PARIS — Uber and bgX are angling to shake up the on-demand beauty model, which many players are still trying to get a good grip on.
The two companies have joined forces to link prestige salon services in numerous international cities directly with consumers wherever they are, Uber and bgX said jointly during a press conference here Tuesday afternoon.
That was the same day that their platform officially kicked off in the City of Light, London and Dubai.
“BgX is a marketplace for the professional salons and the beauty partners, to connect them to their communities,” explained Ali Rafi, cofounder and chief executive officer of the Dubai-based beauty tech company.
He and Paria Ghorashi had created a tech platform after years of working to deliver home beauty services in Dubai through their company Blowout&Go.
Rafi said they grew to understand the everyday challenges of running such a business. “We developed a series of tech to solve these problems, and bgX was born,” he explained. “If we could mobilize 100 stylists, why can’t we do 5,000 stylists, why can’t we do 10,000 stylists?”
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They found the two largest hurdles for running their business were accessing professional stylists and transporting them.
“We wanted to connect these salons to their communities, to their customers, seamlessly transport them and be able to manage the bookings from start to finish, to be able to monitor them, track them, get them to their locations safely and efficiently,” he continued.
That dream has become reality with Uber.
The venture marks the first time any company has fully integrated with the on-demand car service to connect businesses with their customers.
Erinn Collier, head of the U.K., Uber for business, said there are numerous parallels between her company and bgX — ambition included.
“They’re starting out the way we started out, in a few cities with a simple concept that’s quite powerful and easy to understand the benefit of,” she said. “We’re just really keen to see how we might help them map this sort of expansion for their own business, as well.”
Some stumbling blocks for other concierge beauty players have been their service providers needing to traipse all over cities to get from one appointment to the next, ultimately limiting the number that could be taken in one day; inconsistent levels of expertise among freelancers, and that no one has yet cracked the code of profitability.
“A lot of innovation has gone into these apps for freelancers…and the salons have been the [ones] who have been left out. So we’re basically giving them the tools to fight back,” Rafi said.
This includes offering salons the means to transport their stylists in a 1-kilometer radius, analytic tools, maximizing their employees’ work times, plus likely upping their revenue stream through product sales.
The Blowout&Go app is easy to use for both the consumer and salon. Once a person logs on to it and indicates she wants a hair service, a nearby salon is contacted. After the booking is accepted, the salon assigns a stylist — whose profile and photo can be seen — and an Uber picks them up.
The client has a selection of blowouts and hairstyles to choose from for a fixed fee (in the U.K, for instance, it’s 65 pounds), while a more in-depth look, like a chignon, is be slightly more.
The stylist may sell products, and once their service is finished, the customer rates the stylist and can tip. Then the stylist is picked up by an Uber and returned to the salon.
The stylist rates the client, too, and if each gives the other a high rating it is possible they are matched again. The stylist inputs information into the app about the consumer, including the service she had done, so the next stylist is able to consult it.
The beauty offering is expected to be expanded to include the likes of makeup and nail services in the future.
The Blowout&Go app is available for iOS and Android smartphones.
By the end of this year, it is expected to be up and running in 10 cities, including elsewhere in Europe. In the U.S., the platform will go live in New York beginning in September during fashion week, and in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago and Miami. Next up, too, will be Asia — Singapore and Hong Kong — and Australia.
Ultimately, the beauty business could be scaled to be anywhere that Uber operates, according to Rafi. (Already today, there are more than 600 markets covered.)
At launch, the bgX service is just on-demand, but ahead-of-time bookings are expected to be available in the near future.
Balmain Hair Couture has signed on as a strategic and educational partner with the salon service. Rafi said key was to have “that professional side with a luxury feel in the home” that Balmain can bring. “They’re a backstage brand,” he added. “They are a fashion brand [that’s] used to stylists on the go.”