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Japan’s Popcorn now allows foreign visitors to book last-minute deals for salons

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See the original story in Japanese. Popcorn is a beauty salon-booking app for last-minute deals. The app offers discount deals up to 70% off for beauty salons for hair styling, nail art and care as well as eyelash extensions, in addition to relaxation and aesthetic salons, focused on allowing users to book a same-day or last-minute appointment for deals at salons in Tokyo’s busiest shopping districts such as Shibuya, Harajuku, Ebisu and Ginza. Since its launch back in February of 2015, the service is about to cover 1,000 salons, seeing an approximate 30% MoM growth in the number of bookings since late 2015. Coubic, the company behind Popcorn, announced today that the app supports a multilingual interface to better serve international visitors to Japan, ever on the increase. Available for Android via Google Play or for desktop in English, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese and Korean, not to mention Japanese. According to Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), more than 20 million tourists are expected to visit Japan this year, especially those from the East Asia region like China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, which accounts for 70% of all visitors, are increasing at more than 30% every year. Due to the…

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See the original story in Japanese.

Popcorn is a beauty salon-booking app for last-minute deals. The app offers discount deals up to 70% off for beauty salons for hair styling, nail art and care as well as eyelash extensions, in addition to relaxation and aesthetic salons, focused on allowing users to book a same-day or last-minute appointment for deals at salons in Tokyo’s busiest shopping districts such as Shibuya, Harajuku, Ebisu and Ginza. Since its launch back in February of 2015, the service is about to cover 1,000 salons, seeing an approximate 30% MoM growth in the number of bookings since late 2015.

Coubic, the company behind Popcorn, announced today that the app supports a multilingual interface to better serve international visitors to Japan, ever on the increase. Available for Android via Google Play or for desktop in English, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese and Korean, not to mention Japanese.

According to Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), more than 20 million tourists are expected to visit Japan this year, especially those from the East Asia region like China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, which accounts for 70% of all visitors, are increasing at more than 30% every year. Due to the increase of individual tourists and repeating visitors, their consumption is expanding from buying products to experiencing services.

Among many tourist attractions, more foreign visitors are choosing to try beauty salons in Japan because of a high interest in their health and Japanese beauty. When a massage salon in Ginza used the app, for example, the monthly number of foreign customers increased sevenfold from a year ago. After this year’s beginning, the salon says not only Asian but also European customers are increasing. With the launch of the multilingual interface at this time, it will attract foreign visitors with the convenience of enabling online booking and in-advance credit card payments.

The Popcorn app initially supported booking a same-day appointment only, but then added a next-day appointment in response to user needs. By offering a special limited menu, many beauty salons participating in the app use have succeeded in gaining repeat customers while more than half the customers delivered to salons by the app are repeat customers. It appears that users are tired in making phone calls to make an appointment, like those using the app to find a new salon and book an appointment.

Coubic CEO Hiroshi Kuraoka elaborated:

Some male and female users have used our app about 30 to 40 times in three months. It was so surprising that some users recognized the convenience of online booking and use our app very frequently. We thought some users may feel resistance against credit card prepayments but many of them appear to accept that in return for receiving a limited menu for Popcorn users.

Providing users with rewards from salons in Tokyo plus selected areas in Fukuoka so far, the company will expand to other cities in Japan shortly, planning to curate salons in cities outside Japan as well. Leveraging the Coubic appointment management platform, the company intends to expand their business to other retailing industries beyond beauty salons.

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japanese scheduling and appointment booking solution Coubic raises $2.6 million

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Coubic, the Japanese startup best known for its scheduling and appointment booking solution under the same name as well as last-minute beauty salon booking app Popcorn, announced today that it has fundraised 310 million yen (about $2.6 million) from DCM and Gree Ventures. Upon the funding, former Goldman Sachs vice president Yuki Maniwa and DCM’s general partner Osuke Honda joined the management board, aiming to strengthen Coubic’s management setup and corporate governance. This funding follows their previous round securing about $500,000 almost a year ago from DCM and Gree Ventures, the same investors at this funding round. Since its launch in April last year, Coubic has acquired over 10,000 merchants using the booking solution. They will use the funds to develop additional functions like customer relation management. Maniwa was a classmate for Coubic CEO Hiroshi Kuraoka when attending his university. Kuraoka told The Bridge that he expects Maniwa’s business skills and vitality with the proven background.

coubic_featuredimage

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Coubic, the Japanese startup best known for its scheduling and appointment booking solution under the same name as well as last-minute beauty salon booking app Popcorn, announced today that it has fundraised 310 million yen (about $2.6 million) from DCM and Gree Ventures. Upon the funding, former Goldman Sachs vice president Yuki Maniwa and DCM’s general partner Osuke Honda joined the management board, aiming to strengthen Coubic’s management setup and corporate governance.

This funding follows their previous round securing about $500,000 almost a year ago from DCM and Gree Ventures, the same investors at this funding round. Since its launch in April last year, Coubic has acquired over 10,000 merchants using the booking solution. They will use the funds to develop additional functions like customer relation management.

Maniwa was a classmate for Coubic CEO Hiroshi Kuraoka when attending his university. Kuraoka told The Bridge that he expects Maniwa’s business skills and vitality with the proven background.

Japan’s Coubic launches last-minute beauty salon booking app Popcorn

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Coubic (pronounced ‘coo-bic’), a startup known for a freemium scheduling and appointment booking solution under the same name, recently launched a new iOS app offering special deals on last-minute bookings for beauty salons, called Popcorn. The Popcorn app is available for iOS 7.1 and above on iTunes AppStore. See also: Japanese scheduling and appointment booking solution Coubic raises $500,000 Japan’s Coubic launches mobile app, helps merchants better manage appointment booking Rakuten acquires Japanese beauty portal to expand its own salon booking service (Tech in Asia) The app offers discount deals up to 70% off for beauty salons for hair styling, nail art and care, eyelash extensions, as well as relaxation and aesthetic salons, focused on allowing users to book a same-day or last-minute appointment. The service coverage is limited to salons in Tokyo’s busiest shopping districts such as Ebisu, Shibuya, Daikanyama, Omotesando, Roppongi, and Kichijoji. Users can pay via the app when booking an appointment, so they do not need to check the bill after the appointment. By inviting potential customers during vacant time with an easy operation, the app allows merchants to promote their business or cultivate sales channels without additional costs….

popcorn_featuredimage

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Coubic (pronounced ‘coo-bic’), a startup known for a freemium scheduling and appointment booking solution under the same name, recently launched a new iOS app offering special deals on last-minute bookings for beauty salons, called Popcorn. The Popcorn app is available for iOS 7.1 and above on iTunes AppStore.

See also:

The app offers discount deals up to 70% off for beauty salons for hair styling, nail art and care, eyelash extensions, as well as relaxation and aesthetic salons, focused on allowing users to book a same-day or last-minute appointment. The service coverage is limited to salons in Tokyo’s busiest shopping districts such as Ebisu, Shibuya, Daikanyama, Omotesando, Roppongi, and Kichijoji. Users can pay via the app when booking an appointment, so they do not need to check the bill after the appointment.

By inviting potential customers during vacant time with an easy operation, the app allows merchants to promote their business or cultivate sales channels without additional costs. Leveraging the knowledge that the company has gained through operating the Coubic app, the Popcorn app also gives an easy-to-use interface for merchants to manage which time slots on the same day or the next day they can accept potential customers using special deals.

Coubic CEO Hiroshi Kuraoka explained:

We have acquired users of the Coubic app via web-based marketing rather than outbound sales efforts. For the Popcorn app, we visited many salons and explained to owners how they can benefit from our service. It can be called “our best curated list of beauty salons.”

Recruit’s HotPepper Beauty is a rival in this space. What differs the Popcorn app from its rival includes a focus on same-day or last minute booking, while its rival allows users to book an appointment several weeks in advance. Relying on a storeowner’s operation, booking availability for the day is updated in the morning or at the end of the previous day.

Hence, privately managed or family-run salons can easily set special deals in the time slots that suddenly become open, or on rainy days when customers are likely to cancel their appointment. In contrast with Hotpepper Beauty that lets merchants handle payments at their storefronts, Popcorn requests users to pay at the time of booking in the app so that merchants can minimize the risk of possible appointment cancellation.

Coubic targets a wide range of people as users for the new app, from women who want to adjust their hair to office workers who want to get a massage after work. Seeing a usage trend, the company may expand coverage beyond Tokyo to the rest of Japan.

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Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Kurt Hanson

Japan’s Coubic launches mobile app, helps merchants better manage appointment booking

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo-based Coubic (pronounced ‘coo-bic’), the startup behind a freemium scheduling and appointment booking solution under the same name, unveiled an Android app on Wednesday. Merchants using the platform can easily manage appointments with their customers, as with the iOS app that the company had introduced before. The Android version is available in Japanese, English, and Korean; these languages are also supported for customers booking with merchants via the web-based user interface. Both Android and iOS apps are available worldwide over iTunes AppStore and Google Play. Coubic provides online scheduling and appointment booking solutions, helping merchants set up a web page receiving appointments from customers and managing these appointments. Paying merchants can remove banner ads from their web page, export appointment records in CSV format, and monitor access statistics using Google Analytics. Because of the announcement that this is part of their effort supporting the global market, we asked the Coubic team if they can find any unique user needs from outside Japan. In response to this question, they told us that one of their users in Los Angeles uses Coubic to receive booking for her kimono rental and dressing service, where local people can…

coubic_appointment_featuredimage

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Coubic (pronounced ‘coo-bic’), the startup behind a freemium scheduling and appointment booking solution under the same name, unveiled an Android app on Wednesday. Merchants using the platform can easily manage appointments with their customers, as with the iOS app that the company had introduced before. The Android version is available in Japanese, English, and Korean; these languages are also supported for customers booking with merchants via the web-based user interface. Both Android and iOS apps are available worldwide over iTunes AppStore and Google Play.

Coubic provides online scheduling and appointment booking solutions, helping merchants set up a web page receiving appointments from customers and managing these appointments. Paying merchants can remove banner ads from their web page, export appointment records in CSV format, and monitor access statistics using Google Analytics.

Because of the announcement that this is part of their effort supporting the global market, we asked the Coubic team if they can find any unique user needs from outside Japan. In response to this question, they told us that one of their users in Los Angeles uses Coubic to receive booking for her kimono rental and dressing service, where local people can enjoy the kimono experience and take pictures of themselves sporting the Japanese tradition. The team added that more accommodation or sightseeing businesses using Coubic are increasing in Japan.

Though the recent yen weakening is expected to boost the increase of foreign visitors to Japan this year, Coubic will help more merchants eliminate language barriers in better serving these visitors. In Japan, it is common to make an appointment before visiting massage shops, hair salons, or dental clinics. However, other businesses may require an advance appointment of customers while not others due to the differences in business practices that vary from country to country. As Coubic can nurture a global user base, we can learn about these geographical trends from their statistical analysis.

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Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by Masaru Ikeda
Proofread by “Tex” Pomeroy

Japanese scheduling and appointment booking solution Coubic raises $500,000

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This is the abridged version of our original article in Japanese. Tokyo-based startup Coubic (pronounced ‘coo-bic’), which launched a cloud-based solution earlier this month, has raised 50 million yen (approximately $500,000) from DCM and GREE Ventures last week. Their app helps companies and retailers receive booking requests from their customers, as well as manage their schedules on any device. Some might say that using a simple web form would be an adequate way to collect booking requests from your customers. So how can Coubic can add value here? We had a chance to visit their new office in Shibuya to speak with the company’s co-founder and CEO Hiroshi Kuraoka to find out more. Over the last few years, many startups have launched cloud-based services to serve business’ back office operations. Some of them include: Freee, Money Forward (accounting) BizNote Expense by CrowdCast (expense reimbursement) MakeLeaps, Misoca (invoicing) What’s unique about these services is that users don’t require technical expertise, and time-consuming work can be done even on tablets or smartphones. So what about front office operations? When companies or retailers set up an online form to receive appointment requests from customers, they typically use a web form and sort received…

coubic_featuredimage

This is the abridged version of our original article in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup Coubic (pronounced ‘coo-bic’), which launched a cloud-based solution earlier this month, has raised 50 million yen (approximately $500,000) from DCM and GREE Ventures last week. Their app helps companies and retailers receive booking requests from their customers, as well as manage their schedules on any device.

Some might say that using a simple web form would be an adequate way to collect booking requests from your customers. So how can Coubic can add value here? We had a chance to visit their new office in Shibuya to speak with the company’s co-founder and CEO Hiroshi Kuraoka to find out more.

Over the last few years, many startups have launched cloud-based services to serve business’ back office operations. Some of them include:

What’s unique about these services is that users don’t require technical expertise, and time-consuming work can be done even on tablets or smartphones. So what about front office operations? When companies or retailers set up an online form to receive appointment requests from customers, they typically use a web form and sort received requests using a tool like Excel, and import them to SalesForce or other enterprise systems for customer relationship management. As for marketing, it’s also difficult to find an easy-to-use solution.

So there isn’t really any stand-out cloud service that lets businesses complete all their front office operations. This space is a so-called red ocean because there are many ways to address the problem, but many of solutions are not technically easy to implement. So the company has developed a solution that focuses on appointment reception.

Their users include a variety of business, including hair salons, yoga studios, cooking schools, lawyers, and accountants. Customers can book appointments on your Coubic page, typically linked from your own web site. If you have the Coubic iOS app on your mobile, you will receive a push notification when a customer requests an appointment. When you launched the app, you can make a follow-up call to the customer and add the appointment to Google Calendar. Kuraoka explained:

Coubic's Hiroshi Kuraoka
Hiroshi Kuraoka

The app’s user interface delivers a responsive web design to customers, so that they can book appointments on smartphones or tablets as well as via desktop browser. The dashboard for businesses is also available on mobile. You can complete every task on mobile, from setting up a reception page to managing appointments.

Their dashboard lets you view appointments, with each appointment associated with the profile of the customer that made it. So you can easily learn how many times a customer has visited your shop, or how many months have passed since the last visit. In other words, it becomes a CRM (customer relationship management) asset.

Back office operations are essential for any companies regardless of scale. Front office operations can help make make your business more profitable, but things will work even without them.

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Case studies

Compared to cloud-based back office services like accounting SaaS, our service is less essential for business and so we can’t charge so much. That’s why we have to take a big share of the market. Appointment booking is needed everywhere in the world. […] So I think global expansion would be relatively easy.

With that in mind, their platform was already available in English and Korean as well as Japanese at the time of launch. They are exploring the possibility of global expansion beginning with Asian countries.

In this space, we’ve already seen BookFresh a service acquired by mobile payments processor Square back in February. But I think Coubic has no direct competitors even in the global arena. The funds from DCM and GREE Ventures could certainly help with their global business expansion.