day planners that are kept on reception desks. This practice has not fared well in the digital age, where customers expect to be able to conduct most transactions online. Though many beauty businesses have websites, they’ve struggled with online scheduling and have not optimized their sites to get in front of new customers. 

That’s why, in 2007, RLS kicked off Hot Pepper Beauty, a search and appointment scheduling website for beauty salons and spas in Japan. Through this online platform, RLS aimed to expand the beauty industry’s reach and make appointment scheduling easier and simpler. With Hot Pepper Beauty, users could browse through a plethora of salons and spas and schedule their appointments all in the same place.

But RLS hit an unexpected roadblock soon after the service was released. Though Hot Pepper Beauty allowed businesses to manage all of their appointments on one platform, the beauty industry was slow to adopt new practices. Many of the businesses that were listed on Hot Pepper Beauty continued to keep paper records and schedule appointments by phone, in person, and through company websites.

Worried about overbooking, many businesses decided to limit the appointments slots that were shown on Hot Pepper Beauty. But this confused and frustrated their customers, who were unable to find a comprehensive list of available slots. Over 80% of the visitors who attempted to schedule appointments online couldn’t find a time that worked and left the site without booking one. Discouraged by the decline in customers, some of the businesses using Hot Pepper Beauty’s platform considered leaving the site and reverting back to only scheduling in paper appointment books. 

To resolve this issue, RLS decided to repackage Hot Pepper Beauty’s scheduling system to make it easier to use and more appealing for businesses. In June 2012, RLS released SALON BOARD, an appointment and customer management system. Businesses on Hot Pepper Beauty could use SALON BOARD to easily transfer all of their appointment books online and control all of their scheduling channels from a central platform.

To help beauty salons and spas understand the benefits of the new system, RLS formed the Salon Boarder unit, a team of technical problem solvers who would teach businesses how to integrate SALON BOARD and use the system to its fullest. Salon Boarders were available to help businesses manage the platform, and could jump to the rescue to resolve urgent technical issues.

Once finding the right salon and scheduling an appointment became as easy as a few clicks, new customers started to pour in. And because beauty businesses were able to track and control all of their reservations with an intuitive platform, their businesses started to operate more smoothly. Instead of searching through piles of paper and cross-checking various scheduling channels for their next appointment, beauty industry employees were able to spend more of their time with customers.  

Today, SALON BOARD and Hot Pepper Beauty are thought of as the infrastructure of Japan’s beauty industry. Businesses use SALON BOARD to schedule over 300,000 appointments every day. Just in February 2020, the platforms received over 112.6 million online reservations—a massive jump from the 18 reservations made on Hot Pepper Beauty’s launch day. 

“SALON BOARD and Hot Pepper Beauty not only transformed the beauty industry’s standard practices into efficient, digital processes, but also revitalized the industry by making it easy and enjoyable for customers to find new beauty services,” said Masanori Michimoto, head of beauty business at RLS. “The businesses and consumers we serve are now able to communicate within a smooth, symbiotic online ecosystem.”

RLS plans to continue to search for new ways to help the beauty industry maintain and strengthen customer relationships, and has introduced additional support into the SALON BOARD platform for other business operations, like customer analysis, marketing and advertising, sales management, and recruitment. 

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