Trying to decide what colour to paint your nails is up there with all the other crucial, life-and-death decisions we face in life. Like choosing a pizza topping or a new Netflix series.
Trust me, this dilemma can actually be a pretty big problem for beauty salons. After all, the slower a customer makes a decision, the less time there is left in a day to squeeze in extra appointments.
For WAH Nails, a London-based nail brand and boutique, a desire to speed up the process prompted the creation of a virtual reality app for its new Soho salon.
Here’s a bit more on how WAH is using VR, as well as how it fits into the brand’s wider strategy to dazzle and delight young beauty consumers.
Functional rather than gimmicky
There are thousands of options to choose from when you visit a nail salon like Wah. It’s not just colour either – there are endless combinations of designs, overlays, and shades, meaning it’s difficult for customers to even know where to start.
So much so in fact that WAH decided to create a virtual reality app in order to streamline the entire process. However, the brand’s founder Sharmadean Reid was adamant that the technology be something customers would use long-term – not just as a one-off gimmick.
The result was the WAH Nails Virtual Reality Designer – an app that works with a Samsung Gear VR headset and on a Leap Motion device.
When customers place their hands in front of the headset, they are able to select their skin colour and experiment with various digital designs. They can then either print it on the WAH Nail Printer, order the colours to be delivered at home, or send the designs to the in-house nail technician to use there and then.
By showcasing designs in this way, the aim is to help customers better visualise how the nails will look in real life, as well as encourage greater experimentation.
Extension of the experience-focused salon
It’s unsurprising that technology is a core component of WAH’s Soho salon. The brand has had a digital-first mind-set from the start, using its blog and social media to build on word of mouth popularity.
The brand first began with a boutique in Dalston before expanding with a pop-up shop in Topshop. Gradually going on to establish a cult-like status, its two storey ‘salon of the future’ in Soho is a physical representation of the brand’s online presence.
So, not only does the VR app serve a functional purpose, but it also fits in with the immersive nature of the entire salon experience. As part of the ‘play and discover’ area, it complements the bottom floor which includes a cocktail bar and hangout area for customers to enjoy before or after they’ve had their manicure.
Engaging with target demographic
It’s not unusual for beauty brands to use retail spaces to create immersive experiences. Estee Lauder’s flagship Carnaby Street store, Estee Edit, is just one example, using original features like a ‘selfie wall’ to engage customers.
WAH Nails is similar. However, it is even more dedicated to reflecting the style and interests of its young demographic – typically made up of Generation Z and young millennials.
Again, the VR app is an extension of this, taking inspiration from popular video games like the Sims and even Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Perhaps the latter has been an inspiration in an entrepreneurial sense, too. Last year, WAH’s founder Sharmadean Reid also released a collection of ready-to-wear clothing and accessories for ASOS, reflecting Kardashian’s forays into ecommerce and technology.
Incorporating a mix of slogan phrases and luxury sports-wear, it was guaranteed to appeal to the teens and twenty-somethings who already love the brand.
Will nail salons become even more high-tech?
WAH’s VR app is certainly innovative, but it is interesting to note that it’s not exactly what the brand originally set out to create.
The initial idea was an augmented reality app that would overlay nail designs onto hands – much like Snapchat face filters. However, with the realisation that this technology did not yet exist (and with too many issues over the similarity of skin and nail colour) the VR app was the second-best option.
While AR for nails might be too progressive at this stage, perhaps it is a glimpse of what might be possible in future. Just like nail colours, the possibilities are seemingly endless.