Having entered the sunless tanning industry during inception, first as the exclusive distributor for leading automated booth manufacturer in L.A. – the most high-profile territory in the world – then shortly after, as founder of a successful handheld spray-tanning company, I have been asked to consult on sunless product mix by people opening tanning salons or incorporating the service into an already existing business. That required me to analyze and really understand cost, profitability and implementation strategy, so that I could best advise those who relied on me for information. It was a new industry then, and all I had were case studies based on implementations that I was mostly a part of (as well as that of my industry peers).
In the early days, tanning salons generally did not entertain the idea of anything other than an automated system. Mainly because of the manpower required to operate an airbrush machine, time it would take away from the front desk and concerns about liability. But as time went on, with the success of the hit TV show “Sunset Tan” and an increase in requests for custom airbrush tans, market acceptance ensued and airbrush tanning really took off.
When entrepreneurs or business owners contact me to help them choose a modality of sunless to offer, many believe the decision they have to make is between man and machine, i.e. automated spray- tanning booths vs airbrush tanning machines; but is it really? That may be part of the question, but a bigger question lies in understanding your sunless market, who they are and what they want. To understand how people like to get a sunless tan is to understand the anatomy of a sunless tanner. Once you understand this, product mix is a no-brainer.
Not only have I worked in the automated and airbrush tanning side of the industry, but I am, as a user, as passionate about sunless tanning as they come. I will give you a brief insight into my early childhood motivation. At the age of 14, I had a lab in my bedroom where I would mix ingredients to change the color of my skin, which only turns red when exposed to UV rays. I was too self-conscious to wear shorts or bathing suits, afraid that people would make fun of me (which they often did). During that time, there was only one self-tanning product on the market and the color it created was orange. Not orangey, not orange-ish, but orange. Knowing that experimenting would result in varying shades of orange, I decidedly made my rabbit the scapegoat, claiming that any orange on my skin was likely the result of juicing the carrots the rabbit did not eat. This would be my story, at least until I could figure out a way to make my skin brown. That was when I was around 17. Eventually, I got there. Most people don’t have the level of motivation I had (necessity is, after all, the mother of all invention); but one thing we do have in common is a desire to be tan, and to do it the way we like to do it.
We all know people want to be tan (sunless tan) for a number of reasons; but the most common is the immediate gratification; immediately looking more attractive, healthier, thinner, etc. But, who are these people, what do they like to use to get those results – and why?
I have broken it down into three groups: Seasonal Tanners, Event Tanners, and Year-round Browners.
Seasonal Tanners are those who think if they don’t see it, then it doesn’t exist. Fully clothed in the winter, eating heavier food, it’s “don’t look/don’t see … until spring rolls around. Then, it’s time to put on those more revealing clothes. Gotta hit the gym and bronze that skin!
Event Tanners need a reason to tan. Maybe they are getting married, going to prom, competing for a fitness competition or pageant, or they joined match.com and want to make a great first impression! Whatever the reason, they need one – and that is when they will start checking out Groupon to see what tanning deals are out there.
Year- Round Browners probably watch what they eat, work out regularly, have a hairdresser, waxer, astrologer, whatever! They have a routine and stick to it, no matter what time of year it is. These are the ones who keep your bills paid in slow season. This used to be me – in the days when spray-tans weren’t on tap at every salon I walk briskly in and out of (I walk very fast and am always in a hurry).
So, I’ve identified my main sunless tanner categories – let’s look at the three modalities and (generally) why they are chosen: the automated booth, custom airbrush tan (technician applied), and self-applied.
The Automated booth is a machine you step into, press a button, and away it sprays. It is quick and provides overall good results. Those who choose this application are typically price conscious (as it is less expensive than airbrush), they have little time (airbrush takes longer), or they do not feel comfortable undressing in front of a technician.
A custom airbrush tan is manually applied by a technician after conducting an analysis. Some professionals use creams; but that is few and far between and often replaced by airbrush. Generally, this application is chosen by those who are more particular, prefer a more customized result, and want body sculpting to enhance and minimize areas.
“Self-applied” refers to self-tanning creams, mousses, sprays, dry DHA oils, etc. Some people like to get a sunless tan in the convenience and privacy of their own homes. It is the least expensive and most convenient sunless method; but results are inferior to a professional application due to hard-to-reach areas of the body.
From one modality to another
A salon customer may choose the automated spray if they want to “double-dip” (UV session + Sunless tan), yet that same customer may choose a custom airbrush tan to prepare for their wedding two weeks later. Additionally, a large percentage of the “in salon” sunless tanners also like self-tanning at home. By making at-home sunless products available to them for use after their professional sunless session, not only are you generating greater profits, but also responding to their inherent desire to be and remain tan (i.e. healthy and beautiful). If they don’t buy it at your salon, there is always a pharmacy on their way home, or worse, Amazon.com, where one finds abundant options at competitive prices. Small side note: there is a great deal of expired and counterfeit product on Amazon; this info might be worth passing on to customers.
As we can see, there is a market for all sunless tanning methods, and by offering all of them, you will increase your market share and profitability while preventing customer attrition due to lack of availability of products and services that are desired.
It is important to know that people cannot be categorized as “one or the other,” – automated, custom or at-home. It is simply a way to define your market for the sake of making smart decisions about your sunless product mix. Once decided, correctly combining, pricing and marketing will rapidly grow your sunless service business and keep customers coming back regardless of time of year, their budget, or how they feel “in their skin.” With your expert recommendations and product mix, they will love the skin they’re in!
Infinity Sun Founder/CEO, Veronique Munro, is considered a pioneer in the sunless tanning industry. She was given the name “Queen of
Sunless” by Bravo TV and “Celebrity Spray-Tanner” as she introduced sunless tanning to many Hollywood stars. Munro actively consults as a sunless expert with magazines including Allure, Glamour, Lucky, Vanity Fair and Self, as well as the hit TV shows Glee, Sunset Tan, Millionaire Matchmaker, Dr. 90210 and Entourage, among others.
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