Tweens and teens spend hours doing their own and each other’s nails. They pour over photos of nail art, come up with their own designs, and practice with demos and how-to’s they find on sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. In fact, according to data and analysis company Mintel, 97% of U.S. girls aged 12-14 use nail products, and 14% of all teen and tween girls use nail products on a daily basis. But here’s the rub: According to NAILS Big Book, girls under 16 make up just 2% of nail salon clientele, and young women aged 16-20 make up only 5%. How do we bridge this gap between girls’ enthusiasm for all-things nail-related and their lackluster salon-frequenting habits? Clearly, this nail-loving demographic has the potential to be valuable clientele. But how do we bring them in? NAILS took a peek inside the world of tweens and teens to explore their habits when it comes to dressing up their digits.
Several factors contribute to salon chairs not being filled with the tween/teen demographic despite their love of nails and nail art. Lack of disposable income (or any income) is the most obvious obstacle. As a way around this lack of income, girls have become the ultimate DIYers when it comes to their nails. Not only are they learning to do their own nails from online tutorials, they also have lots of creativity and time on their hands. “I literally do not have time enough in my day to do some of the elaborate designs my daughter and her friends are doing,” says Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based corporate nail tech Allana Williams whose daughter is 15. “And they’re resourceful; I’ve seen them use the reinforcement labels that people use to strengthen the holes in binder paper to do French manicures. They use steam to make matte nails and Scotch tape to make water-marbling effects. They do things where they let the polish dry overnight. There’s no time in the salon to do anything like that.”
Market to Mom
Although teens do their own nails and find creative ways to replicate salon nail art, the majority of them will tell you they prefer going to the salon because they enjoy being pampered and because they feel the salon does a neater, cleaner, more professional job. But because babysitting money doesn’t go very far, it’s really parents who have the purchase power, says Doreen Bloch, founder of Poshly.com, an online consumer marketing and analytics database. “Parents are eager for safe, fun activities for their tweens and teens,” Bloch says. “Mothers are the ones who are in the salon the most, so it’s as simple as having fliers out advertising teen specials for graduation, prom, parties, and other occasions.”
In-salon specials have worked for Amy Payne of Cutting Corner Salon in Tecumseh, Mich. She offers $5 off any service for students and also runs specials, such as $20 pedicures, around prom and homecoming season. Ronday Jones of People’s Choice Barbershop in Decatur, Ala., offers a prom and graduation special of a full-set French with toes polished for $30.
Social (Media) Sensation
Teens are increasingly thinking about experiences and not just the end-product itself. Yes, they enjoy having pretty nails, but they want to have a fun experience that they can post on social media in order to engage with their peers online. “YouTube and Instagram are the sites for teens and tweens,” Bloch says.” Across all age groups, Youtube is the most popular for social media as it relates to beauty, but Instagram reigns supreme for 13-to 24-year-olds.”
Armed with this knowledge, it’s easy for salons to give young clientele the 15-minutes of fame they so crave. Use the mani/pedi setting to snap Instagram photos throughout the day of completed nail looks on your tween/teen clients. Another way to engage the tween/teen audience is to utilize the video tutorial and DIY trend to your advantage — rather than trying to oppose trends, work with them.
“Take advantage of the opportunity to give tween/teen consumers insight about your business through unique photos and video,” suggests Arthur Ebeling of PR/marketing firm Koi Creative Inc. “Preview new and exciting products on YouTube, Vine, and Instagram. Try to be original, fresh, and creative. And it doesn’t have to be all tutorial based; you can give behind-the-scenes looks at your salon and salon culture. If you show a fun, festive atmosphere, you will motivate consumers to seek the experience of physically visiting your salon.”
Snapchat is also one of the more popular social media platforms for tweens and teens, and it’s a great way to communicate discounts and promotions. “The best method to gain followers for Snapchat is by leveraging all your existing marketing channels. Let all of your Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and email subscribers know the perks for following you on Snapchat,” says Ebeling. “These perks can include mobile coupons and giveaways (giveaways are a great way to build followers). Try to be active on all forms of social media, be conversational, and stay engaged.”
It’s also vital to make sure Yelp reviews are as positive as possible. “Yelp is a touch point for tweens and teens,” says Bloch. “They really do research on Yelp. They are all about informing themselves, and it absolutely does influence their buying decisions.”
If tweens and teens are not coming to the salon, find ways to go to them. It's all about special occasions, festivities, and creating an experience. So whether it’s a pool party, pre-prom party, slumber party, or something else, bring the nail love to them at their home or school. Be open to physically visiting organizations where tweens/teens and their parents will be receptive to your suggestions for a wholesome, fun, pampering experience. “Our business has grown based a lot on referral, but I also do a lot of networking and donating with surrounding schools, athletic groups, girl scout troops, etc.,” says Sarah Boban of Rock Candy Salon & Spa, a Chicago-based tween/teen salon. “For example, we just finished first communion season and are moving into dance recital season. I go to dance schools, specialty shops, and churches and leave special fliers that I had created at the printer advertising our special occasion packages.”
Nuts for Nail Art
“Up to 69% of under 18-years-old love and wear nail art,” says Bloch. “Creativity and expression are important to this age category, so it’s imperative that nail technicians are well-trained in nail artistry.” Be sure you can work with teens in the moment to express themselves with nail art better than they can do themselves at home. Bloch says that the under-18 crowd mostly gets salon manicures for special occasions. They love holiday-themed nail art, and 50% say they love to be festive with their nails. “Holiday-oriented promotions are a great place to focus,” says Bloch. “Market to these moments. Advertise nail art services for special occasions and holidays, and don’t just stick to the traditional ones. Try funky salon nail art for quinceanera/sweet 16 or bat mitzvah. Do July Fourth American flag-discounted nail art. How about little dreidel characters when Hannukah’s coming? There’s more than prom and Valentine's Day or Christmas to express your pride on your fingertips. Brand yourself to kids and their parents as a special occasion must-have.”
Boban includes nail art with every service. “We do a lot of mani/pedi specials with seasonal nail art like grapefruit in the summer, chocolate in February, peppermint in the winter, etc. The girls love it.” Laura Cannone of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada’s Glama Gals Tween Spa offers a variety of manis and pedis with bath bombs in flavors like cotton candy and birthday cake with matching themed nail art.
Bloch suggests pricing nail art upfront instead of as an add-on. Because young girls are on a budget, they may be afraid to request nail art because they don’t know if they’ll have enough money to cover the cost. “Pricing is often an afterthought, and that’s a problem,” says Bloch. “Instead, make pricing clear up front because they can budget that way. Consider doing a special teen nail art menu or a tween/teen Nail Art Happy Hour. Cuticle care and other aspects of a manicure are not as important to tweens/teens, so consider structuring their manicures and pedicures differently so that the basics are taken care of in a safe and sanitary way, but where the time/emphasis is more on the nail art. That way, it’s still cost-effective for them.”
The Next Great Hope
According to the Bureau of Labor Statisics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of manicurists and pedicurists is expected to grow 19 percent through 2018, creating a high demand for professionally trained technicians. How can we encourage our girls to consider nail tech as a viable future career option?
“I have one tween client who saves her money just to come see me,” says nail tech Anne VanSpronsen of McIntyre’s Salon and Day Spa in Portage, Mich. “She told me she wants to be a nail tech someday, so I give her tools and nail stickers to take home and play with. You can see the fire in her eyes when she talks about doing nails and how she loves doing nail art. She was so excited when I gave her new, unique things to try and use, like 24k gold flakes and foil. She told me how she stores everything and the setup her mom requires so she doesn’t get polish on the table. I just encourage her to keep doing what she is doing and to never give up on her dreams. I love being able to touch the lives of young girls, especially when they are interested in a field I love so much. Just to see her passion and the joy in her face as she talks about it inspires me and reminds me how lucky I am to do what I love!”
“We can encourage girls by being creative and thinking outside the box,” says Cannone. “It’s not just about being a nail technician; it’s about giving a full experience in a unique way. If girls have a love for people and are creative, then this a great route for them.”
Celebrity Teens Show Off Their Nails
These young stars’ Instagram pix taken at esNAIL in Los Angeles, Calif. are a great example of how teens, nails, and social media go hand-in-hand.
NAILS went to the source: We asked some tweens and teens to tell us about their mani/pedi preferences.
Even though doing my own nails is fun, I prefer going to the salon because they do a better job and they make your feet look really nice. But I do feel like because I am a teenager the nail tech tends to not rub my feet as long during a pedicure. I love to get French manicures. I think being a nail tech would be a lot of fun — I love to do nails and usually do my friends’ nails when they come over.
Taylor Jones, 16, Cypress, Calif.
I prefer going to a salon to get my nails done because I don’t have the patience to do it myself. They look so much better than if I try to do them myself, and the massage is a big plus, but it can be really expensive depending on what you get. I get acrylic every time I go, and I like my nails pointy, crazy, and unique
Madison Taylor Smith, 17, Bakersfield, Calif.
I usually like doing my own nails instead of going to the salon because painting my own nails is fun. But what I do like about salons is they do a better job than I do and they use products that last longer. My favorite way to wear my nails is short and rounded with sparkly pink polish. I think it would be pretty fun to be a nail tech because I’d learn to do my own nails better and get really good at it. In fact, I’m going to cosmetology school in the fall and I’m really excited about it!
Drew RuBert, 19, Latham, Mo.
I wear my nails short with fun nail art like animal print, flowers, and hearts. I also like glitter and rhinestones. The best part about having my nails done at the salon is it’s relaxing to have someone pamper you and they make my nails look perfect. The worst part is that we have to make time and an appointment, which is hard because we’re so busy.
Jacqueline Benshoof, 11, Bakersfield, Calif.
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