Avoid Lost Revenue With This Simple Fix.
With professional service businesses, the success of the operation relies on its staff not having any idle time. Often this is referred to as “White Space,” the unfilled appointment time on your calendar. It’s spoilage, it’s lost revenue and it can kill a business. But it also creates opportunity.
How each retail business handles this is different. Some literally call their customers to see if they want to book another service time. Others use direct mail or email. Some resort to social media. The truly desperate employ sign spinners. Each of these can have some level of success, but they can be expensive, difficult to measure and they can have a lag time of weeks.
When the business’ manager is staring at the White Space needing to be filled over the next 24 to 72 hours, a severe level of stress and anxiety set in PDQ.
Let’s start by examining the tools currently being used to solve this problem:
Direct Mail: There are several issues with direct mail when faced with a 24-72 hour White Space problem. First, there’s cost. Writing, designing, printing and mailing is expensive. The second is time. Even if you were guaranteed a delivery percentage to the mailbox, you will have no idea how many are read. Plus, the customers who take action to book an appointment aren’t going to do so in the next few days. Hell, it takes that long just to get the mail to them.
Email: On the surface this is great. It can get it done quickly and it’s relatively cheap. The problem is that email isn’t opened right away. Research from Quora shows that on average it takes a full day for 24% of people to open an email. Then the open rate can drag on for a week. That’s not going to solve a white space problem you’re facing 16 hours from now.
Social Media: I think the problem here is obvious but I’ll point it out anyway. No one on social media is there waiting for your company to post an offer about a hole in your service calendar. As such, the motivation to act in the moment is practically nonexistent.
Sign Spinners: Filling any White Space with this is simply dumb luck. So, where does a business turn?
The power of filling White Space is in the hands of your customers.
The most active smart phone behavior is checking notifications. Within minutes (sometimes seconds) a smart phone user will check each notification coming in. This is unlike email, where messages can be deleted without engaging the content at all. The beauty for marketers behind push notifications is that even if the notification isn’t clicked on, the brand message is read. Plus, push notifications enjoy an open rate which is 50% higher than email and a click through rate which is 7 times greater.
Now that you understand the power behind this channel of communication, let’s take a look at how it can solve that White Space problem by examining a test we ran for our LighthousePE client, Ella Bliss Beauty Bar.
On a Wednesday morning, we scheduled three White Space signals (what we call content for push notifications) for each Ella Bliss store based on available openings in their schedule for that upcoming Friday.
One of their stores had a few aesthetician openings (facials/lashes/waxing). We targeted customers who had selected that store as their primary store. Then we refined our list by selecting only those customers who had previously attended an aesthetician service but hadn’t been in for at least 30 days. Within 24 hours that store booked all 5 of their available openings.
Another Ella Bliss store had a few nail service openings (manicure/pedicure). Using the same customer refinement strategy, that store recognized 13 bookings within 48 hours and a total of 18 scheduled appointments within four days.
The final store in our test also had nail service openings as well. That store realized 5 bookings by our Friday deadline and 16 in total within a few days after. These results aren’t just good, they’re valuable.
By targeting specific audiences for specific services, and synching that data against their previous date of service, Ella Bliss booked a total 41 appointments resulting in 56% ROI.
The critical factor behind solving a White Space problem (or any proximity marketing challenge) is making certain your content is personalized. The importance of this is emphasized by Gartner’s research which points out that 67% of consumers feel it's very important for brands to automatically adjust content based on customer context, and 42% get annoyed when content isn't personalized.
So, when you find yourself staring at the white abyss of the appointment calendar, wondering what to do when supply is greater than demand, remember this: it’s crucial to engage customers with 1:1 scalability by aligning their implicit and explicit behaviors with content that is both personalized and timely. That is how you fill White Space and increase your top line revenue.