Barbershop is part of digital revolution in small business sector

Barbershop continues to add digital functionality to its business after the pandemic proved its value

A UK barbershop is stepping up its digital presence through cloud-based marketing and loyalty software as it recovers from a challenging business period.

Teesside-based Wicks Barbershop is taking advantage of cloud-based tools from payments company Square to digitise its customer services.

The eight-year-old business was already a cashless operation, with online booking and an app, and it is now adding digital marketing and loyalty tools.

Wicks Barbershop founder Jack Wicks said the company first started using Square’s software to enable it to take payments in 2019. This was followed by the adoption of Square appointments to enable it to take online bookings, and the small business has been adding functionality as it is made available. 

Wicks said the Square payments tool meant the company had already gone cashless before the Covid pandemic. “We future-proofed our business to a certain extent because a lot of businesses in our industry had to change a lot more than us,” he said. This was a big step for the company, which has no IT experts.

“We started with pen and paper and a cash box,” Wicks added. “We then used basic card readers and last year we went cashless, just before the lockdown, which was a great time to do it.”

The company is now an early user of marketing and loyalty tools recently launched by Square. “This helps us to follow on emails as well as online gift cards, which were important during the lockdown,” said Wicks.

During the pandemic, the barbershop was able to keep in contact with its customers, and with a registered client base of 1,000 individuals, this was important. “As a barber, we’re always striving to increase our returning customer base,” said Wicks. “Using Square Marketing’s easy-to-use email builder and customer directory, we stayed top-of-mind by sending the latest news and offers to our client base. In particular, we love the automatic email campaign feature, which helps us to communicate with our clients at the moments that matter most.”

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The software automates marketing for customers unless they opt out. It is this, plus the fact that everything is in the cloud with no equipment required, that makes it simple. “Businesses don’t need any tech knowhow to use the tools,” said Wicks. “Previously, we would have different systems that we would try to run together, with emails separate to booking, etc. It is hard work and I don’t like doing it.”

For payments, there is a set fee per transaction and other tools have monthly subscriptions.

Small businesses such as Wicks Barbershop are well aware of the need to use digital tools, but are less certain how to use them and which ones to use. But as the global economy begins to recover from the disruption caused by Covid, small businesses need to join the digital revolution or they could miss out on the recovery.

Chris Locke, founder of research and advisory firm Caribou Digital, which is working with Mastercard on a programme to digitise five million small businesses, told Computer Weekly recently that very small businesses need to learn how to digitise very quickly.

“They need to understand how a whole host of digital platforms help their businesses, such as accounting software that helps them run their businesses or a lot of the new marketplaces that help them reach new customers,” he said.

Locke added that such firms are bombarded by adverts for digital tools, but need to understand how they can make such technology work for their business.

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