Delivering the Spa Experience Through Online Retail
by Cassie Sampson

For years, my spa in Des Moines, Iowa—East Village Spa—wanted to create a simple online store. Out-of-town guests needed an easier way to restock their skin care, and regulars wanted a convenient way to ship their favorite products as gifts. But until COVID-19 forced the spa to close for three months, the prospect of transitioning our large gift shop online seemed too daunting.

As a licensed massage therapist myself, the moment I decided to close, my first priority was to ensure my employees were situated. My second priority was to make our online boutique a reality so we could ensure that, at minimum, we would have a way to pay our rent without draining our savings and serve our guests in some capacity.

Without day-to-day spa distractions, our spa director, Kelly Parker, dedicated all of her time to opening using a Shopify site. Within two weeks of temporarily closing our doors, East Village Spa was doing great business entirely online. The web store instantly generated income and buzz. East Village Spa has been a staple in the Des Moines’ community since 2008, and our devoted fans wanted to show support; the online boutique gave them a way to do that. In addition to restocking their own self care products, our clients started shipping care packages across the country to friends and family they were missing due to the pandemic. The out-of-state animal rescue I’ve supported for years asked its network of volunteers and adopters to check out our online store and, all of a sudden, orders came in from fellow basset hound lovers across the Midwest!

To increase awareness of the store and help guests feel connected to their long-time providers, Parker and I started hosting Facebook Live shopping events to showcase products available online, answer guests’ questions, and encourage conversation among guests and providers in the chat. Each of these events brought in several thousand dollars in sales, but more importantly, they helped our team and their guests feel connected. Even though East Village Spa has reopened in a limited capacity, we will continue hosting virtual shopping events—this is because many of our guests are in high-risk groups and we want to make sure they feel valued and cared for in whatever capacity is safe for them, plus we’ve been able to gain a new following among people who don’t live locally.

In addition to our spa’s regular retail products, we have packaged together gift sets tailored to meet the needs of our community and partnered with neighboring businesses for a themed set for Mother’s Day. Sets like handwashing relief kits, frontline worker care packages and DIY pedicure kits have been best sellers. As our spa has increasingly been able to source items like face masks and cleaning wipes, we have added these items to the shop as a service to guests who are struggling to source them for their personal needs. These have quickly become popular items and customers are thrilled to get what they needed locally. Many purchase other fun products in addition to these necessities.

To deliver a full-service spa experience at home, my spa has also created step-by-step videos to share with customers who purchase at-home facial kits. We’re now offering virtual consultations to help guests select the best products online. Facebook Live has been an invaluable tool to continue to demonstrate products available on the webstore, add video links to the site and provide self-care tips. Every package goes out beautifully wrapped, with free gifts and a handwritten card.
With high-touch service professions caught in a period of uncertainty for in-person visits, it is vital to develop creative online sales opportunities. Not only will these generate much needed revenue for businesses, but connecting with your guests online shows that you care about their well-being and allows them to enjoy a taste of the spa experience at home until they feel comfortable to return in person.

During a time of such stress and anxiety, our goal has been to continue to infuse the online store with East Village Spa’s personality to create a welcoming online community around our motto: Every. Body. Welcome. Not only can our spa welcome and nurture the local guests we’ve served for over a decade, but we can now offer virtual self-care and wellness options for customers nationwide.