The research is clear, for those in any industry, but in particular, in the tourism, hospitality, health, beauty and restaurant space - online bookings get you clients faster. Indeed, according to a recent study, 70% of customers actually prefer booking online to any traditional method. Consumers simply do not want to be bothered by long wait times, being put on hold, frustrating interactions, and less options given to them over the phone. In fact, close to half of all appointments and bookings are made after-hours, simply because convenience is what busy consumers are expecting. Afterall, who wants to take time out of their work day to be put on hold? No, thank you!
You, as a business owner should know that on-demand, seamless and immediate online booking has thus never been more important. Here’s how to do it:
Easy booking through your website
If you want to allow bookings through your website, the focus here should be on making it painless - yes, painless - for the costumer. When it comes to your website, you want to avoid the equivalent of having a caller hang up if they are put on hold for too long. This means you want your website to be easy to navigate and easy to book. Otherwise, consumers will hang up on your service! So, the goal is to make how one can book very obvious on your website and make your website as “mobile responsive” for booking on-the-go. On every page of your website, it should have a clear “book now” option so at any point in the process a consumer can stop searching and book immediately. Finally, once they initiate the booking options, make it easy - just a few data points, a name, email and contact should suffice. Having too much data to enter makes it laborious and increases your chances that people will stop mid-way or think “this is taking too long, maybe I will get back to it later”. If you do need more details from the costumer than their basic information, then have customers fill out the necessary details only once they have paid and or further committed at a later stage.
Link-up with third-party apps
Anybody who has shopped around for a hotel has probably visited the booking.com website and price-compared with this third-party app for a better room. The moral of the story is that they work. And they work well. So consider using a third-party app because it has significant advantages. They raise your visibility and give buyers the chance to rate and review before making a reservation.
If you are wondering which one to pick, know that there is a long list of ever improving sites from which to choose. We encourage you to do your research, weigh the pros and cons, and read the full terms of each before committing. The app should be easy and allow you to register and manage all your bookings through them. This should save time and money and reduce cancellations. Indeed, the world of automated bookings is chalk full of reminders, updates, text messages and other notifications to ensure your customers remember and manage their appointments with little to no inconvenience to you. Typically, a small fee is paid to the third-party app, but it can be a money-saver for you, if used right.
“Just Google me!”
The power of the Google search engine is incredible. Ever googled a friend, a business and been provided with an array of detail? People use google to find a businesses just as much. Therefore, as a business owner, you likely want to be as public and accessible as possible. Google My Business is what you need. It helps you reach and engage with customers in one fell google-search swoop. It allows you to create and update your business profile and data, as well as integrate and manage your bookings this way too. It is also useful if a customer uses a Google Search or Google Maps to find your business and then chooses to make a booking directly right away. Once your googled business name comes up, you can instantly share helpful information (hours, and address), provide regular updates, engage online, build customer loyalty, and even discover how people find your business to better optimize for the future. Check out the Google support pages to find out how to get your business set up and popping up on Google in no time.
Social media - your portal to online bookings
If you are on social media, then making bookings directly available through these channels is essential. Facebook allows you to do so directly on the page as a button. Then, a customer has the option to contact you through Messenger, email, phone or website to book directly with you. This can be integrated with third-party apps and Google Calendar for better ease. Other social media platforms like Instagram also offer “a call-to-action” i.e. a booking button on your page. You’ll need to have an existing account set up with a third-party app, which you can then simply integrate. Check out the Instagram help pages to find out how. Do your own research and explore what specific social media platform will be best for your particular business.
And remember, if bookings = customers, the key in all of this is to improve your bookings process any way you can, so get creative, have a broad approach and get to it. You’ll be boosting your online bookings and increasing your business potential in no time!