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Starting from mobile

How are today’s digital newcomers approaching mobile – and what can established retailers learn from them? Chloe Rigby talked to Mat Braddy of Rock Pamper Scissors to find out

Shoppers who have come of age with Uber and Airbnb are driving retail towards a new simplicity that is at its best on mobile. So argues Mat Braddy, founder of Rock Pamper Scissors.

Braddy describes himself as from an impatient generation that can’t be bothered to take the time that ‘old’ retail demands – whether that’s committing 45 minutes to finding a pair of pants in a department store, or choosing a takeaway from a wide choice of online restaurants, such as that offered by Just Eat, where he used to be the chief marketing officer.

“I’m of a generation that are Uber’s children,” says Braddy. “I just want to get the thing I want and move to the next shop. I’m impatient and I want to do something else.”

His is a generation, he adds, that is changing its behaviour rapidly – and killing off more traditional businesses, from Blockbuster to BHS , as it does so. It seems that what appeal most to these shoppers, brought up in the always-on age of the internet, are services that enable them to narrow down that choice. “That’s why you see restaurant chains like Burger or Lobster,” says Braddy. “It’s a burger or a lobster. It’s quite relieving and exciting to have no choice, and boil things down to utter simplicity.” That’s also, he argues, why Giff Gaff, offering a free SIM card that can be thrown away when it’s no longer needed, fared better in recent Which? awards for consumer satisfaction than O2, with its contracts, upgrade and small print, despite the fact both are ultimately selling the same service on the same network. He also compares Tinder, which offers more flexibility and no commitment, to, which has a “big form” to fill in and promises the ultimate commitment – of getting married. One, he says, quite simply does flirting better than the other.

So in this climate, marked by impatient consumers and a fast-changing environment, how does a young contender that is starting from the right place, with no stores of its own and no legacy systems to hold it back, approach mobile?

Through Rock Pamper Scissors, Braddy aims to take the hairdressing industry online – answering what he sees as a growing demand for same-day hair appointments. “It’s always puzzled me why there’s less than 1% of hairdressing appointments done on the internet,” he says. He believes that’s because those who have attempted the task have provided a search listing of businesses that cut hair while, he says, “The emotional truth is it’s the relationship between you and a person who cuts your hair. What we need to build is a talent search engine of stylists who cut your type of hair.” The salon, he says, is secondary to the individual person who cuts hair in the way a client likes.

So how does this all work in practice? The answer is that it starts with mobile. Users of Rock Pamper Scissors view the site either from a mobile app, or from a responsive, mobile-first website. It’s a product that’s evolving quickly – the latest (and still-in-production at the time of writing) version of the responsive website has done away with the home page altogether. “For this impatient generation, I’ve decided the home page is dead,” says Braddy. “There’s no home page. I’ve decided, what’s the point?” Instead, the site or app will detect the user’s location, showing hairdressers that are near to them and are available today. (The service includes at the time of writing more than 1,500 stylists in Leeds, Manchester and London.) Users can choose to flick away from those assumptions to search for other services – such as pedicures – or press a button to look at images of haircuts for inspiration, spinning through images or filtering by style, whether a bob or a blunt fringe.

By doing away with the home page, the navigation bar and search box that force users to scroll down to see relevant results are removed. Bookings can be made via the app with as few as two clicks – down from the eight clicks demanded by the previous iteration of the same product. “It’s reducing all these steps down to utter simplicity,” says Braddy, who cites the inspiration of New York pizza service Push for Pizza. Pizza buyers click for cheese or pepperoni. And that’s it. “It’s perfect for the generation coming through,” says Braddy. “I just want a good pizza – and we’ll assume you’ve done the background work to make sure it is. Just bring me a pizza, because I’m drunk. There’s a real attraction in that basicness and simplicity.”

Salons that sign up with Rock Pamper Scissors get a free website, with an online booking system, which provides data on availability. Salons and individual stylists can upload pictures, tagged for type of hair and cut, to showcase their latest work. There are two ways of using the database. “You can use it like Uber – I want a haircut today, now, because I’ve left it too late.” Users find someone that looks good and is available nearby, and click to book. Alternatively, browsers might flick through the image gallery for inspiration, discovering a stylist through their work before then going on to book through a pop-out calendar. Rock Pamper Scissors earns its money as a commission when a customer uses its platform to book a haircut.

What this market is most certainly not about, says Braddy, is offering discounts. “Offers aren’t what drives the market. What drives long-term earnings for a stylist is loyalty and having a good relationship with clients. If we can get them clients and enable them to closely connect via the internet, then they’ll use the internet to facilitate that relationship.”

Because customers will use the site to find and rate their preferred hairdressers, Braddy sees it acting in the future as a way that salons might attract the best talent to megasalons, charging higher prices. It’s also a way that customers can see whether their favourite stylist is available, wherever they might now work.

“It’s baby days for the number of people using it,” says Braddy, “but the people who are using it really like it – we have a very high net promoter score – and our biggest source of customers is recommendations to each other.”

Rock Pamper Scissors isn’t in itself a retailer, but a platform for those selling their own services. So what can retailers learn from this emerging use of mobile? Braddy emphasises the need to play with new technologies, such as virtual reality. This is the way, he says, to understand what potential customers are doing – and what techniques might work in attracting customers and what might not.

“You have to be optimistic and open-minded about every new tech. Even smart watches, which have turned out to be a flop. You have to buy one and play with it – and see that it is going to be a flop because you got one and had to charge it every single night, and after a week you were bored of charging it. But if I hadn’t bought one I wouldn’t have known. Be optimistic and inquisitive about what’s going to happen next. Suddenly consumers just flip their behaviour – and you have seen that coming if you were one of the consumers, playing with the same stuff.”

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