Beauty is in the eye of the app-holder

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No smartphones here
No smartphones here. Advances have been made in the beauty industry also. (Image via Getty Images)

According to the latest statistics by Euromonitor International, the Middle East and Africa (MEA) personal care and grooming industry is valued at $25.7 billion, overtaking Latin America as the world’s fastest growing beauty market at the end of 2014.

The biggest spenders can be found in KSA, with consumers accounting for $4.8 billion. Other top markets include the UAE at $1.4 billion and Egypt at $1 billion. In terms of spend per capita; the UAE takes the top spot, with an average of $163 per person each year.

And it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Newly released figures from Messe Frankfurt Middle East – the organizer of Beautyworld Middle East, the biggest exhibition of its kind in the region – show that the market is set to grow at a rate of 4.8 percent year on year until 2019. That’s almost twice the global average of 2.6 percent.

Despite the market being the world’s most promising, we haven’t witnessed many beauty startups so far – particularly those in the tech domain – but that looks to change very soon. In the coming months three salon-booking apps are set to launch in the GCC. Similar to food delivery solutions, these apps help customers book beauty appointments online or on their smartphone, instead of having to phone in.

Huda Kattan – beauty entrepreneur and founder of Hudabeauty.com – is excited to see this type of service finally arrive in the region.

“Beauty booking applications will make it a lot easier and a lot more convenient for people, especially because as women, we are becoming busier and handling more tasks,” she tells Wamda. “Anything that can help women become more beautiful in a convenient way is great.”

So why now? According to Kattan, it’s all about timing and the evolution of how consumers invest in beauty.

“Women are becoming more advanced in their technique and their demands – the wide number of beauty portals and the abundance of information is dramatically changing the scene,” she continues. “As a beauty blogger, business owner and consultant, I have changed my technique and strategies simply because of the amount of information people have readily available to them.

“There is a lot of improvements in the technology arena and in the industry in general and this has educated women and has made them more knowledgeable, careful and as a result better consumers.”

Three beauty-booking apps launching in August:

BEEM

BEEM is being dubbed as Dubai’s first salon-booking app.

“It’s an app-to-app system,” explains founder Samantha Hamilton-Rushforth. “The salons host BEEM HQ either in their individual branches or at their call center, and the customer uses BEEM.”


Dubbed as a regional first. (Image via BEEM)

An acronym for ‘BEauty EMergency’, this app marks the 25-year-old Brit’s first foray into the world of startups.

“Having spent 12 years in Saudi Arabia and the last 10 in Dubai, I felt the UAE had the right support for entrepreneurs and first-time business owners,” she explains. “As a former beauty editor, I’m well aware of the consistent grooming routines of women in the region and felt that a quick, convenient platform would excel in the market.”

Asked why it has taken so long for an app of this kind to land in the region, Hamilton-Rushforth says it’s just down to attitudes changing.

“As I always say to our salons, ten years ago companies questioned the importance of a website, five years ago they underestimated the power of social media.

“Service apps like BEEM are not only the future but also the present, and they need to embrace the needs of the digital consumer now.”

Currently bootstrapping, BEEM comprises four full-time team members, and are expecting to hold their first round of investment this December. In 2016, they plan to launch in Abu Dhabi, followed by the rest of the GCC, and expanding to Singapore and Hong Kong by 2018.

“The admin process of setting up a business was fairly easy; the struggles have come from dealing with Apple in California and also branding ourselves as not only a beauty, but also a tech company,” she concludes. “Women in tech are few and far between, but my team and I are experienced, resilient and we’re very confident in our product.”

Available on iOS, then Android in December.

Vaniday

Not borne out of the region this service is already available in Brazil, France, the UK and Italy.

“The UAE has recently experienced significant growth in smartphone penetration,” says Vaniday cofounder and Middle East managing director, Vera Futorjanski. Citing a growth that could see 65 percent of smartphone users become 75 percent by 2018, Futorjanski sees the UAE as an untapped market.

German-born Futorjanski, who relocated to the Emirates six months ago, is confident that this type of app will change the face of the industry in the region.

Generally, the beauty and wellness industry is one of the few segments that has not yet fully transitioned from offline to online,” she explains. “Nowadays, there is an app for virtually any kind of service you can imagine, yet salons and spas still have to mostly rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. We are changing this with our platform, providing salons and spas with an enormous online exposure and simplifying the process of finding and booking treatments for customers.”

Vaniday has big backing as well.

Our main investor is Middle East Internet Group [a joint venture between Rocket Internet and MTN], but we are certainly looking at increasing our pool of investors in the future.”

“Dubai marks the tenth country I have lived in and it is a very special place to me, because contrary to all the clichés it has a vibrant female founders’ scene and an amazing ‘empowering women’ vibe.”

Available on iOS and Android.

Spoilee

“We are launching in Saudi Arabia as a start,” says founder Abdullah Alghadouni, “but we have beauty venues in other GCC countries also interested.”


Spoilee will be Saudi Arabia’s first beauty booking app. 

Saying that the GCC market needs more education on some elements of the business he says this will be part of their mission at Spoilee.

“[The app] will help salon and beauty center owners and managers by giving them more time to focus on improving and growing their business, while Spoilee works for them to get them more clients.”

Currently bootstrapping, the 35-year-old Dubai-based founder – who’s also an active board member and advisor for Glowork – has just appointed a partner to lead the tech side of the project. And although Alghadouni declines to reveal his plans for external investment, he’s adamant that Spoilee will become the “go-to local smart destination for beauty and wellness booking services in the region” in the next five years.

Available on iOS and Android.

One month, three apps - it will be interesting to see how they fare in the coming months. However, these launches are no doubt a move in the right direction for smart beauty in the region. Kattan agrees.

“Looking at world-wide players in beauty startups, the UAE is undervalued [as a market],” she says.


“People perceive it as a location that is constantly developing and has become a center for fashion and design… But its potential and influence is still underestimated.”

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