Any business that relies on a steady stream of bookings to achieve its goals will be aware of the importance of an effective online booking system. In the past, hotels, restaurants, salons and spas were limited by the number of staff available to record and keep track of customer appointments, effectively confining the business’ operating hours to the shift patterns of its customer service team.
Today, with the advent of smart and accessible online booking software, businesses of all shapes and sizes are able to serve their customers on a 24/7 basis. They offer customer service teams the freedom to automate certain aspects of their routines, keep better track of new bookings and cancellations, and find valuable time in their schedules to focus on the daily issues that will inevitably pop up.
The benefits of online booking, of course, don’t start and end with a business’ needs. In fact, studies show that 83% of US adults prefer to book travel online, and 57% of all hotel bookings are now made through some form of online booking system. Still, it’s important that businesses know how to get the most out of this useful software, so here’s our top 5 tips to increase your sales with online booking.
1. Choose a mobile-friendly booking system
Over 50% of all internet-based shopping is now completed via a mobile device, with further studies suggesting 33% of US consumers prefer shopping through mobile apps over all other shopping channels. To ensure that your business isn’t missing out on this large chunk of the market, it’s essential that the online booking platform you choose is designed with mobile users in mind.
A mobile-friendly platform will include clear images of the products or services you offer, a consideration that 62% of consumers deem decisively important, and be formatted with smartphone users in mind. This means that pages load in the correct dimensions promptly and smoothly.
Businesses should also be mindful that over half of all mobile users have been shown to leave apps that take over three seconds to load, so choosing an online booking platform designed to be streamlined and data efficient is a must if you want customers to stick around long enough to make a booking.
2. Add booking widgets to social media pages
Almost 60% of the world’s population is currently active on one or more social media sites, with that number growing at an average rate of 4.2% every year. Most businesses will already be well aware of how important a strong social media presence is when growing their customer-base, but many may not be receiving the full benefits of social media and main website integration, including increased visibility and convenience for customers.
Many social media platforms offer business pages the ability to add booking buttons and widgets to their company pages, acting as a clearly defined funnel that allows customers to access their dedicated booking features without the need to navigate through an entire website.
Making use of a streamlined function like this will help paint your business in a positive light by bringing more awareness to your services and their availability for booking, whilst also creating new potential leads from casual site visitors. Taking the time to develop a more convenient customer experience in this way can aid in fostering a positive relationship with potential clients and may even result in a few recommendations further down the line.
3. Incentivise online bookings
For businesses, taking online bookings is far less labor and resource intensive than relying on phone calls or in-person appointments, so it only makes sense to incentivise your customer-base towards choosing this option to benefit everyone involved.
Whether you choose to offer a slight discount to customers that book online, implement some form of reward scheme for using this service repeatedly, or even throw in some free products to entice customers towards your online booking platform, clients will always be likely to respond well.
Even a slight discount has been shown to create a sense of happiness in customers, releasing feel-good chemicals that generate excitement and other positive feelings. We’ve previously discussed the benefits of creating a customer-focused brand, and incentives like these are another great example.
4. Make use of email marketing
Most modern online booking platforms require a confirmation email to be sent to customers when completing the booking process, presenting businesses with a list of addresses that can benefit ongoing marketing campaigns. To build trust amongst your customer base, you should of course give people the option to decline these emails, but those who opt in may provide a boost to your bookings.
Email marketing may seem like a slightly outdated method of customer engagement now we have social media platforms, but recent data suggests that this marketing avenue is still thriving, with industry leaders seeing a 77% increase in email responses over the last 12 months.
This method of marketing can also be used alongside our previous tip, by offering incentives to customers who opt in to receiving marketing emails, helping to strengthen the bond between repeat customers and your brand through the use of your dedicated online booking system.
5. Tie online bookings to inventory management
One of the biggest benefits of an online booking system is the ability for businesses to automate a large portion of their appointment scheduling. By connecting your dedicated software to an inventory management system, customers can be made instantly aware of any specific product or service’s availability without the need to speak to an appropriate member of your team.
Automating simple administrative tasks frees up customer service teams to focus their attention on the more complicated aspects of their daily operations, helping to streamline your business processes to save significant time and money, as well reducing the frequency of errors.
With an interconnected system monitoring both your bookings and available inventory, it’s also possible to monitor any patterns that may form across several aspects of your business, helping to provide valuable insights that can guide your decision-making process around resourcing, optimisation, marketing and other related service improvements.
When used appropriately and implemented with the customer’s journey in mind, online booking software can bring about just as many benefits to a business’s clientele as it can to their own members of staff. By focusing on reliable data, and streamlining services across all digital platforms, businesses can use these systems to strengthen customer bonds and improve their own efficiency.
An effective online booking process will consider the expectations of modern consumers and deliver a fast and straightforward platform that asks little of the customer. If implemented in this way, businesses can expect to see the benefits of online booking across the entirety of their operations.