In the world of lifestyle services, beauty customers have a laser-precise idea of what they want.
This is a fact the co-founders of food delivery platform EatNow, Matt Dyer and Nathan Airey, learned quickly when building their newest venture, online beauty and wellness booking platform Bookwell.
“We’re actually finding in general [beauty] is quite different to food, and one way it’s different is that people have a better relationship with the provider,” Dyer tells SmartCompany, observing that once a customer finds a vendor that works, they stick with them.
The startup has been in beta mode since 2016, with the pair wanting to take the time to set up the website and test the market before formally launching this month.
Bookwell will initially be available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, offering beauty and wellness businesses a digital platform to take customer bookings, in a similar way to how Menulog connects customers with local food outlets.
The business has received the green light from investors, having raised $2.6 million in funding in a round led by Lux Group co-founder and chief executive Adam Schwab and a range of other private investors. Dyer says Schwab, who was an investor in EatNow and has known the duo for years, wanted to “see the pilot” of Bookwell before investing in the business.
Dyer was on the lookout for new opportunities after finishing up his role at Menulog, after the meal delivery giant merged with EatNow in 2015, and Menulog was then sold to Just Eat for $855 million.
He was travelling in Europe when he noticed there was a gap in the Australian market for a leading booking platform for wellness services, and returned home to start crunching numbers on the idea.
Seeing a $10 billion opportunity in the health and wellness market, Dyer and Airley started work on a platform that would cater to thousands of different small businesses and their booking requirements.
“We learned the lesson last time [with EatNow] that it takes time to build something like this,” Dyer says.
Building the user base
Building the product is only one part of the process for a business like Bookwell, given its value to customers lies in the number of venues on the platform.
The business model works by charging a commission for treatments booked through the site. While 750 providers across the country have signed up while the product was in beta mode, Dyer says the goal for the next couple of years is to grow that listing base by five times.
“It’s a tricky one, because in the beginning you don’t have a name or reputation, you really have to do the grunt work,” Dyer says.
Having already established a business that relied on third party businesses to sign up to a platform at EatNow, Dyer says there is “no magic solution” for convincing providers to come on board.
Instead, it’s a matter of having sales staff that are able to “keep trying things”, and building a team that is willing to make a pitch to a broad rang of businesses.
“Without sounding cliche, attitude is everything, particularly in sales,” says Dyer.
“Experience helps a lot — we find often the best people [in sales] want to be salespeople. They see that’s their thing.”
As Bookwell looks to expand its network to thousands of businesses, Dyer says he has learned the principles of maintaining a good connection with providers.
“I think people respond to realness — we purposely don’t have aggressive salespeople who will promise the world,” he says.