Picking the right salon software is crucial to the success of your salon business.
But you know that.
You’ve probably already research salon booking software alternatives at various salon software comparison and review websites.
But you’re still equally confused.
At least that’s how I felt when I first wanted to find the best salon software for me.
The market for salon appointment apps and systems has boomed in the last years. It’s insane.
There are hundreds of salon appointment software and salon management software out there.
But what’s the best salon software for you?
I browsed many user rating websites and manufacturer sites when researching this, but it didn’t really help me.
I just got more confused.
What one user finds good or bad might not at all be relevant for you. And if you read a manufacturer’s website, they will for sure try to sell their solution to you but not always giving the full picture.
This is why I decided to finally bring some clarity to this.
I spent weeks going through all the salon software with the highest user ratings in 2021. I’ve documented all the features and finally, in this article, I’m pulling it all together in a simple overview for you.
I wish I had found a post like this when I first started. It will save you many hours of researching and testing salon software to find what’s right for you.
This is what you’ll get in this article today:
- My shortlist of the best salon software for 2021
- A clarification of the different types of salon software available.
- A feature-by-feature review and comparison of the best salon software solutions right now.
Are you ready?
The Best Salon Software 2021
Below is my list of the top 6 salon software right now. The right solution for you will depend on your specific needs so I strongly recommend you go through the full list before deciding which one will be best for you.
1. Square Appointments: The Best Salon Appointment Software in the US, Canada & Australia
If you’re looking for an affordable appointment scheduler with minimalistic design that is easy to use and functional, look not further. Square Appointments comes with all the features you need to manage your appointment book effectively.
It’s the ideal for the booth renter or individual stylist as it’s free to use for individuals. It also integrates with all other Square products (like POS system, credit card reader, and marketing suite) which combined makes a complete solution also for the large salon business. In fact, Square is also the winner in my review of the best salon POS systems and best salon scheduling software.
- FREE subscription for individuals
- You only pay credit card transaction fee (2.6% + $0.1) when you accept payments through the platform
- Dedicated booking website
- Booking widget for website integration
- SMS & Email Reminders
- Seamless integration with all tools from Square
- Easy-to-use, drag and drop calendar
- Advanced client data (with images)
- Advanced inventory management (with stock alerts)
- iOS & Android App
Limited Time Special Offer on Square: Get FREE Processing on up to $2,000 in Credit Card Transactions
Sign up for Square Appointments here and get a $2,000 bonus of free credit card processing fees. Only available at The Salon Business for a limited time.
2. Fresha (formerly Shedul): The Best 100% Subscription Free Salon Software (Available Worldwide)
Fresha (formerly known as Shedul) has been growing rapidly and is in 2021 one of the most popular salon software platforms out there. It serves more than 120 countries, 50 000 beauty businesses, and 250 000 stylists and therapists.
It is the only subscription free software with no trial period and no limits on usage. But despite being free, it beats most of the big players on features as well.
The strengths of Fresha lies in ease-of-use, the free plan, and continues development of the platform. It’s already one of the most popular platform but, if I was going to place my bets on an industry standard rising among the hundreds of solutions today, it would be Fresha.
Fresha is ideal for the individual stylist or salon on a budget as it’s free. Also, if you’re not technically savvy, you don’t need to worry about steep learning curve to get going. It just works. Your salon can also benefit from visibility on the Fresha end client marketplace.
The limitation you may find with Fresha is lack of customization options. It looks great out of-the-box so this will likely not be a big issue. However, you will for example not be able to change the design of your booking page or have bookings enabled on your website.
- FREE subscription with unlimited staff!
- You only pay a transaction fee when a client books through the Fresha marketplace, your website or social pages, or confirms or pays using one of their payment systems (2.19% + $0.2).
- Fresha marketplace where more client can discover your salon.
- Super easy-to-use with modern minimalistic design interface.
- iOS and Android Apps
- Instagram, Facebook, and Google integrations
3. Vagaro – The Best “All-in-One” Salon Software in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia
Are you looking for a complete, all-in-one, salon software to help you manage and grow your business?
Then Vagaro is the winner in this list.
It’s incredible how much they’ve fit in to this software while still keeping it easy-to-use and at a very affordable rate.
Everything thing is there: Dedicate hardware, integrated payments, full payroll support, native booking integration with your website and other business system, a client market place and exceptional salon marketing support.
You’ll also find advanced features that not many other systems support. Like live video streaming, subscription payments, agency design services. You can even get a custom mobile app built for your salon!
This is for salon’s that need more than just online appointment scheduling. Vagaro is my top recommendation for salons with a team who need advanced features to run their business but, at the same time, want to avoid the complexity of running and integrating multiple systems in order to achieve that.
With Vagaro you get everything in one place at a very affordable rate.
- Integrates with your website, Quickbooks, Xero, Gusto, Google, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram
- Dedicated POS hardware
- Client marketplace to help you attract more new clients
- Subscription payments and membership features
- Built in payroll software
- Built in website builder
- Advanced client data tracking (including SOAP forms)
- Drag and drop, easy-to-use, calendar
- Sophisticated email and SMS marketing tools
- Advanced business reporting
- Affordable, transparent, pricing and free 30 day trial
4. Acuity Scheduling – The Most Advanced Appointment Scheduler (Available Worldwide)
Do you want the absolute best booking experience for your clients? Then it is Acuity Scheduling you’re looking for.
You can customize everything with Acuity. You don’t have to compromise anywhere. Brand your booking page or website widget as you like. Acuity is the the most flexible appointment scheduler on the market and it allows you to integrate bookings with a full suite of third party software which, together, becomes a powerful salon software setup for you.
Acuity is for any size salon that wants the ultimate scheduling experience and is ready to invest the time (or money) to configure the platform to work as you want. It’s not difficult to use. But to get the full benefit of the platform, you’ll want to configure it to work with other platforms and design it to fit your brand.
- Fully customizable website booking widget
- Fully customizable SMS & email reminders
- Integrates with all leading software for marketing, accounting, and POS directly or via Zapier.
- Available worldwide
- Drag and drop, easy-to-use, calendar
- Packages and gift cards
- Network of specialized consultants who can help with advanced setups
- Advanced appointment reporting
- Free for individuals
5. Salon Iris Software – All-in-One Salon Software in the US & UK
Do you want complete and advanced support for your salon business with the simplicity of managing everything in one place? Then Salon Iris is for you.
Out of all Salon Software, Salon Iris has been around the longest (since 1999) and has continuously added and improved features based on the needs of salons. The platform is feature-rich and they are the only dedicated salon software that also offers a physical POS system and credit card reader solution. It’s in fact one of my top recommendations also in my review of the best salon & spa POS software.
Salon Iris is for all types of salons and they offer a separate, simpler, plan for individuals but also advanced packages for the bigger salon or chain of salons.
- Physical POS system
- Highly customizable booking website & widget
- SMS & email reminders
- Email marketing
- Advanced client loyalty program
- Advance business reporting
- Available worldwide with U.S. based support
- Drag and drop, color coded, calendar
- Advanced client data (with images)
- Advanced inventory management (with stock alerts)
- Sophisticated payroll support
- iOS App, Android App
- Pricing starts at $29/month
6. Versum Salon Software: The Best Value-for-Money Alternative
Are you looking for a complete salon software solution at an affordable price? Versum offers rich salon operations and marketing support at highly competitive rates. On top of that:
Get 50% discount on the standard rates when you sign up with The Salon Business.
It’s ideal for the small to medium size salon that wants a comprehensive salon software solution, with advanced features, but still want to stay on a small budget.
- Online booking website
- SMS & email reminders
- Email marketing
- Advanced client loyalty program
- Advance business reporting
- Available worldwide with UK based phone support
- Advanced client data (with images)
- Advanced inventory management (with stock alerts)
- iOS & Android App
- Pricing starts at €29/month
Finding the Best Salon Software for You
Now you have my top list of salon software.
Even if I tried to give a snapshot of each one above, you may still be wondering which one is really right for you. And this is what the remaining part of this salon software guide will help you find out.
It’s quite a long guide.
I really wanted to capture everything here and leave no stone unturned. But I don’t expect you to read all of it. I have included a table of content here so that you can jump to the part that is most relevant for you.
But I really recommend you read the next section before you start jumping around as that’s where I cover some of the core principles behind how to choose the best salon software.
Let’s get to it.
- 1 The Best Salon Software 2021
- 2 Best Salon Software 2020 – Feature Review
- 2.1 Best Salon Appointment Software/ Salon Booking Software
- 2.2 Best Salon Management Software
- 2.3 Best Salon Marketing Software
- 2.4 Best Salon Point of Sale (POS) System
- 2.5 Salon Booking Apps & Cloud Based Salon Software
- 2.6 Summary & Conclusion
What is Salon Software?
Salon software is a suite of software tools designed to help assist salons in running and growing their business. Features span across client & appointment management, salon marketing, point of sale (POS), salon business operation management, and salon business reporting.
Some salon software covers all features (referred to as “All-in-One” Salon Software) while others are only focused on client and appointment management (referred to as “Appointment Software”) and rely on specialized tools for the additional features needed by a salon.
What’s the Benefit of an All-in-One Salon Software?
The benefit of using an All-in-One Salon Software (like Fresha or Vagaro) is that you can manage your total salon business in one place. This makes an All-in-One Salon Software generally easier to use than a combined solution.
You don’t need to worry about making sure different software can “talk” to each other. For example, if you want to send out an email from Vagaro to all your clients, you just create the email and the system will automatically have access to all your client data.
Another benefit of using and All-in-One Salon Software is that once you learn how to navigate the system, you don’t need to relearn a new system when you want to activate a new feature. You’re already familiar with the platform and how it works.
What’s the Benefit of Appointment Software + Specialized Tools?
Firstly, you may not need all the features that comes with an All-in-One Salon Software. Let’s say you’re a booth renter or individual stylists. Then you probably won’t need stock management, payroll or team management features. All you need is likely just a way for clients to book you and a simple way for you to manage appointments. So why pay for features you don’t need?
Secondly, it is difficult, if not impossible, to an expert at everything. An All-in-One Salon Software tries to master appointment management, email marketing, website building, reputation management, accounting, business reporting, POS, payroll and more.
This is not an easy task.
“Jack of all trades,
master of none,
though ofttimes better than master of one”
If you go with an All-in-One Salon Software, you need to be prepared to compromise on some quality, functionality, or customization features. If you go with an Appointment Software and specialized tools for the additional features you need, you’ll also be able to get the absolute best support for each feature.
But, again, it also means a bit more complexity to setup.
Which Model is Right for You?
Should you choose an All-in-One Salon Software (like Vagaro or Fresha) or should you go with an Appointment Software (like Square Appointments or Acuity Scheduling) and add specialized tools for the features you need?
It really comes down to a) if you need all the features of and All-in-One Salon Software and b) if you want something that is simple, and works out of the box, or if you are ready to work with a few different solutions that together make the perfect end result.
Salon Software Terminology
You’ll find different names used interchangeably to describe a salon software. Commonly used terminology is salon appointment software, salon booking software, salon marketing software, salon management software, salon point of sale (POS) system, and salon booking apps.
Most of the time, I hear people use these words to describe the same thing – a salon software.
But they are actually very different things. As we dive into the list of features soon, you’ll see what I mean with that.
You may also be familiar with Salon Marketplaces. There are specific salon appointment tools that exists to support visibility on their client marketplaces.
Overview Comparison of the Top Salon Software 2020
I get it.
You’re a busy salon owner and may not have time to read through this full article to figure out which salon software is right for you.
No hard feelings 🙂
Let me give you an overview of what you should consider when choosing between the five best salon software 2021 listed in this review.
Fresha – The Only 100% Subscription Free Salon Software
It’s insane how much value you get without paying with Fresha. It’s that good that the immediate question you probably will ask is:
How does Fresha make money?
Fresha offers a client marketplace where people can discover salons in their area. If you use Fresha to market your salon on their platform and that leads to a new client coming in, they will charge you 20% of the booking. You’ll also pay a credit card transaction fee of 2.19% + $0.2 for every appointment made through the platform.
The good thing here is that you don’t have any fixed costs but only pay when you earn money.
As you’ll see in the feature review part at the end of this article, the free subscription is not the only benefit of Fresha but it also offers a lot of powerful features and is super easy-to-use.
Vagaro – The Best All-in-One Salon Software
The number of features you get with Vagaro goes beyond anything else. Despite this, they are also maintaining a very high quality of each feature and have been able to balance functionality vs. complexity very well.
They are catering to both salons as well as health and fitness business. This also means you get access to features that are not that common in traditional, salon only, software like subscription payments, memberships, class bookings, and advanced client data tracking.
I also find Vagaro to be more modern and innovative than some it’s main competitors (like Salon Iris). Their POS unit looks really nice, you can stream video, and you always have a fresh/clean interface for you and your clients.
What also sets Vagaro apart is their client marketplace which give you access to simple tools to get your salon visible in front of more new clients.
Salon Iris – The Most Advanced All-in-One Salon Software
Salon Iris is, similarly to Vagaro, a very feature-rich solution. They are also one of the few providers that offers a hardware package with a POS system, receipt printer and card reader (note that hardware is only for U.S. salons).
It’s not the cheapest solution on the market but you get a lot with it. As a reader of The Salon Business, you also get access to a discount code for Salon Iris.
The software gives you flexibility for customization that goes beyond many other All-in-One Salon Software.
You can, for example, create a booking widget that you can add to your existing website and you can style it to fit in seamlessly with the rest of your website. That’s just one example but the same goes for emails and other functions.
Being feature-rich also means it takes a bit more time to learn than other options. But when you get a hang of it, you have a powerful all-in-one tool.
Versum – Good Value-for-Money All-in-One Salon Software
Versum is one of the most easy-to-use All-in-One Salon Software on the market. Although not as extensive as Vagaro and Salon Iris, it comes with a lot of features and shines in particular with its salon management tools and business reporting features.
It’s a bit less customizable than Salon Iris. If we take the online booking feature example again, with Versum you’re limited to their predefined mini booking website whereas with Salon Iris you can redesign it and even integrate it as part of your website.
The fact that it’s a little bit less flexible also makes it easier to use. And another big advantage is the price which starts at €29/month and, as a reader of The Salon Business, you even get a 50% discount on the time period you sign up for.
This means you get A LOT of value for little money.
Fresha vs. Vagaro vs. Salon Iris vs. Versum
The differences are probably clear by now.
I recommend Fresha if you want a free and easy to use solution. Vagaro if you want the most feature rich solution at an affordable price. Salon Iris if you need some specific customization options that you cannot get with Vagaro. If you want more features than what Fresha offers but still want something affordable and easy-to-use, I’d go for Versum.
Square Appointments – The Free-for-Individuals Salon Appointment Scheduler
You don’t get more power for free than what Square offer. But you know what they say, nothing is really free in this world 🙂
Square is originally a card payment company that help small businesses, like your salon, accept card payments. And their idea (I think) is that if you start using their free appointment software, you’ll eventually also start using Square Payment where they then earn income from credit card transactions.
The beauty with Square Appointments is firstly that you get a powerful appointment scheduler for free. But, more importantly, you also get an appointment scheduler that sits within a large ecosystem of free and paid solutions for small businesses. This makes it really easy for you to expand the support from Square as your business grow.
In fact, Square Appointments is like a hybrid between a pure appointment scheduling software and an All-in-One Salon Software. When you start using Square Appointments, you also get access to their free POS system, free payment platform (only charged per transaction) and free team management features.
You can also activate their paid products like Square Payroll and Square Marketing. Suddenly you have a full featured solution for your salon.
Acuity – The Most Advanced Salon Appointment Software
Now we’re getting to the advanced stuff for the salon owner that only can settle for the best.
Acuity equals customization and perfection. This is, hands down, the best appointment scheduler on the market I’ve seen. It allows you to configure the booking experience to be exactly as you want it and you get all the advanced appointment management features you can imagine.
On top of that, what makes Acuity unique is its ability to integrate with other software. Acuity is build to work with leading marketing services and business operation support systems. It also supports Zapier which means it can integrate with all major software solutions on the market.
As you can tell, I’m getting a bit techy just talking about Acuity. And this is also what you need to be mindful of if you go with Acuity.
Although it’s really easy to use their interface, to leverage the full power of the software, you need to have some basic technical understanding. For sure, you can use their out of the box solution without customization and integrations, and you’ll be perfectly fine without technical knowledge. But if that’s what you’re going to do, you might as well use the free solution from Square.
Acuity also offers a free plan though. However, it’s very limited. All you can do with the free plan is to manage one calendar and enable online bookings for your clients. You’ll for example not get basic features like appointment notifications and reminders. For that, you need to at least sign up for their first level paid plan at $15/month.
But if you want the best, Acuity is your partner.
Square Appointments vs. Acuity Scheduling
- Location: Acuity works worldwide and equally well in all countries. Square Appointments is currently limited to the United States and Canada.
- Cost: Square Appointments is free to use for individuals (even with some advanced features). Acuity is also free for individuals but only with very limited functionality so you probably will end up paying a minimum of $15/month. However, if you run a salon with a team, Acuity offers more attractive price plans. If you have a team of five, Acuity costs $25/month whereas Square would cost you $50/month.
- Customization: Although Square Appointments is rich in features, you’ll not be able to change designs or customize much. You’ll need to stay with the out of the box solution. Acuity, on the other hand, allows you to customize everything to make it act exactly as you want.
If you want to dig even deeper, you read my in-depth review of Square Appointments here.
Best Salon Software 2020 – Feature Review
The best salon software for your business will ultimately be determined based on the features the platform delivers.
But just reading a feature list does not give you the full story on how the software delivers the functionality.
To help guide you on the choice of salon software, I have therefore pulled together a list of the most important features and compared how the salon software I recommend here delivers it.
You can jump directly to the feature you’re most interested in using the links here.
- Email & SMS Marketing
- Client Loyalty Program
- Salon Website Builder
- Social Media & Reputation Management
Best Salon Appointment Software/ Salon Booking Software
The most important part of a salon software is how well it helps you manage your calendar and client bookings. In fact, I’ve created a separate review of the best salon scheduling software that only looks at this.
Let’s look at how the recommended salon software here deliver on this.
The ways to accept online bookings vary across the platforms and so does the level of design customization ability.
With Square Appointments you can create a booking website or generate 3 types of widgets to embed on your website. You cannot customize design much but it’s simple to do.
Fresha provides you with a online booking page that you can link to from your website. The generic booking page you’re provided with looks good (see example image below). You cannot customize the design to reflect your branding.
You can also have your salon featured for bookings in the Fresha Marketplace.
Vagaro allow you to integrate a booking widget on your website, run a pop up, or send to a dedicated booking page. You can change the color to match your brand but is otherwise limited to the design from Vagaro.
What’s cool is that you have have multiple widgets. One for bookings, one to show products that your sell, and another for gift cards for example. This makes your ability to integrate Vagaro on your website very strong.
Acuity allow you to create a simple, clean, booking website. You also have several options to integrate the booking widget on your website or social media.
In order to integrate the booking widget on your website, you need to upgrade to a paid plan and if you want to customize the design of it, you need to upgrade to their largest plan.
Versum allow you to create a minimalistic booking website for you clients that you can link to from your ordinary website but you cannot embed booking on your website (see example below)
Salon Iris helps you create a highly customizable website using their website builder or embed you booking widget on an existing website (see example below)
Salon Appointment Book
The salon appointment calendar is very similar between all of the salon software and I would not see this as a judging factor when choosing salon software. If this is the most important feature for you, you may also want to check out my review of the best salon appointment software here.
Square Appointments calendar is fast and easy. Drag-and-drop your appointments and switch between different calendar views.
The Fresha calendar is super intuitive and easy-to-use. You can drag and drop appointments to change time. Just hover the appointment to see full details. Quickly change the view from day view to week or month. Show multiple staff in the same view.
The Vagaro calendar is super intuitive and it’s easy to manage multiple calendars, color code appointments, drag-and-drop to change.
They also offer an “agenda view” of the calendar. I love this format, especially on mobile, as it makes it very easy to see what’s coming up on next with out flicking around a big calendar.
The Acuity calendar is easy to use. You can drag and drop appointments to change time and quickly update appointment information.
Each service can have it’s unique color code which makes it easy to get a view on the calendar.
The Salon Iris calendar is super easy to use, just drag-and-drop and click to add and appointments directly on the calendar. Color code your appointments for easy overview.
It’s easy to manage your calendar in Versum via web or mobile app. You can drag-and-drop appointments and manage multiple calendars in one.
Client Data Management
Managing client data and history is an important part of salon operations management. All the software I’m recommending here does a good job here and supports storing all the information you need.
Store all information you need, get quick view on past and upcoming appointments. You can store media files but Square Appointments doesn’t have specidfc before/ after image support.
Fresha offers a simple client directory that allow you to search your clients, view upcoming/past appointments, and store basic information about the client.
Vagaro excels at client data. It’s the richest I’ve seen.
You can store multiple notes on each client and upload PDF files and images to the client profile.
Vagaro supports advanced SOAP forms which makes the tool very powerful for chiropractors and other similar practices.
You can easily browse clients, bulk edit or upload clients.
You get a simple and clear view for each client that also show you upcoming and past appointments in Acuity.
Salon Iris is clearly built for salons with support for before and after pictures and note taking during appointment.
Store images and other rich data about your clients and pull client level reports.
Reduce no-shows and stay in touch with your clients using automatic reminders and notifications. Supported by all recommended tools here.
Very rich notification and reminders support for both clients and employees. On top, you can have your clients reply and confirm bookings etc. via SMS which is a really helpful feature Square Appointments offer.
You can notify clients about new appointments, remind about upcoming bookings, send thank you messages, and much more, using Fresha. Notifcations can be send as SMS, e-mail, or as app notification (in case user has the Fresha app installed).
Fresha gives you unlimited free SMS notifications.
You can personalise each message (as shown below). However, you cannot change the design of the notification which will always follow the pre-defined Fresha design (which looks really good btw).
Vagaro supports client notifications through sms, email, and app notifications. What the notifications say is defined by Vagaro but you can compliment the message with additional information.
You get good support for SMS and email notifications and reminders with Acuity .
Their SMS service is worldwide and cost for messages are included in their larger paid plans. With Acuity, you have full customization options for your notifications.
Full support for customizable email and SMS reminders. Not all countries outside U.S. supported for SMS. Check with Salon Iris support if your country is supported.
Send SMS & Email reminders ahead of appointment and after to collect reviews. SMS works worldwide with Versum.
Best Salon Management Software
A good salon software should help you with more than just appointment management. It should help you manage your operations so that you can save time, money, and reduce costly mistakes.
Let’s look at how the salon software I recommend here help you get more productive.
Salon Payroll & Employee Management
The biggest expense a salon has is staff wages. But it’s also your most important asset and you of course want your team to be as productive and motivated as possible. The salon software I recommend here have different ways of supporting employee management. Below are some of the highlights of how the different salon software support payroll and employee management.
Square Appointments allows you to manage multiple staff schedules and system access as soon as you upgrade to their paid plan.
You can get really advanced payroll support with Square but this is manage in another solution called Square Payroll which also comes at additional cost.
You can have multiple staff members at multiple locations in Fresha. The tool offer pretty advanced user permission levels so that you have full control over what different staff members should be able to access or not.
It does not have a payroll tool built in but you can configure commission and pull monthly reports for staff members so that you can manage payroll effectively.
Vagaro is a tool that I recommend firstly to salon businesses with a team as it comes with great support in this area.
The Vagaro payroll software comes with complete support to simplify all aspects of paying your staff. For more advanced payroll services, it also integrates with QuickBooks, Xero, and Gusto.
The payroll report allow you to configure commission rates down to service and product level. It supports both flat rate commission and percentage.
You can also customise detailed user access levels for all the groups shown below.
You can setup multiple user logins and staff calendars. and control which calendars staff should be able to see.
You need to be on one of their premium plans to add staff though.
There’s no further support for employees in Acuity.
However, the power of Acuity is that it integrates with almost all other software providers so you can get a separate payroll system that it can work with.
Salon Iris offer rich support for staff and large teams.
Manage system access on employee level and setup commission profiles for groups of staff.
You can also manage your full payroll within Salon Iris so you do no have to outsource it.
Versum allows you to manage large teams of employees with unique access levels and schedules.
Configure commission for specific employees, products, or services to help drive the behavior you want in your salon.
You can also pull out detailed time reports to support payroll.
Salon Business Reporting
“You get what you measure” – that’s an old saying but so true. If you’re serious about growing your salon business, you need to define business targets and have a good reporting system to help you track your progress.
When you sign up for Square Appointments , you also get free access to their reporting app.
As shown in the list below, you’ll find several predefined reports available and you can also create custom salon business reports.
Fresha provides rich reporting options so that you can stay on top of your business.
Vagaro provides advanced reporting for sales, employees, customers, appointments, inventory, and messaging. You can export all reports to csv or PDF format. The support you get is very rich and will certainly cover your needs.
Acuity can provide good appointment-related reports, but not really more than that.
After all, Acuity is an appointment software (and a great one) but not an All-in-One Salon Software.
Salon Iris have understood the importance of business reporting and you won’t be disappointed with the rich support they provide.
Salon Iris comes with predefined reports that you can customize to track your salon’s KPIs.
Business reporting is one of the key strengths of Versum. Despite being a lower cost option, it truly shines with sophisticated reporting and visually appealing graphs.
There offer several predefined reports that allow you to look at your business performance in many ways.
Salon Inventory Management
Optimizing your inventory can help you save costs while also ensuring you have what you need in stock to avoid losing sales. All the software I recommend in this review offer good inventory support and you’ll get the support you need whichever you choose.
Square Appointments comes with the accompanying “Items” app where you manage your inventory of products and services. The product inventory support you get with Square is very rich and allow you to mange product variations (e.g. sizes) and it gives you out of stock alerts.
Fresha has good support for inventory and supplier management. It’s not as advanced as Square’s inventory tracking and stock notifications but more than enough for most salons.
Vagaro allow you to manage vendors, brands, and products. You can setup inventory tracking and notifications so that you’re in control of any stock levels. Really, you’ll find all the support you need to effectively manage your product inventory.
Acuity does not support inventory management. Instead, you can pick the solution of choice for this which (most likely) can integrate with Acuity.
Get full inventory management support that syncs directly with product sales at checkout.
Store all the product information you need and setup notifications when you’re running out of stock on a product.
Best Salon Marketing Software
You should expect more of your salon software than just support for salon operations. A good salons software will also help grow your business via effective salon marketing. Let’s go through how each solution supports your marketing efforts.
Email & SMS Marketing
Even though email and SMS are old technologies that have been around for a while, they’re still the most effective ways for you to keep in touch with your clients (as well as potential new clients) at scale.
Square Appointments does not have email marketing built in (only appointment notifications). However, they have another Marketing products that integrates seamlessly with the appointment app.
This is a dedicated email marketing solution and which you need to pay a small fee for but you get a great solution.
Fresha gives you access to built in email, SMS, and (soon) What’s Up marketing campaigns. You can send custom blast messages or leverage the smart campaigns to, for example, reach people on their birthdays or before you lose them.
Vagaro offers advanced support for email and sms marketing.
You can design rich HTML emails using the drag-and-drop email builder and you can target your campaigns to very specific segments of your clients. For example, you can send an email specifically to clients who haven’t visited you for a certain time.
You can also leverage automated communication so that SMS/email is sent out on your client’s birthday or a certain number of weeks after their appointment.
Acuity comes with rich functionality for email and sms notifications regarding appointments. However, it’s not an email or SMS marketing platform.
The power of Acuity is that it integrates with other email marketing providers so that you can get the best email marketing support through a third party.
Salon Iris clearly understands the importance of email and sms marketing and have strong built in support for it in their All-in-One Salon Software.
You can automate emails based on events, design html emails and control it all from your mobile phone.
The support you get for emails with Salon Iris is not far from what you’d get with a specialized email service provider.
Versum offers highly sophisticated email and SMS marketing support despite being an All-in-One Salon Software (and not a specialized email marketing software).
You can access a library of basic promotional email templates and you can design SMS and email sequences that are tied to salon visits, birthdays or other time-based events.
You need to purchase the Versum marketing add-on to get access to the features.
Client Loyalty Program
“It’s always cheaper to retain a customer than it is to gain a new one”.
That was part of the basic course when I studied marketing. And it’s true. But we often forget this and just focus on bringing in new clients. However, a good salon software should help you retain clients and a good feature for this is a program that rewards your most loyal clients.
You do not have a loyalty program built in to Square Appointments.
Instead, Square offers a dedicated loyalty program that works with their suite of solutions.
It’s a powerful and easy-to-use loyalty program but it comes at additional costs.
Fresha does not offer a loyalty program. The feature has been requested in their support community and, given the pace at which Fresha is developing their platform, I wouldn’t be surprised if this will come in the future.
You can automate email and SMS campaigns to be sent out when a users has reached a certain spend with you though. Although this is not a loyalty program per se, it can be used to encourage clients to stay loyal.
Vagaro have a points based loyalty program built in. As you set prices for services, you can also configure how many points clients will earn from the services as well as how many points it will cost them to redeem the same service using their collected points.
Acuity does not offer its own loyalty program. Instead, it integrates with the best loyalty program platforms on the market.
This way you can get the absolute best for your salon but it would be provided by someone else.
Salon Iris offers a loyalty program where you can configure how clients earn points as well as what the rewards are.
However, the loyalty program is (for some reason I don’t get) only available in the large package with desktop version.
Versum really shines when it comes to their loyalty program. It’s super rich. You can customize everything about it and setup the rewards exactly as you want.
It is part of Versum’s add-on packages and comes with additional cost to activate in the system.
Salon Website Builder
Your website is the hub of all your marketing. This is where you send new clients from your social media or other marketing efforts. It’s quite likely it’s also the first impression that a client has with you – so you want to get it right.
I’ll go through how each of the recommended tools here can assist you with creating your website. But the fact of the matter is that a website builder is a technically difficult solution to build. Thus, no All-in-One Salon Software on the market can deliver a really good solution. Instead, it’s more important to understand how your salon software integrates with other, specialized, website builders. This way you can create a good website (or have an agency build one for you) which enables online booking with your salon software in a seamless way.
I have created a separate review for you that goes through the best website builders for salons here. This is a good place to start if the website is the most important part for you.
You can create a simple booking website in Square Appointments using their predefined layouts.
You can also generate a booking widget that you can add to your salon website independently on which platform you built it with.
On top of that, Square offers a free solution called Square Online that allow you to create a full website for your salon.
Square Online is in fact also one of the website builders I recommend here.
Fresha does not offer a website builder. You’ll get a default booking page that you can link to but it does not allow you to integrate the booking experience on your website.
As mentioned before, the Fresha team is investing heavily in the development of their platform and I would not be surprised if we see improvement coming in this area soon.
Vagaro comes with a built in website builder that allow you to spin up a new website very quickly based on the data you have stored in the system.
It comes with default website design templates (see examples below) but you can also order a custom developed design from Vagaro at a very low cost.
The Vagaro website builder allow you to connect a custom domain and to get you site live fast. However, what you can do is rather limited if you compare it to a dedicated website builder like Squarespace.
My recommendations is therefore to use the Vagaro website widget and integrate whatever part of Vagaro you want to show on your website (which you can build using the website builder you prefer).
Acuity will help you create a simple, clean, booking website for your salon.
If you sign up for their large plan, you can also customize the booking experience completely.
They provide several options for how you can integrate their booking widget on your salon’s website.
Out of all the All-in-One Salon Software I have tested,Salon Iris is the one that deliver the richest support for creating a full website.
You get a selection of templates to choose from and you can customize a large part of the website to make it look as you want.
But, as said before, I still think you should create your salon website with a dedicated website builder.
What’s great with Salon Iris is that you get a booking widget that you can customize the design of and add to any website builder for a seamless booking experience.
Versum allow you to create a booking website to capture appointments. You can add a bit more details to the site about your salon which can be sufficient if you’re a small salon that just want to allow people to book with you.
However, it’s not really a website builder that allow you to create a full blown salon website.
Instead, you would probably want to create your website using one of the salon website builders I recommend here and then link to the Versum booking website from that one.
Social media has become the place to market your salon. Most platforms are very visual which fits the beauty industry perfectly. Thus, you want to make sure your online booking is linked with your social media. On top, your salon software can help encourage your clients to leave online reviews of your salon which helps build your salons reputation.
Square Appointments integrates with Google so that your clients can book you directly on the search result page without leaving Google.
For other social platforms you can link directly to you booking widget for fast booking of appointments.
The do not offer any reputation management support today.
You can integrate your Fresha booking directly with Facebook, Instagram, and Google. You’ll also be able to manage customer reviews made on Fresha marketplace. However, the tool does not support reputation management on other platforms – like Google or Yelp.
Vagaro integrates with Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, and Google. The platforms all salon businesses should have some level of presence on.
This means people can book you directly from these platforms and that you can feature your gift cards for sale directly on your Google My Business profile.
You can also have your users leave a review of their visit on your Vagaro marketplace profile. The website widget also allow you to show these reviews on your website in order to strengthen the credibility of your business.
You can link directly from your social media to your Acuity booking page.
However, they do not provide further social media and reputations management support.
Instead you’d use a dedicate provider for this purpose.
Salon Iris enables your clients to book with you directly on your Facebook page.
They also understand the importance of managing your reputation online and are partnering with a specialized reputation management service so that you can track reviews made about your salon directly inside the salon software.
As the reputation management service is from an external company, this features comes at additional cost.
Versum offers basic support for social media and reputation management.
They show you how you can link to your booking page from your social media and they can also help you automate an message after the appointment to encourage people to leave a review.
I would say this is rather basic.
Best Salon Point of Sale (POS) System
A salon software wouldn’t be of much help if you cannot use it at check out so that you get paid. The software I recommend in this review manages the check our process differently.
I have also done a review of the best salon POS systems that I strongly recommend you to read. This goes in more depth on the top point of sale systems for salons and spas which includes options that aren’t listed here.
Let’s look at the point of sale support they offer to help you identify the best option for you.
Salon POS Hardware
All software I recommend in this review are cloud based and can be accessed via web browser of via mobile or tablet app. However, Salon Iris and Square Appointments also support you with hardware so that you can make your check out as effective as possible (and also look sleek and professional).
Square have a menu of hardware that you can purchase to streamline your check out process. They all have the modern and minimalistic design that you experience across all square products.
In fact, Square is also my recommend POS system has you can read in my review of the best POS systems for salons & spas.
Fresha offers POS support via the professional app or web interface. They also offer a credit card payment terminal that integrates with the software. However, it does not have a full POS unit like Square or Salon Iris.
Vagaro gives all users who signs up for their merchant service a free credit card reader. On top of that, you can purchase their full pay desk solution. It’s dual screen solution has a very sleek and modern design (see picture below where you also see the card reader).
Acuity does not provide any POS hardware. However, you can integrate the platform with leading POS hardware solutions.
You can also manage check out directly in the Acuity tablet or mobile app.
Salon Iris is the only All-in-One Salon Software I’ve come across that also offer physical hardware that integrates with the software.
Versum does not offer any hardware. You manage it all via web browser or app.
All the software I recommend here support a wide variety of payment options. However, this is of course where Square shines given payments is the core of their business.
Square of course shines when it comes to managing payments. After all, that’s the core of their business.
Fresha has credit card payment built into the platform. They also offer a physical credit card reader that integrates with their software.
Vagaro offers integrated credit card processing. You’ll also get a card reader that connects to your device or pay desk POS unit.
Salon Iris can manage all types of payments you’d like. They also partner with a credit card payment provider so that you can get a complete credit card payment solution that is full integrated in the Salon Iris check out process.
Versum can be setup to manage a wide range of payment options at check-out and the software can generate invoices if that’s how your customer prefers to pay.
Versum does not offer any hardware for card transactions.
Salon Booking Apps & Cloud Based Salon Software
Being able to access your salon software when you’re on the go is an important feature. In particular if you’re a mobile stylist but also if you manage a large salon and want to be able to get a quick update on how your business is doing when you’re out and about.
All the salon software i recommend here are cloud based. This means that all data is stored “in the cloud” and can be accessed wherever you are. On top, they all offer mobile apps to give you fast and smooth access.
Square Appointments is available on US & Canada Apple App Store and recently also for Android. Square Point of Sale app is however available globally.
You have full control of Square Appointments via the app.
- Google (840+ reviews): 4.4 out of 5 rating.
- Apple (47’000+ reviews): 4.9 out of 5 rating.
Fresha offers two apps – one for professionals and one for clients. They are available for both iOS and Android devices. I really like the simplicity and ease-of-use of both apps.
Fresha partner app holds a 4,6 user rating score with over 1 500 reviews for Android.
Like Fresha, Vagaro offers two different apps. One for professionals and one for end clients. Both are available for iOS (iPhone/iPad) as well as Android devices.
Vagaro Pro App Reviews:
- Google (7’000+ reviews): 4.5 out of 5 rating.
- Apple (5,000+ reviews): 4.5 out of 5 rating.
The app from Acuity is clean and easy to use and gives you full access to all features. It’s available worldwide for iOS and Android.
- Google (1,400+ reviews): 3.7 out of 5 rating.
- Apple (6’600+ reviews): 4.8 out of 5 rating.
Salon Iris offer apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. You can manage your full business in the app.
- Google (1,700+ reviews): 4.7 out of 5 rating.
- Apple (3,300+ reviews): 4.9 out of 5 rating.
Versum has native apps for iOS and Android which I find well designed and easy to use even if functionality is limited.
- Google (70+ reviews): 3.5 out of 5 rating.
- Apple (7+ reviews): 3.0 out of 5 rating.
Summary & Conclusion
The right salon software can really be a game changer for your salon business.
In this review of the best salon software for 2021, I’ve really tried to go beyond just a list with user ratings (that you can find on other websites). Instead I wanted to go deep on the features and clarify what the different types of salon software are so that you can make an as informed decision as possible.
I hope you found it helpful and that it can save you some time and money. If you did, I’d be so grateful if you wanted to share this guide using the social media buttons on this page.
I’d recommend that you also read my salon POS system review. This includes some of the software listed here but also some other advanced POS solutions for salon that can integrate with your salon software or work on its own.
I’ve also created a salon booking software comparison that walks you through my top list of solutions when focusing on the appointment aspects of the system.
Finally, if you’re on a tight budget, I also recommend you go over my list of the best FREE appointment scheduling software.