Things to consider when choosing an online booking system
July 5, 2022
Online booking systems have benefited numerous businesses worldwide. Travel agencies, tour companies, course or training providers, and event organisers are among those who have taken full advantage of the many features offered by online booking systems such as BookingLive. Through the implementation of an online booking system, organisations can maximise their business opportunities and online sales.
It is important to look for certain features when looking for an online booking system. We’ve put together a list of considerations to help you choose the ideal online booking system for your business.
- Do I need an online booking system?
- What do I want vs what do I need?
- Features to look for in an online booking system
- What is the cost of online booking systems?
- Is the system suitable for my industry?
- Is there a high level of technical support?
- Is there a free trial?
Do I need an online booking system?
If you’re at the stage where you’re choosing an online booking system, you must be confident that you need one in your life. But what convinced you? Are you struggling to keep up with phone enquiries? Or overwhelmed by the number of complex spreadsheets you work from?
Businesses of all sizes, from all industries, can improve their operations with an online booking system. So, the answer is most likely yes, you do need an online booking system. As your business grows it will become essential, or else you will fall behind competitors.
Read our blog on the purpose of an online booking system to decide if it’s the right solution for you.
What do I want vs what do I need?
There are many advantages of an online booking system due to the extensive features that they offer. Depending on the size and nature of your business, you will need to prioritise the functions that you need against the functions that you’d like.
For example, the option to integrate with a payment gateway will be a priority if you charge for your services. If you’re planning to use the software to book meeting rooms in your corporate office, the function to take payments will not be required.
Further to this, your business may be active on social media, and the option to sell services through your profile would be beneficial. Whereas organisations that don’t have a social media strategy in place would view this feature as a bonus rather than a need.
Having a clear vision of what you need will help you run your business effectively. Separating essential features from optional extras also helps when it comes to weighing up the pricing of an online booking system.
Features to look for in an online booking system
Some of the features you should find in any great online booking system are:
- Use of high-resolution images
- A simple but attractive “book now” button
- Display live availability
- Send automated email confirmation
- Integration with your favourite business apps
- High security
- A variety of language and currency options
- Cloud hosting
1. Use of high-resolution images
Online booking systems which provide image galleries entice customers to book online and are far more successful than those which don’t. By showing users and prospects more of your product and services upfront, you allow customers to convert at a higher rate as they are brought further down the buying cycle. With an online booking system there to capture that opportunity there and then, you are setting yourself up for higher sales and success.
2. A simple but attractive “book now” button
Commonly called a call to action, this will further entice customers to take the next step. With the click of the button, customers can make the booking from any device, 24/7. Providing this clean and easy access process results in a fantastic customer experience. The better the customer experience, the better your business reputation and sales will be.
Learn about why your business needs to focus on customer experience here.
3. Display live availability
Customers should be one click away from booking and with BookingLive you can show live availability anywhere on your website. This prevents double bookings and results in a better customer experience.
Another handy feature is the ability to show customers where they are during the booking process. This can be achieved with a progress bar or by simply numbering the stages of the form. Having this transparency keeps up the momentum of the booking; especially if you have lengthy data capture processes to get through before finalising the booking or payment.
Discover more ways to improve your customers’ booking software journey in our blog.
4. Send automated email confirmation
Customers want reassurance that their bookings and reservations have been made. Online booking systems should have features that enable automated confirmation emails to be sent immediately. As a result, your business will appear professional and trustworthy and you avoid added phone calls from clients double-checking that their booking has been processed correctly.
If this is an event or set appointment that has a date, time and location, the email should include a calendar invite allowing the customer to add it to their calendar provider with the touch of a button. When you choose an online booking system, these small touches that offer customer convenience should be one of your top priorities.
Although the email will be sent automatically, you will need to create a basic template with information you’d like to include. We give our tips on how to write appointment confirmation emails to reduce no shows here.
5. Integration with your favourite business apps
Booking systems that integrate with other applications are a cut above those that don’t. The whole point of choosing an online booking system is that it can take care of admin tasks and move all your operations to one place.
Some of the top things you should be able to integrate with an online booking system are…
- Social media profiles
- Voucher sites like Groupon
- Payment gateways such as Stripe and PayPal
- Accounting software like Xero and Sage50
- Email marketing platforms
- Google My Business profile
- Google Analytics
…and much more when you choose BookingLive!
A helpful integration that can help boost sales is social media integration. This feature allows you to place a booking link in your profile and posts. This reduces the number of clicks it takes for a customer to book your service – as without the booking system they would have to visit your website and find out how to book from there.
6. High security
The ease of taking payments and deposits online, in a secure way, is one of the many reasons why people choose an online booking system. However, not all booking systems offer the ability to integrate with many payment gateways, so make sure you do your research.
Without a payment gateway integration, you add more hurdles for the customer to overcome and put their security at risk. Customers would have to ring up the reception desk and relay their bank details. Or even worse, they may email them over, leaving them vulnerable to fraud.
With an online booking system, customers can securely pay for their service in the same way as any other e-commerce site. They also have the flexibility to pay via Stripe, PayPal, WorldPay and more. This feature of an online booking system improves the customer experience and is an easy way to grow sales.
Read more in our blog on the importance of a secure booking system.
7. A variety of language and currency options
Online booking systems should offer a choice of various languages and currencies to account for a global audience. If your business serves clients internationally, this will be an essential feature. But having a range of language and currency options is also great for smaller businesses who may want to expand their reach in the future.
8. Cloud hosting
Read more about our cloud booking software hosting here.
What is the cost of online booking systems?
Although it would be great to access every feature an online booking system has to offer, it will come at a price. And this price may not be feasible for some businesses. As well as having a budget in mind, you should be aware of the different pricing models SaaS (software as a service) companies offer.
We’ll give you a quick overview of the common pricing structures.
This is a set fee you pay for using the booking system. The tiers in the pricing plan will be calculated by the volume of bookings you take. As your business grows, you can upgrade to the next level and unlock features that are more suited to bigger enterprises.
BookingLive works on a tiered pricing model, starting from £0 for 25 bookings per month. You can view our pricing here.
- Fixed fee based on bookings makes it easy to budget
- It’s easy to scale your business as bookings increase
- The plan suited to your budget and booking volume may not have all the features you need
Commission-based pricing is where you pay a percentage of the service price to the booking software provider. In general, the rate of commission can start from 1% up to around 25%.
- You only pay when you make a sale
- Commission soon builds up, and you could end up paying more than a tiered pricing plan
- Providers can change their commission rate any time, so there is a lack of certainty
A booking fee model is similar to the commission model – pricing depends on the number of bookings you make. Instead of charging the business, the booking fee is given to the customer at checkout.
- There are no hidden fees for add-ons
- You don’t need to worry about budgeting, the fee is passed onto the customer
- Risk of customers abandoning the booking when they see the fee
- Have to consider the booking fee when pricing your services to be competitive
Find out more about the cost of online booking systems.
Is the system suitable for my industry?
Whether you work in boutique hairdressers or run a government department, there will be booking systems tailored to your industry. For example, there are specific systems out that only serve the beauty industry whereas others like BookingLive have the expertise to provide for a wealth of businesses.
When you’re choosing an online booking system, look out for case studies. Has the software provider worked with businesses similar to yours? This demonstrates that the provider has the features and support available to make online booking work for you. If similar businesses in your industry have had success, it’s likely that you will follow!
Discover industries that can benefit from a room booking system and the industries that BookingLive works with here.
Is there a high level of technical support?
An online booking system may have everything you need, but does the provider offer a high level of technical support? If you’re not happy or having issues with taking bookings, is there a dedicated customer service desk available to help?
To determine whether a technical support service is good, read reviews – they speak for themselves. Customer service and support is just as important as the actual booking system. If you’re struggling to use it or haven’t got it set up quite right, you won’t be able to enjoy its benefits.
If you’re a larger business looking to grow, our Enterprise solution is ideal. We offer a range of growth services that includes a dedicated success manager. Your success manager acts as an extension to your team and can offer full support about your booking system. They have the expertise you need to help your business grow and can update you on any upcoming features and changes to the system that could enhance your operations.
If you’re a small business, BookingLive is still here for you! We offer a live chat and automated support in our Professional pricing package.
Is there a free trial?
Before you commit to an online booking system, it’s beneficial to book a demo or sign up for a free trial. This way, you can experience the booking system at your pace and see the value that it can add to your business. Experts from the software provider will always be on hand if you have any questions. Don’t feel pressured – it’s not a sales pitch – they are there to help you decide which features are ideal for your needs.
Having these 1:1 no obligation conversations is invaluable, so test out several booking systems before reaching a decision.
Explore BookingLive’s online booking system
BookingLive offers a leading booking solution to help you manage your appointments, save time and boost efficiency. Automating admin tasks, sending reminders, processing payments, and assisting your marketing strategy are some of the many capabilities.